The countdown is on to the new Mercedes A- and B-class family rolling out of Stuttgart from 2011-2013. It’ll usher in plenty of change and, controversially, ushers in an entirely conventional platform called Mercedes Front-Wheel Drive Architecture (MFA) with none of the clever-clogs sandwich flooring that made the first two iterations technically stand out.
Having been unable to find a partner for the new A-class/B-class family (Merc approached BMW, PSA and others after the Chrysler deal collapsed so spectacularly), Daimler now hopes to increase sales of its smallest cars in order to improve the project’s profitability. So there will be two new entry-level models and a plan to sell the car in the US for the first time.
The new line-up looks like this:
• New A-class (W176), five-door hatchback, FWD only, aimed at age group 30-40, launch October 2012
• New B-class (W246), five-door tall roof hatchback, FWD only, also available as fuel-cell, electric drive and range extender version, FWD only, aimed at so-called silver agers (60+), launch November 2011
• New BLS class (C117), four-door coupé, FWD and AWD, aimed at age group 45-50, launch March 2013
• New BLK class (X156), a four-door crossover, may be badged SUC, derived from the B-class but with GLK class styling elements, FWD or AWD, aimed at age group 35-45, launch June 2013
So how big is the new Mercedes A-class family?
Appreciably bigger than today’s monobox, at 400mm longer. Think more Golf than supermini. The A-class is 4280mm long, while the B-class we’ve scooped in our spy video here stretches that to 4360mm long with a generous 530-litre boot.
All four variants share a 2700mm wheelbase but with wildly different length and height. MFA is a really flexible architecture that can flex 290mm in length – the longest iteration will be as long as today’s C-class, which will give the marketing people an interesting challenge.
Another significant change is weight. Despite the less sophisticated architecture, the bigger and better equipped small Mercs will be on average 100kg heavier than the products they replace, sources say. This is to a large extent due to the much more substantial drivetrains which replace the current A-class’s bespoke, slimline four-cylinder units; the new A-/B-class are to feature the same M274/276 four-cylinder petrol and OM451 diesel units as the more up-market Benzes.
Merc takes on Golf, A3, X1 et al
The new A-class is lower, longer and sportier than its predecessor. Priced ambitiously, it is kind of a Golf by Mercedes-Benz, only even more comfortable and even more safety-oriented.
The next B-class is best described as MB’s answer to the hugely successful Audi A3 Sportback. The car with the three-pointed star is reportedly roomier and more versatile than the Audi SB.
With the BLK, Mercedes aims at the same target as the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1. Again, the offering from Stuttgart surprises by being longer and
quantifiably less tall than its main rivals.
And the BLS? It has no direct counterpart, but Audi is known to be working on an elegant four-door coupé based on the next A-class which according to insiders is about half a size smaller than the stylish little brother of the E-class-based CLS.
The new A-class engine line-up
Merc is aiming for a sharper drive with the new A/B family. There’s brand-new all-round independent suspension, optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions, the offer of four-wheel drive and a host of new turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder 16-valve engines:
• A/B180 CGI, 1.6-litre/122bhp
• A/B200 CGI, 1.6-litre/156bhp
• A/B220 CGI, 2.0-litre/204bhp
• A/B180 CDI, 1.8-litre/109bhp
• A/B200 CDI, 1.8-litre/136bhp
• A/B200 CDI, 2.2-litre/170bhp