Sleek styling. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the cheapest way to get a three-pointed star in your garage. “Compact” sedans have swelled over the years, but the A-Class lives up to the moniker.

The design looks like a scaled-down version of the brand’s larger sedans, and we mean that as a compliment. It’s an elegant shape, made more exciting by a low nose and subtle curves.

Despite its proportions, the A-Class offers front-row passengers plenty of room to stretch. Cargo capacity is another high point — with nearly 15 cubic feet of space in the trunk, the A-Class can keep up with many midsize sedans.

But sacrifices must be made somewhere, and it’s the rear passengers who pay the price. 33.9 inches of legroom will be cramped for most adults, and it’s over an inch less than you’ll find in an Audi A3.

Adequate performance. The A-Class comes in two versions: the conventional A220 and the feisty A35 AMG. Most of the models you’ll see at dealerships will be the A220, which is substantially cheaper.

The A220 gets a modest 188 horsepower. That’s average for the class, though well short of a BMW 2-Series. It still feels like enough, thanks to the A220’s light weight and a responsive dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Power isn’t the whole story, and the A-Class is blessed with a confident and compliant ride. It soaks up bumps well, even with the optional 18-inch wheels. Steering is quick and precise, though adding all-wheel drive makes it slightly more sluggish.

Expensive tech. We applaud the A-Class for its standard features, especially in the safety department. Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors are both included. The latest MBUX infotainment system is a good one, and the base seven-inch screen isn’t bad.

What isn’t standard, however, comes at high prices. Adaptive cruise control is locked in a $1,700 package, and to get it, you’ll need approximately $3,000 in prerequisites.

Twin 10.3-inch screens for the driver and infotainment are tucked in another bundle. This is one we’d recommend adding — the extra screen real estate makes a difference.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

A luxury price tag. The A-Class starts just under $35,000. That’s a lot to spend on a compact sedan, and even more so if you add all-wheel drive ($2,000) or the larger twin screens ($1,750).

Mercedes-Benz justifies the price in its usual fashion: the A-Class feels premium inside. The materials are everything you’d expect of the brand, and the design details are superb. If you have the budget, add-ons like wood trim and metallic paint make the experience even more special.

On the plus side, the A-Class won’t cost you too much at the pump. A base A220 will do up to 29 mpg combined, which is strong for the segment. Better news may be on the horizon — Europe already has a plug-in version of the A-Class, and it’s possible that the powertrain will make its way across the Atlantic.

Final thoughts. The A-Class makes a good case for a miniature Mercedes. It looks sharp, feels luxurious inside, and handles well. As long as you don’t regularly carry four adults, it's even reasonably practical. Small cars seem to have fallen out of vogue in recent years, but models like the A-Class prove that they still deserve a look.

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