Currently reading: Shanghai motor show 2011: Mercedes A-class
Merc has previewed its radical new A-class at today’s Shanghai show

Mercedes will transform the next-generation Mercedes A-class into a high-quality, sporty rival for the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series when it goes on sale late next year.

Previewed at today's Shanghai show as the Concept A study, the new A-class is tipped to capture much of the show car’s flowing sheetmetal, distinctive detailing and sporty stance.

See all the preview pics of the Mercedes-Benz A-class

The main difference compared with the concept is that the roofline and glasshouse are understood to be taller and deeper on the production car.

Under the skin, the new A-class is understood to feature an all-new platform, known as the MFA, with strut front suspension and a multi-link rear axle, all dedicated to Mercedes.

Emphasis has also been placed on interior quality, with the new A-class featuring plastics, trim and switchgear borrowed from the C-class.

The Concept A gives a strong feeling of a flowing instrument panel moulding, with a sporty steering wheel, dominant twin-dial instrument binnacle and a rotary controller for the infomatics system.

A theme of the concept is the centre-illuminated dials and air vents, which Merc says are based on the idea of a glowing jet engine afterburner.

Power for the new A-class family will initially come from Mercedes’ existing range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines from the C-class, modified for a transverse installation.

The core engine will be a 2.0-litre petrol unit, which the Concept A previews in 204bhp hot hatch form. It will be mated to a dual-clutch gearbox.

The dual-clutch ’box will replace the CVT that is used in today’s A-class and B-class.Cooking versions of the petrol model are likely to make closer to 150bhp.

Diesels will be centred on Merc’s 2.2-litre four with power ranging from 130 to 180bhp.

Also coming is a 320bhp AMG hot hatch powered by a 2.0-litre turbo, employing four-wheel drive and due for launch in 2013 to battle the Audi S3.

Julian Rendell

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