Mercedes has always said its new A-class family would expand into an entire range of downsized premium cars. Now we're only a few short months away from seeing evidence of this range of new small Mercs.
Early in 2013, production of the four-door Mercedes CLA is due to start in the new state-of-the-art assembly plant in Kecskemet, Hungary - the first in a major expansion of the Mercedes A-class family.
Think of the CLA as a baby CLS, bound to compete against the 2013 Audi A3 Sport sedan and the 2014 BMW 1-series GT. Positioned one rung above the five-door hatchback, the CLA can be had with Sport, Exclusive and AMG packs, Haldex-operated 4Matic 4wd system, dynamic chassis control, dual-clutch transmission, MyDrive smartphone connectivity, panorama sunroof and so-called diamond grille.
Mercedes A-class shooting brake
Twelve months later, Merc will release the five-door shooting brake version of the A-class in early 2014. It's a wagon spin-off based around the sleek four-door coupé which was introduced at the 2012 Beijing motor show in concept car form.
The shooting brake derivative aims squarely at the A3 Sportback and forthcoming 1-series Touring.
Mercedes GLA: the baby off-roader
And then in autumn 2014, the stylish yet functional GLA crossover is to complete the revamped A-class line-up.
The GLA chases the same target audience as the BMW X1 and the upcoming Audi Q4. Like the competition, the new MFA architecture which underpins the A- and B-class family offers a mix of front- and four-wheel drive applications. A derivative of this matrix will be used by the future compact Infiniti to be built by Magna Steyr in Graz which is loosely based on the 2011 Etherea show car.
The GLA out as a 2015 model will zoom in on the X1/X2 and the Q3/Q4. It sits on a 2700mm wheelbase which suggests that it is roomier than the Audis and on par with the BMWs. The key measurements (length 4440mm, width 1800mm, height 1500mm) indicate that the Mercedes is quite a bit lower than its rivals.
First drawings show a clean coupé-like vehicle which has very little in common with the boxy homespun GLK. The front end features an upright grille with two horizontal bars, a new trademark element to be found on all future MB SUVs and crossovers.
Engines in the new A-class derivatives
Unlike lesser A-class variants, CLA and GLA won't be available with the base 1.2-litre petrol engine or with the entry-level 90bhp diesel co-developed with Renault. Instead, customers can choose from three petrol-fed units:
• 1.6-litre, 122bhp/148lb ft
• 2.0-litre, 170bhp/184lb ft
• 2.2-litre, 211bhp/258lb ft
And three diesel engines:
• 1.6-litre, 109bhp/192lb ft
• 2.2-litre, 136bhp/221lb ft
• 2.2-litre, 170bhp/258lb ft
Not yet confirmed but likely to be added at a later stage is the CLA/GLA250 CDI equipped with the 204bhp/368lb ft top-of-the-line oil-burner. In terms of alternative drivetrains, M-B has reportedly axed the 177bhp range extender, scrapping all 37 prototypes at a total cost of €18.5m. Instead, R&D is now concentrating on the 143bhp/214lb ft fuel-cell, on the 156bhp NGT natural gas engine and on a still to be defined plug-in hybrid.