2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Thrilling!

Published on October 2, 2018 in First Drives by Sylvain Raymond

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class was exclusively offered in Europe not so long ago, but now it’s crossing the Atlantic to become the Silver Star’s new entry-level model. While it isn’t replacing the B-Class in the pecking order, it is forcing the latter’s retirement in Canada at the end of the 2019 model year. They want to clear the path for the new-generation A-Class—and it’s a wise decision. They are going to sell a ton of units of this model, so many in fact that the little CLA is likely to suffer as a result. The A-Class dazzles with its luxury, agility and, especially, its technologies that usher us into a new era.

Hatchback or sedan?

While our neighbours to the south decided to only import the four-door sedan, Canadians’ love of hatchbacks convinced Mercedes’ management to offer both configurations in Canada. All too often, choices affecting Canadians are based on U.S. preferences, so this is a refreshing change. While the sedan features seductive purebred lines, the hatchback’s practicality and dynamic style stands out. My colleague recently test drove the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback, while I took care of the sedan.

Style-wise, the sedan’s design is amazing. Since it’s injected with its siblings’ DNA, it’s hard to believe that it’s also affordable at first glance. The impression is nothing like the one the B-Class left. You’ll definitely want to check out the Sport package that adds a few AMG components, including an aerodynamic package and 18-inch rims. The effect is pretty nice, but the optional 19-inch wheels will accentuate the impact even more. However, we would have liked a livelier choice of colours, as red is the only available bright paint choice.

Just one engine, a little less powerful than the hatchback

If the A-Class sedan strikes your fancy, be aware that—for now—there are just two versions: A 220 and A 220 4MATIC with all-wheel drive. Both get a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that develops 188 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. or torque, which is less power than the A-Class hatchback.

The engine is brand new and is being used for the first time. It distinguishes itself with its twin-scroll turbocharger that, although more complex, greatly reduces turbo lag thanks to its two different sized turbines. You feel the engine’s torque at low rpm, thereby enhancing the power effect. Since the engine runs on super unleaded, visits to the pump will be more expensive.

Only the hatchback comes in an A 250 version with a 221-horsepower engine. They decided to make a higher-end version that, of course, will be pricier than the sedan. They also officially announced the arrival of the A 35 AMG—which will be unveiled at the next Paris Motor Show—that will rival other sport compacts, but with the added bonus of better-than-average luxury and technology.

We drove several hundred kilometres at the wheel of the sedan on various types of roads. The slightly less impressive power numbers (compared to the A-Class hatchback) notwithstanding, the engine’s performance is commendable, with the 0-100 km/h taking just 7.2 seconds. The seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox is never caught off guard, squeezing out all available power while favouring fuel economy at cruising speeds. The Sport mode will help stretch the gear changes and make the car a bit more responsive.

If you appreciate what sport compacts bring to the table, you’ll be happy. The car is extremely agile and you can drive it with your fingertips thanks to steering that is just heavy enough to keep the feeling of control. On winding roads, it takes on turn after turn with practically no weight transfer. However, the suspension is not as comfortable as that of the S-Class, remaining more rigid on long trips. It’s worse with the 19-inch rims and low-profile tires.

The Premium package is a must

It’s difficult not to recommend adding the Premium package, which includes such elements as ambient lighting (magnificent in the evening), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and twin 10.5-inch display screens (instead of 7 inches). The company is promising a price under $40,000 for an A-Class 4MATIC with this package. Surprisingly, the navigation system does not come standard, so you’ll have to go for the Premium package and then add the Navigation package at an additional cost, of course.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is loaded with technology. At its heart there’s the MBUX system that controls all onboard systems and also includes a voice assistant. Shockingly, the smallest and most affordable Mercedes is the one featuring the manufacturer’s latest technological advances.

As soon as you get in, you’ll notice the two wide screens that span almost right across the dashboard. The display quality and dynamic presentation of graphics are video-game quality. You can interact with the system using wheel-mounted commands, a touchpad or a touchscreen. The most interesting way, however, is to say “Hey Mercedes,” and then ask it anything you want. It can change vehicle settings, offer practical information on the closest four-star Asian restaurant, and even learn your habits and anticipate your needs.

The navigation system includes augmented reality technology. Navigation information, like directional arrows and street addresses, is superimposed on the camera image. You’ll quickly learn to like it. Of course, connected services require a subscription, but they’re included for the first three years. For more information, read our full article on the MBUX system from Mercedes.

In the past, new Mercedes products were often criticized for lacking that extra something to make it to the top of the podium. That is not the case with the A-Class. It has it all, and that’s why it was named Best Luxury Subcompact by The Car Guide. The A-Class sedan will be sold at the beginning of 2019, while the hatchback should arrive on the market by the end of 2018. Both are built at the plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Test drive report
Test model 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Trim level 250 4Matic
Price range N/A
Price as tested N/A
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 10,0 / 6,3 / N/A L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Acura ILX, Audi A3, BMW 2 Series Coupe
Strong points
  • Compact and agile
  • Good performance
  • Sublime interior layout
  • Marvellous MBUX technology
Weak points
  • The Premium package is a must
  • No A 250 sedan
  • Firmer suspension
  • Requires super gasoline
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 4.0/5 Good compromise between power and fuel consumption.
Comfort 3.5/5 The sport seats are a little less comfortable and the car remains small.
Performance 4.0/5 Good performance in general. Can’t wait to see the AMG version.
Infotainment 5.0/5 Head and shoulders above the competition.
Driving 4.5/5 Agile, compact and everything you’d expect from a luxury sports car.
Overall 4.5/5 The best in its class—for now.
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