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.
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.