Currently reading: New Mercedes A-class - first pics
First spy pics of all-new A-class reveal a much sportier, rakish five-door hatch to rival the A3

Mercedes’ all-new A-class hatchback will stay true to the rakish concept at the recent Shanghai motor show, judging by these exclusive first spy shots of the production car.

The German luxury giant is turning the new 2012 A-class into a high-quality, sporty mainstream rival for forthcoming BMW 1-series and Audi A3 replacements.

Spied here in testing in Europe, the biggest change for the production A-class over the three-door Vision A concept is the addition of rear doors.

See the first spy pics of the new Mercedes A-class

The production A-class retains the concept’s narrow glasshouse and sharply raked front windscreen and A-pillars. The roofline is not as sharply raked as the near-coupe-like angle of the concept’s, although it is a world apart from the boxy styling of the previous two A-classes from Mercedes.

The role of the current A-class as a spacious, yet compact family car in the Mercedes’ line-up will be filled by the all-new B-class. This is a much more familiar monobox and will share its front-drive underpinnings with the A-class.

At the Shanghai show, Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener described the Vision A concept as “realistic” next to the production car. “Obviously the real thing is a five-door and we will make changes to the window line, headlights and grille, but that’s it,” he said.

Read Autocar's exclusive on the new Mercedes B-class

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

Wagener also promised that build quality would be much improved over the current cars, promising that “the quality of materials and fit and finish will be above the current C-class”.

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.

Read Autocar's scoop on the hot new 320bhp A-class AMG

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.

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