Mercedes whisked the covers off the new A-class on the eve of the 2012 Geneva motor show. As predicted, it's a lower, sleeker, more Golf-like alternative to the Golf, sitting 18cm closer to thetarmac.
These first official pictures of the new 2012 Mercedes A-class prove the 'tallboy' look is over for good and the production car closely apes the look of the Concept A-class. It's a sleek design, boasting a drag coefficient of just 0.26.
Mercedes A-class (2012): what's new
As well as being lower and shaped around a more conventional hatchback profile, the new A ditches the complex sandwichconstruction of previous A-classes for a more conventional front-drive, front-engined architecture dubbed Mercedes' Front-wheel-drive Architecture (MFA).
This is significantly cheaper to manufacture (surprise, surprise) and this MFA platform will also underpin other vehicles in the group and further afield, including Infiniti's forthcoming new small hatchback.
To give you some idea of how much the new A-class has changed, check out the dimensions:
• 4292mm long (previous A-class 3883mm)
• 1780mm wide (1764mm)
• 1433mm tall (1593mm)
This is a substantially longer, wider and lower car. Mercedes bigwigs talk of it as the most important new Merc since the 190 first introduced the company to the compact executive segment and admit it was wrong to overcomplicate the first-generation A-class.
The design of the 2012 A-class
'Applying the new dynamic style of Mercedes-Benz to the compact class was a challenge that we thoroughly enjoyed,' said design chief Gorden Wagener. 'The almost sculptural lines of the A-class are very typical for Mercedes. The feature lines, particularly along the sides of the car, then give the A-class structure and tautness.'
The new A-class comes in three trim levels, with varying degrees of sportiness: Urban, Style and AMG Sport (the car pictured with red trim). The A-class Sport packs black gloss 18in alloys wheels, red brake callipers and other red trim. Hell, it's a bit like the 1980s in here - even the seatbelts are bright red.
What engines can I get in the new 2012 Merc A-class?
There's a wide range of powertrains, stretching from a positively daisy-loving 99g/km diesel to a 209bhp petrol-powered A250. All have stop-start and come with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed twin-clutch. The full range includes:
A180 1.6 petrol, 114bhp
A200 1.6 petrol, 154bhp
A250 2.0 petrol, 209bhp
All the petrol engines pack direct injection and turbocharging. The smaller 1.6 includes Camtronic, Merc's newvariable valve lift system on the intake, stemming petrol use at part load throttle openings. Diesels engines include:
A180 CDI, 108bhp
A200 CDI, 134bhp
A220 CDI, 168bhp
Gadgets galore in the new A-class
Smartphones such as the iPhone syncseamlessly with the onboard operating system, claims Mercedes. So you can drop in your Apple phone (and, later, other smartphones) and use the menus and controls through the A-class's digital screen.
Other innovations include a drowsiness detector, active parking assist, voice activation, blindspot monitors and a standard-across-the-range radar-based Collision Prevention Assist, warning of impending collisions and prepping the brakes for an emergency stop.
The new A-class's new four-link rear axle means that four-wheel drive is possible - and indeed likely on forthcoming AMG variants and the baby SUV offshoot.
The new Mercedes-Benz A-class goes on sale in Europe in September 2012. UK models will arrive around November time, just before the end of 2012.
>> Click here for more news on the Mercedes A-class from our sister website Parkers