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2020 Mercedes-Benz A220 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

It’s a pint-sizer in American luxury terms, but it punches above its weight.

Rory JurneckaWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

Automobile's All-Stars awards are back, and this year we have one of the best fields of cars we've ever evaluated. In total, we invited 21 of our favorite new or significantly revised cars to find out which are the very best of the best. We've split them into Contenders and Winners, but let us make it clear: every car invited to our All-Stars event is one of the most special cars on sale for 2020. Each day between March 8th and March 10th, we'll bring you a new batch of Contenders, and on Wednesday, March 11, we'll announce our 2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners.

"It's a minor tragedy when a car as well thought-out as the A-Class doesn't make the cut for All-Star status," lamented contributor Basem Wasef. "Techy, efficiently laid-out, and forward thinking in nearly every way, the A-Class gets lost in the mix perhaps because its sensible small sedan layout simply isn't all that sensational. Regardless, it's a really good car."

That's an apt sum-up of our general feelings towards the Mercedes A220 sedan we evaluated at our 2020 Automobile All-Stars gathering. The A-Class is Mercedes' second attempt at giving the U.S. a version of its smallest vehicle architecture. The first was the 2013 CLA, a compact four-door coupe that was the brand's entry-level model with a just-over $30,000 base price and felt every bit as inexpensive as it purported to be. Now, in 2020, the A-Class sedan is the low-price leader for the marque with a base price of $33,495, and the sportier CLA moves a tick up-market.

The good news is that the 2020 Mercedes A220, at least with a healthy dose of extra-cost options, doesn't look or feel like an inexpensive vehicle. And really, our example wasn't, with an as-tested price of $45,200 that was nearly 30 percent more than the cost of entry. Quality leather and metal surfaces abound in the places that matter in the cabin, while the $1,550 Premium Package ups the ante with twin 10.25-inch digital displays, one atop the center stack for infotainment and the other ahead of the driver, serving as an instrument panel. A Burmester premium stereo system ($850) adds stylish aluminum speakers that look better than they sound, while the AMG Line exterior package ($2,310) gives sportier body features and cross-drilled brake rotors.

Mercedes' fairly new MBUX interface was introduced with this model and allows for complex voice commands to control just about everything in the cabin, from lowering the stereo volume to raising the climate control temperature to asking for navigation to a moderately priced Italian restaurant that's open late—this, it seems, is the future.

We even found the perky little A220 to be more fun to hustle around than a nearly-two-ton, 188-hp, front-drive sedan has the right to be. Around the Streets of Willow racetrack and on the windy stretches of our on-road drive route, the little turbo-four engine was willing, body control was good, and shifts from the seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission came quickly enough for a not-quite sports sedan.

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"If this car weren't so expensive with options, it'd be so compelling," said social media guru Billy Rehbock. "It reminded me of how much I love compacts. It has just enough power, and handles with great nimbleness. Luxury doesn't have to be big and the A-Class is a great example of that fact."

On that last point, some differed. Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa thought that the second coming of Mercedes' small car is a far better attempt than its first, but there's still a way to go. "A vast improvement over the first CLA-Class sedans imported to the U.S., with a livable back seat," Lassa wrote, "But it's still a poor lower-cost alternative to the Mercedes C-Class. I can't find any reason to choose one of these over a loaded $30,000 Honda Civic."

When the dust settled and the votes were in, the Mercedes A220 just didn't wow us enough to score a coveted spot on our 2020 Automobile All-Stars list. That said, we're impressed with the way the brand has upped its effort with this entry-level offering—so much so, we invited it to slug it out with the year's best cars, because it's one of the year's best, too.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A220 Specifications
PRICE $33,495 (base)/$45,200 (as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/188 hp @ 5,500-6,100 rpm, 221 lb-ft @ 1,250-4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSIONS 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 24/35 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 179.1 x 70.7 x 56.9 in
WHEELBASE 107.4 in
WEIGHT 3,600 lb
0-60 MPH 7.1 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph (electronically limited)

2020 Automobile All-Stars Awards: The Very Best Cars of the Year

This year's Automobile All-Stars awards saw us return to the Palmdale area for track testing at Willow Springs before spending a few days in Angeles Forest and Borrego Springs. So what are the best cars of 2020? These are.

2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners 

The new Ferrari F8 Tributo is arguably the best mid-engine car on sale today, delivering ludicrous performance and, just as important, a driving experience to match.

What makes the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette an Automobile All-Stars winner? Killer performance and unbelievable value, for starters.

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In a field of supercars, sports cars, and Europe's best, Kia's Telluride three-row SUV proved it's a great choice for anyone in need of an affordable, well-built people hauler. So great, it's an Automobile All-Star for 2020.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

Even facing down the very best supercars of the year, this American powerhouse proves it can do finesse as well as brute force—and earns an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

With its upscale interior, great chassis, and fun-to-drive demeanor, the Mazda3 proves that a car need not be expensive to be an Automobile All-Stars winner.

2020 Toyota Supra Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

The new Toyota Supra has been a polarizing figure since it hit the market, and our test drivers found plenty to debate about it. But it proved it's one of the most-fun sports cars on the market, and easily claimed an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

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2020 Automobile All-Stars Contenders

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Subaru's family wagon might seem a bit out of place in this company, but that's only because you haven't driven it. The 2020 Subaru Outback XT is a 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender.

It's Mercedes' smallest offering in the U.S. , and not even the hot version, but the A220 is breathing the rarified air of the 2020 Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

This limited-edition, U.S.-market-exclusive super-STI is unlike any Subaru that's come before, that's for sure. But is the WRX STI S209 an All-Star?

The Lamborghini Huracán Evo is fast, loud, and gorgeous. No wonder it's a strong 2020 Automobile All-Stars contender.

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

It's a special edition, but is the Porsche 718 Spyder really that special? We found out during our 2020 All-Stars evaluation.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

We spend three days in Southern California hills and desert testing the 2020 Jeep Gladiator along with 20 other All-Stars Contenders to see which rise to the top.

2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The very fact that an affordable family hauler is rubbing shoulders with hypercars and mega-luxe cruisers should tell you the 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite is something special. It's also a contender for the 2020 Automobile All-Stars award.

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2020 BMW Z4 M40i Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2020 BMW Z4 M40i proves it's just as much about good handling and driving fun as it is about top-down cruising.

BMW's excellent M850i xDrive luxury sport coupe does battle with 2020's best cars but falls short in this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback Test Drive: 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback is a compelling and powerful machine that's a winner in its own right.

Electric cars have many inherent advantages over the combustion-powered competition, but does the 2020 Audi E-Tron have what it takes to hang with this year's best?