It’s safe to say you’ll see a lot more of Mercedes’ new A-class. Despite questionable handling, the outgoing model racked up 1.1 million sales worldwide in seven years and, with the arrival of the new A-class, the line-up is extended to include three- and five-door bodystyles to make it even more enticing.
The new A-class doesn’t come to UK showrooms until March 2005 – a full six months after left-hand drive Europe. Prices are tipped to start at £14,000. The new three-door (gold car above) is pitched as a sporty, coupé-like driving machine, while the five-door (silver car right) is a more versatile, family-oriented offering.
The new A-class, codenamed W169, copies the tall one-box silhouette, sloping roofline and upswept C-pillar treatment of its predecessor – but is lifted by tauter surfacing, compelling detailing and an improved stance. Angular headlamps, available with optional xenon bulbs, strengthen the appearance from the front, along with a reworked grille and pronounced wheelarches. A prominent crease line and rather angular side-window glasshouse enhances the sides, while at the rear there’s a near-vertical hatchback, shapely new tail lamps and wraparound rear screen.
Packaging was one of the old model’s biggest drawcards, and the new A-class makes further advances in this area. It accepts five adults in relative comfort – those in the back benefiting from added footwell depth. Other improvements include a lower loading lip and larger rear door apertures. The new car’s dimensions are held to roughly the same as that of the outgoing long-wheelbase A-class. At 3838mm in length, 1764mm in width and 1593mm in height, it is 63mm longer, 45mm wider and 18mm taller than before. It’s still smaller than the conventional hatches against which it competes, though – it’s 367mm shorter than a Golf. Under the new sheet-metal, the new A-class receives an updated version of Merc’s patented sandwich platform. The flat and massively rigid structure prevents the engine and mechanical components from entering the cabin in severe impacts. It can also house batteries for hybrid versions already undergoing testing.