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2020 Mercedes A220 offers luxury and performance in a small package

The 2020 Mercedes A220 offers real treats on the inside, where the perfect seats, nice handling, luxury touches, and impressive sound delight the driver. But it's not without its quirks.

From a distance, the 2020 Mercedes A220 is shaped a lot like an old-gen Hyundai Sonata. But its performance will erase any similarities from your brain.
From a distance, the 2020 Mercedes A220 is shaped a lot like an old-gen Hyundai Sonata. But its performance will erase any similarities from your brain.Read moreMercedes

2020 Mercedes A220 4Matic Sedan: A bit of fun from Mercedes?

Price: $43,745 as tested. Options included 18-inch black wheels, $500; Driver Assistance Package, $2,250. More options mentioned throughout.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes that the “handling is poised and smooth, cabin looks appropriately upmarket, interior offers good rear-seat legroom,” but not the “tiny trunk, not as quick as some competing models, some rivals offer better warranty protection.”

Marketer’s pitch: “Advanced. Appealing. Attainable. A is all of the above.”

Reality: Fun with some Mercedes quirks, and comfier than the AMG version.

The baby Benz: A luxury small car has always been an easier sell in the land of expensive gasoline than in the U.S. And the profit margins on SUVs make them the vehicles that fetch the marketing dollars.

But no matter how much effort goes into narrow profile tires, cool suspension components, and other tweaks on giant SUVs, smaller, fast cars delight Mr. Driver’s Seat and most of his competition. We like the motion that being lower to the ground gives.

And thus is the story of the much-loved but undersold A220 sedan, new for the 2019 model year.

No shift in thinking: In today’s world, people gravitate to the winners. Google. Amazon. Facebook. And the rest just follow along. There’s little room for something different.

But sometimes different is just … annoying. MySpace. Priceline. Altavista. Why does it have to be this way?

I started philosophizing on this topic when for the second time in two rainy days, I put the A220 into Neutral when I wanted to turn on the wipers. The Mercedes gear lever is on the steering column and looks like a wiper stalk. So if you’re not thinking about it, loud revving ensues when you wanted windshield cleaning.

The 7-speed transmission works OK and has paddle shifters (which the car overrides with wild abandon), but shifting is also a little balky. It’s a dual-clutch transmission, so that can be par for the course.

On the road: The road manners from the all-wheel-drive sedan are excellent — as one would expect. The Dynamic Body Control suspension ($850) allows for plenty of choices, but Sport and Individual work best for my tastes. It’s not quite a party on wheels — Mercedes is just too snooty for that — but it’s crisp.

A front-wheel-drive version is also available.

Up to speed: The 2.0-liter turbo four creates 188 horsepower, which sounds a little low, but this is a fairly small car. It races to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

It’s pretty fast on a straight, flat standing start, but hills seem to drain the A220′s power reserve quickly.

Keeping warm and cool: Five round vents for heating and cooling set in the attractive black MB tex dashboard with brushed aluminum trim make for a perfect view. They’re attractive, plentiful and easy to direct and close.

Operating the system could be easier though. A row of pretty chrome buttons handles all the functions, but complexity means hitting a button often sends you to the touchscreen for some final adjustments.

Driver’s seat: The DP1 Media Package ($1,650) puts the instrument cluster and infotainment center into the world’s shortest, widest iPad screen, each measuring 10.25 inches. The graphical interface is beautiful, and the navigation offers what look like Franklin Maps right there on the screen.

The seat itself is comfortable and luxurious, far more than an AMG version I tested previously, although lumbar support was a little strong for my tastes. And it’s heated for $580.

Again, go shopping for the mini USBs, as that and Bluetooth are all you get in a Mercedes.

Friends and stuff: Rear seat passengers will enjoy the accommodations more most small cars. Legroom and foot room are snug but adequate — you won’t be moving your legs or feet, but the space that’s there for them is nice. The seat itself feels luxurious and comfortable, although middle passengers might disagree.

The 64-color interior ambient lighting ($310) also makes the scenery nicer.

Cargo space is tiny 8.6 cubic feet.

Play some tunes: The stereo offers some of the best sound among cars I’ve heard — an A. I can hear pieces of songs that usually only come through on earbuds, with of course far better richness. Adjustments are easy enough to find in the 10.25-inch touchscreen (part of the $1,650 Premium Package).

Fuel economy: I averaged 25 mpg in the usual round of Mr. Driver’s Seat testing. Feed the A220 only the best.

Where it’s built: Aguascalientes, Mexico

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the A220 reliability to be a 2 out of 5.

In the end: If you’re forcing me to buy something German and fun, I think I’d get more from the Volkswagen Golf R-Line. But the Mercedes is a nice smooth ride with lots of luxurious touches. Just concentrate when driving on rainy days.