2021 Mercedes-benz A-class Expert Review

At relatively accessible pricing, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class may well be the gateway to luxury-car ownership and the beginning of a beautiful brand loyalty for younger buyers. Yet it could just as easily be a smart choice for any members of the Mercedes-Benz faithful looking to downsize (or purchase a second or third vehicle) without sacrificing quality, driving manners, and cool technology.

From the exterior design to the optional active safety features, all the right ingredients are in the A-Class to make it a bona-fide Benz. This includes the latest generation of infotainment system that’s being phased in to bigger and more expensive 3-pointed-star cars. Called MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User eXperience), it has a digital assistant (like the iPhone’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa) that’s summoned by saying, “Hey, Mercedes.”

It understands natural speech and will respond to things like “I’m cold” and “I’m hungry” or “where’s the nearest Starbucks?” Admittedly, it might also chime in with “how can I help you?” if the word “Mercedes” comes up in conversation, but that’s still a reminder of how far infotainment systems have come.

Driving the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

To the surprise of no one, the 2021 A-Class has superb driving dynamics. The setup is composed, well-mannered and fun, whether deploying front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive in the 4Matic version.

The fully-independent suspension is tuned like a typical European sports sedan — taut, but not punishingly so. The steering is direct; turning into a corner is crisp and precise. If anything, we’d prefer regular tires to the standard run-flats for better ride quality and response.

Power from the turbocharged engine is sufficient to make the A 220 feel nimble and responsive. The 221 lb-ft of torque is the crucial factor here, kicking in at low engine speeds for some punch off the line. A 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission provides well-timed and almost imperceptible shifts, while a sequential manual-shift mode is available whenever the driver is in a sportier frame of mind.

The A 35 is a gentle introduction to what the AMG division is all about, enhancing power and suspension settings in pursuit of thrills, while adding more standard equipment.

Driving the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class

TWIN-SCREEN INSTRUMENT PANEL

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has such a cool infotainment system that it’s a good idea to enhance it with these two bigger displays (optional in the A 220, standard in the A 35). Each measuring 10.25 inches, one is for the driver (with the ability to personalize), the other is for entertainment and other functions.

BURMESTER AUDIO

Whenever Mercedes-Benz decides to install top audio systems, even in big guns like the flagship S-Class, it looks to Burmester (also found in the Porsche Panamera, for example). This optional setup puts 590 watts of big, clear sound through nine speakers. In a cabin of this size, it’s an immersive experience.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Interior

The layout of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is clean and contemporary, with a dashboard housing standard-issue twin 7-inch screens. The center stack is dominated by three large circular vents, with an additional vent at each end of the dashboard. There’s also a thin row of switches on the dash for the dual-zone automatic climate control.

In common with many Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the gear selector is a column-mounted stalk. This might take getting used to, but the rest of the controls are ergonomically sound. The center console has a touchpad to operate the infotainment system. The steering wheel also has some controls. And the buttons for the comfortable power-adjustable front seats are set into their respective doors.

The quality of cabin materials is suitably high. Choices of trim accents range from aluminum to natural grain walnut — an indication of the car’s luxury status.

Rear legroom measures 33.9 inches, which isn’t as good as the outgoing Audi A3’s 35.1 (a new A3 is due in 2021). Trunk space is a measly 8.6 cubic feet — the A3 enjoys 10 cubic feet.

Favorite Features

The overall design philosophy of Mercedes-Benz can work just as well within the confines and demands of a subcompact sedan like the 2021 A-Class as it does with the rest of the company’s portfolio. It brings crisp lines, sculpted body panels, and a slight “shark-nose” rake to the grille.

The passenger compartment itself is more formal and upright than the coupe-inspired CLA stablemate. While not as sleek, the higher roof of the A-Class makes getting in and out of the rear seats a lot easier.

The AMG Line package includes a chrome diamond-block grille treatment, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a lowered ride height. The AMG Line w/Night treatment adds black exterior accents for a sportier attitude.

Despite greater power and handling abilities, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A 35 keeps its appearance understated. No big wings or extreme suspension lowering.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Standard Features

At this humbler level of luxury cars, the 2021 A-Class comes with simulated-leather upholstery rather than the real thing (which is optional), but it’s almost as good.

For greater engagement, the driver can choose to shift gears with paddles mounted below the steering wheel. Among the other standard features are LED headlights/taillights, blind-spot monitoring, 18-inch alloy wheels, touchpad center control, twin 7-inch displays, five USB-C ports, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration. It’s this high-tech bias that makes the A-Class more than merely an entry-level car from a luxury marque.

The MBUX infotainment system is a joy to use — either navigating menus with the touchpad or giving spoken commands.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Interior

As mentioned, the MBUX system in the 2021 A-Class can be enhanced with an Interior Assistant, which really means gesture control for functions like raising or lowering the audio volume, or taking a phone call. There’s also the option of navigation with augmented video and a front-facing camera.

We recommend the Driver Assistance package (detailed in the Safety Features section). And although a small car is easier to park than a large SUV, the Parking Assistance package could be useful for many buyers. The AMG Line package also includes sport front seats.

Other choices include 19-inch alloy wheels, hands-free trunk lid operation, multi-contour front seats with heating and ventilation, heated steering wheel, a head-up display, wireless charging, and a 64-color ambient LED cabin lighting system.

2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Engine

Propulsion for the 2021 A 220 is provided by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 188 horsepower, which is quite a lively amount in a car this size. The regular A 220 sends that energy to the front wheels (FWD) through a 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, while the A 220 4Matic drives all four wheels (AWD).

The A 35’s turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, and AMG has tweaked the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (A 220)
188 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
221 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 mpg (FWD), 25/34 mpg (AWD)

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (A 35)
302 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg
2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Exterior

The A-Class is the least expensive way of owning a brand-new Mercedes-Benz. The front-drive 2021 Mercedes-Benz A 220 has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $33,650. Add in the $1,050 destination charge, and the total comes to $34,700.

Buyers wanting all-wheel drive should look at the A 220 4Matic, which is $2,000 more. Take this latter model, be extravagant with the options, and going over the $45,000 mark won’t be difficult.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG A 35 starts at $46,900. Options might easily push it past $50,000.

Elsewhere in the luxury-subcompact-car world, the Audi A3 starts at approximately $35,000, while the BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe (the smallest BMW 4-door) is priced from around $39,000.

Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the new A-Class. Since this is still a fresh model, don’t expect huge discounts or sweet lease deals. When the time comes to sell, however, the A-Class should enjoy strong resale values.

Which 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Model is Right for Me?

2021 Mercedes-Benz A 220
  • Dual 7-inch infotainment/driver-information displays
  • Panoramic roof
  • LED headlights/taillights
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Driving modes
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration
  • USB-C ports (five)
2021 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic

All-wheel drive

2021 Mercedes-AMG A 35
  • 302-horsepower AMG drivetrain
  • All-wheel drive
  • Dual 10.25-inch infotainment/driver-information displays
  • AMG sport suspension
  • 18-inch AMG-design alloy wheels

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