Mercedes is turning the new 2012 A-class into a high-quality, sporty mainstream rival for forthcoming BMW 1-series and Audi A3 replacements, leaving the next-gen B-class to fill the role of the small MPV.
The biggest change for the production Mercedes A-class over the three-door Vision A concept is the addition of rear doors. The roadgoing model retains the show car’s narrow glasshouse and sharply raked front windscreen and A-pillars. The roofline is not as steeply angled as the near-coupé-like slant of the concept’s, although it is a world apart from the boxy styling of the previous two A-class models.
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,” he said. “We will make changes to the window line, headlights and grille, but that’s it.”
Mercedes is placing great emphasis on interior quality, with plastics, trim and switchgear borrowed from the C-class.
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.
Power for the new A-class family will initially come from the existing range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines used in the C-class, but modified for a transverse installation.
The core engine will be a 2.0-litre petrol unit, which the Vision A previewed in 204bhp hot hatch form. It will be mated to a dual-clutch gearbox, which replaces the CVT that is used in today’s A-class and B-class. Cooking versions of the petrol model are likely to develop closer to 150bhp.
Diesels will be centred on Merc’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder unit, with power ranging from 130bhp to 180bhp.
The new A-class and B-class will also be joined by a compact four-door sports saloon, previewed by Merc’s F800 concept.
Mark Tisshaw/Greg Kable