By Peter Perrotta
Seven years ago when Mercedes introduced the CLA sedan model to the American market, it was supposed to be a game changer for the German automaker known for producing some of the finest luxury automobiles in the world.
This entry level sedan was aimed at capturing the Mercedes buyer at a younger age in their buying cycle and hopefully keeping them as customers until they matured and started making the big bucks. At that point, the logic was they could then afford the more expensive E or S class models.
I was working for Mercedes at the time of the CLA launch and I recall one Mercedes product executive telling me at that time that the future for Mercedes is “smaller and smaller.”
“Get ready,” he said. “You are going to see them start introducing smaller and smaller cars into the US market.”
He reasoned that Mercedes was not only intent on capturing the American buyer at an earlier age in their buying cycle but producing more fuel efficient cars, as well.
Keeping with that same trend, last year, Mercedes introduced the A class sedan into American and Canadian markets for the first time. The A class is smaller than the CLA and now represents Mercedes’ entry level sub compact sedan model.
I test drove the Mercedes Benz A220 4matic sedan for one week recently to see how well this relatively new offering in the U.S. market holds up against its competition.
Overall, I was impressed with this new model. While the 2.0 liter inline, 4 cylinder turbo charged engine (188 horsepower) is a bit weak for this model, it is sufficient enough to pass the test for the rigors of everyday family style driving. This is not an aggressive sports car, mind you.
However, at its entry level base prices – $32,800 for the front wheel drive version and $34,800 for the AWD 4matic – it offers a lot of bang for the buck and is reasonably priced enough to be affordable, providing you don’t load it up with too many extras.
The car that I tested for the week was the 4matic version with the base price of $34,800; however, my tester stickered at $43,745 with options.
The options on my tester included: $500 for 18-inch wheels; $850 for dynamic body control; $460 for Sirius XM radio; $580 for heated front seats; $310 for ambient lighting; $200 for wireless charging; $2,250 for the driver assistance safety package; $1,150 for the multimedia package; $1,650 for the premium 1 package and $995 for destination and delivery.
Included in the driver assistance package are active brake assist, active distance assist, active lane keeping, emergency stop assist and more.
The multi-media package includes navigation; and the premium 1 package includes a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with touchscreen, keyless go and more.
Standard features in the base model include: the 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder turbo engine with the 7-speed, dual clutch, automatic transmission; pano roof; Bluetooth; power driver’s seat; keyless start; dual zone climate; rearview camera; brushed aluminum trim and more.
The caveat, however, is that whenever you introduce an entry level model like this, you risk alienating the traditional Mercedes buyers who are used to impressing their friends with the quality and luxuriousness of their cars.
A longtime friend of mine, who worked for Mercedes for many years, said, “There is no exclusivity anymore. Anyone can buy a Mercedes now.”
He explained that at one time, it used to be a big deal to see a Mercedes drive down the road. But, now, with the proliferation of the lower priced models, the brand is a lot more commonplace.
I understand my friend’s sentiment. And, when I was selling Mercedes, I did hear a number of my regular customers bemoan the fact that these new models were “watering down” the brand.
But, at the same time, the CLA, when introduced, did bring a younger buyer into the market who were genuinely excited about being able to lease or buy a Benz.
At the end of the day, though, the success of these new models will depend largely on whether or not they continue to sell and to do that the general motoring public will have to continue to see value in these cars.
My opinion is that there is enough meat on the bones, so to speak, in this A220 model to sustain itself in a crowded field.
To start with, the exterior of the car has enough style and pizzazz to attract attention. At first glance, this looks like it could be an expensive ride.
On the inside, the fit and finish of the A220 4matic is above average, it doesn’t give off the feel of an inexpensive car. It is comfortable and stylish with a faux leather seats, panoramic roof, faux leather wrapped dash with cool looking throwback circular air vents and brushed aluminum trim.
As you drive this car, the sight lines are good, the ride is supple and a bit stiff at times, but still exciting enough to be enjoyable.
The backseat room is sufficient for three kids. The only real issue with the A220 is trunk space. It doesn’t have a great amount of cargo space inside the trunk.
However, it is adequately powered and fuel efficient. The EPA fuel ratings for the A220 are 28 miles per gallon overall – 34 miles per gallon in highway driving and 28 in city driving.
The average annual fuel costs estimated at $1,750 as it is rated as using 3.6 gallons of gas per every 100 miles.
This particular model has not been received a government crash test rating yet.
Overall, I think that the A220 can be a player in this crowded sub compact sedan space. This vehicle should appropriately be on anyone’s short list of cars to consider if they are thinking about leasing or buying a car in this class.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Comments are welcome. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.