By Shari Prymak

The dilemma of whether to go with a large, fully-equipped mainstream car versus an entry-level luxury car is one that buyers can be faced with. Many non-luxury brands now make refined, powerful, and technology-rich offerings which give the long-established luxury cars a serious run for their money. Still, at the end of the day, they lack that all-important badge on the hood which, for some, just can’t be challenged. The Mercedes A-Class makes the task of downsizing in exchange for a three-pointed star badge a fairly easy one. Aside from its modest size and tighter confines, there isn’t a whole lot that this starter Mercedes gives up to its larger, more expensive showroom mates.

The A-Class is available in both sedan and hatchback body styles, although most luxury car buyers will likely be drawn to the sedan version tested here. Visually, the A 220 Sedan has a handsome look with a front end design similar to that of the far more expensive CLS Coupe. The stubby proportions are not quite as aesthetically pleasing as those of the CLA, but it is a pleasant looking car overall.

Inside, the A-Class receives one of the most attractive interiors within, and even beyond, its price segment. The materials are high quality and some the details, such as air vents, switchgear, and beautiful ambient lighting, look like they were taken straight out of an S-Class. The MBUX infotainment system consists of a pair of 10.3 displays that are easily among the most visually striking on the market. As brilliant as it is too look at, the menu structure is quite overwhelming and the centre touchpad can be distracting to use while driving. It makes more sense to either use the touchscreen or voice commands (activated by saying “Hey Mercedes”) which are pretty effective. Even so, the system is quite feature rich, cumbersome, and not for those who are uncomfortable with technology.

The A 220’s modest dimensions make it a breeze to maneuver and navigate through city streets. It is quite a tidy corner carver as well with an agile feel and well-controlled body motions. Overall refinement and ride quality is acceptable, although I would be curious to see whether the latter could be improved with the use of regular tires as opposed to the firmer-riding run flat “extended mobility” tires.

The standard drivetrain consists of a turbocharged 2.0L engine matched with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Front wheel-drive is standard, but most models will no doubt be sold with the optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The engine produces 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which is enough for surprisingly brisk acceleration and passing power on the move. Interestingly, the hatchback model, which is labeled A 250 4MATIC, uses a more powerful version of the same engine. The dual-clutch automatic changes gears fairly smoothly with very little of the low-speed jerkiness that these transmissions are often plagued with.

The A 220 Sedan has a starting MSRP of $34,990, or $36,990 in 4MATIC form. Even with a few desirable option packages and extras added, my test car’s MSRP of $45,000 is fairly reasonable for a Mercedes with the level of technology and performance on offer. Despite having an attainable purchase price, the A 220 is still a Mercedes, which means that servicing and operating costs should be taken into strong consideration for those who are used to mainstream car service bills. As a prospect for a lease purchase, however, the A 220 is quite an attractive option and an excellent entry-point for those adamant on having a top-tier luxury car in their driveway.

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