They just don’t get it, do they? That automotive know-it-all friend of yours keeps asking why you don’t get a larger and more powerful non-premium car for less money than the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A 220 you’re eyeing. But the Honda Accord and Mazda6 don’t have luxury badges on their hoods. The 2019 A 220 does, and it could be the perfect sedan for when your automotive desires outpace your luxury-minded budget.

You’d think anything with less horsepower than a Toyota Camry is bound to be a slug, but that’s just not true of the 2019 Mercedes A 220, which is powered by a 188-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four with 221 lb-ft of torque. The key to the A 220’s exceeding accelerative expectations isn’t just that healthy torque figure—delivered from just 1,600 rpm up to 4,000 rpm—but also its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. For better and worse, this transmission changes the character of the car.

Even when our all-wheel-drive tester isn’t on the track hitting 60 mph in only 6.2 seconds (Mercedes estimates 7.1 seconds), the A 220 delivers quick shifts and responses. Passing another car around town is never an issue, and responsiveness on the highway will be acceptable for all but the more lead-footed drivers. In fact, the car occasionally felt like it required some finesse to achieve moderate throttle response between gentle cruising and “pass that smelly truck NOW.” Mercedes has done an admirable job eliminating the low-speed buzziness and unevenness of dual-clutch transmissions, but on one particular occasion moving uphill in stop-and-occasionally-go traffic, our tester had trouble with this use-case, leading to some shaking in the pedals and even the seat.

The A220’s level of full-throttle acceleration is impressive for an entry-level luxury car, but it’s possible the A 220 traded a tiny bit of efficiency for performance. EPA-rated fuel economy comes in at 24/35 mpg city/highway with the standard front-drive model or 24/34 mpg for the $2,000-extra 4Matic all-wheel-drive car. Not bad, but the front-drive 2019 Audi A3 (a car that’s about to be replaced) beats it, and the quicker C 300 isn’t far behind.

At some point the road will curve, and the Mercedes A 220 will be ready for it. Our $51,950 tester was equipped with an adjustable, lowered suspension that’s said to subtly improve dynamics and curb appeal. Thanks to the AMG Line package, our tester also had upgraded perforated front brakes. On the track, the A 220 handed the stop from 60 mph well, but not amazingly. The car’s best stop of 108 feet is all right, but we did note some fade after multiple tests. On the road, the brakes fade out of memory—not overly sensitive as some expect of German cars.

On MotorTrend’s unique figure-eight test, which evaluates a car’s braking, cornering, acceleration, and the transitions between them, the Mercedes A 220 performed well, but with an asterisk. The entry-level luxury sedan’s time of 26.1 seconds at 0.70 g (average) is nearly as good as a couple 2017 C 300s we’ve tested. Even so, on the track, testing director Kim Reynolds noted, “There’s a brittleness to this car that’s hard to escape.”

On the bright side, Reynolds found the car fun to drive at the limit, but not extraordinary. And that’s how it feels on the road, too. The A 220 is capable everywhere, but doesn’t especially excite.

Inside, our A 220 earned its entry-level luxury car stripes with a solid design that occasionally makes a functional sacrifice for form, or to keep prices below those of the C-Class. But let’s start with the A 220 interior’s positives. I’m in love with the car’s stylish yet still practical air vents, and, at least in our loaded tester, soft-touch surfaces are everywhere. The dual 10.3-inch screens—one for the instrument cluster and another for the infotainment system—look fantastic. When they’re off, they give the appearance of being one enormous screen. The natural-grain wood looks great, and I wouldn’t buy an A-Class without the mesmerizing 64-color ambient lighting. The system has a mode that gently changes the colors on the dash, doors, and air vents while you drive, and it’s worth the $310 cost by itself.

On the needs-improvement side, the more persnickety among us won’t like that if you press too hard on the temperature up/down tab, 4 or 5 neighboring buttons also nudge temporarily downward, too (at least they did on our tester). I could use another door pull/handle closer to the outer edge to make it easier to grab the door to close it. Speaking of grabbing things, the small depression inside the bottom of the trunklid could be resculpted to make it easier to pull on—by the end of my time with the car, I resorted to just touching the top of the trunk to close it.

As for Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system, the system polarizes the MotorTrend staff, but more patient consumers will find it perfectly acceptable (learn more about it here). I appreciate having four different ways to adjust functions on the central infotainment screen, from voice commands and the touchpad to touching the screen and using the little touch-sensitive squares on either side of the steering wheel. And at least when you’re new to the car, you can have fun with MBUX the same way you did when you got your first iPhone, asking it silly questions (What do you think of BMW/Audi, or ask it to tell you a joke).

We wish Apple CarPlay used the full 10.3-inch screen, however, instead of a smaller rectangle at its center. Especially after spending time with the Acura RDX’s similarly sized screen, it seems like a real waste to not have an info display beside the CarPlay screen. But as with that Acura, MBUX requires time to learn. Perhaps for a future iteration of the A-Class, it would be nice to be able to skip forward a track without looking; as it is, the skip-forward control is a swipable area at the top and center of the touchpad.

Maybe MBUX doesn’t faze you, but our tester’s $51,950 MSRP does. Let’s break that down. If you’re OK with leatherette and non-metallic white, black, or red, you’re already down over $2,000. We’d also skip the head-up display and the Parking Assistance package. If you care about driving fun, we’d suggest test-driving models with and without the AMG Line package. The $2,600 package isn’t just brushed aluminum pedals, attractive wheels, and AMG badges; it also adds upgraded brakes and a different suspension and steering system.

Even if sportiness to you is 18-inch wheels and Jupiter Red paint, the A-Class should get the job done. As long as you watch your head, the back seat is more spacious than you’d think, and acceleration—objectively and subjectively—is quick for 188 hp. There are a ton of options in the $30,000–$50,000 price range, and those not attached to a well-respected luxury badge can find everything from a loaded four-cylinder Acura TLX A-Spec to the Lexus IS 300 and even Genesis G70, to say nothing of the sharp Audi A3, higher-priced CLA, and upcoming BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. If the call of the three-pointed star is too loud to ignore, enjoy your A 220. It’s a solid though not game-changing car in the entry-level luxury class.

2019 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
BASE PRICE $35,495
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/188-hp/221-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,440 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE 107.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 179.1 x 70.7 x 56.9 in
0-60 MPH 6.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.7 sec @ 93.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 108 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.1 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 140/99 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.70 lb/mile

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