Another small sedan, less swoopy. Not content with the design (or sales) of the existing CLA-Class, Mercedes-Benz is back with another attempt at an entry-level sedan. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class corresponds to the CLA-Class much the way the C-Class does to the CLS-Class. The A-Class is boxier, more of a traditional sedan shape against the CLA’s sweeping coupe-like lines.
Thankfully, Mercedes has ironed out a few of the ride issues of the CLA. The A-Class shows off sharp steering and a sporty ride, but it’s not so stiff that it’s uncomfortable. The short wheelbase makes for an enthusiastic personality.
The base turbocharged four-cylinder engine pumps out a relatively pedestrian 188 horsepower, but it’s mated to an excellent seven-speed automatic transmission. If you need more power, stay tuned, as A35 and A45 AMG models are on the way.
The only real misstep from the A-Class comes in the efficiency department. The CLA-Class manages an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon city, 37 mpg highway, and 29 combined from an engine with more boost and more power. Despite being even more aerodynamic, the A-Class only gets 24/35/28 mpg (city/highway/combined). That’s worse than the CLA and worse than some competitors like the Audi A3. We’re at a loss as to why.
More interior, less trunk. Another common gripe from the CLA-Class was the interior space, which was cramped by that aggressive roofline. The A-Class has fixed this, too. With 37.2 inches of rear head room, the cabin is now comfortable for four adults. In this class, that’s an achievement.
The trade-off is cargo space. The A-Class can fit just 8.4 cubic feet of luggage in its trunk. That’s not a lot, especially since the hatchback version will likely never make it to American shores. It’s also less than the Audi A3 or Acura ILX.
The trade-off may be worth it for the A-Class’s cabin. The seats are supportive, and the interior quality is everything you’d expect from Mercedes. Synthetic upholstery dulls the shine just a touch, but it doesn’t spoil the premium feel. The dash is especially lovely, with beautiful turbine-shaped air vents and dual info screens.
Cutting-edge infotainment. Those screens house one of the most exciting features of the 2019 A-Class: Mercedes’s new “MBUX” infotainment system. This is a heavily upgraded version of the old COMAND system, and it’s much better.
The screens start at 7.0 inches, but can be upgraded to 10.3 inches (and will be for most cars at dealerships). One is a customizable gauge display for the driver, with a nifty navigation system that can overlay directions on the view from a front-facing camera.
The other central touchscreen controls infotainment and car functions. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard. It also recognizes voice commands much like smartphone assistants. Say “Hey Mercedes, I’m cold,” and the system will adjust the climate control settings for you. It’s a good interface and will soon make its way into the rest of the brand's lineup.
Value with a catch. Another major selling point of the A-Class is the price. Starting at just $33,495 (after $995 in destination fees), the A-Class undercuts the CLA-Class. It’s on par with rivals like the Audi A3, but much less than a BMW 3-Series or Mercedes C-Class. The Acura ILX is cheaper, but less premium.
For the price, Mercedes outfits the A-Class with a solid set of features. Seat memory settings are standard, as are keyless entry, push-button start, a panoramic sunroof, and LED lighting. It’s a relatively affordable way into the Mercedes experience.
The major caveat is the option structure. Mercedes seems to have adopted a strategy of luring in buyers with the starting price, then profiting on the options.
The Premium Package, which expands the screens and adds blind-spot monitoring, is all but mandatory. Heated seats are another add-on, and Mercedes’ active safety tech is hidden in another $2,250 package. Even silver paint costs $720. With enough options, the A-Class can easily push into C-Class prices.
Final thoughts. Small sport sedans offer a special combination of class and fun, and we’re glad that Mercedes is back on their game here. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is fun to drive, fun to sit in, and even fun to talk to. Besides a smaller trunk, it’s a more livable package than the CLA.
The CLA is itself due for an update next year. Until then, the A-Class is the bite-size luxury sedan to beat.