Two bodystyles are no longer enough for Mercedes. The three-pointed star is plotting seven new A- and B-class variants for its next-generation rival for the BMW 1-series and Audi A3.
The official designation is New Compact Car Class (or NCCC), but that’s a relative term as the next A-class measures 4280mm in length, the BLK crossover (4440mm) matches the BMW X1, and the four-door CLC coupe (4560mm) is only marginally shorter than the facelifted C-class
That already sounds like a lot of models. What are the seven A- and B-class variants that Mercedes has planned?
There’s a five-door A-class, a three-door A-class, an A-class convertible, the B-class, a BLK crossover, a CLC four-door coupe and a CLC five-door Shooting Brake. To be built in Hungary and Germany, the new baby Benzes are type-approved for most major world markets including China and North America, with the former under consideration as an overflow production base for up to three different volume models.
The new B-class aims at so-called ‘silver agers’ who are primarily interested in versatility, comfort, economy and visibility, the target audience of the BLK is the 35 to 45 year-old bracket, with the more prestigious CLC plugging the age gap between the compact crossover and the high-roof model. On the tentative sales volume chart, the attractive and functional A-class is the clear spearhead of the NCCC family with the CLC Shooting Brake acting as a high-end dark horse.
If the three-door A-class does go into production within the next 24 months, it could generate enough volume to justify its role as a price leader, but sources say it needs to be turned into a coupe to beef up the margins. That means it may have to be paired with an even pricier cabriolet, and although these two bodystyles have not yet been approved, they would certainly help to give the NCCC family a younger and more progressive image profile.
Featuring a conventional platform instead of the complex sandwich concept introduced in 1998, the architecture beneath the new A- and B-class is versatile enough to be adopted by Infiniti for its new entry-level product in 2013. For now though, the only tangible link between the next A- and B-class and Renault-Nissan concerns the entry-level engines, which are 109bhp 1.2-litre and 136bhp 1.4-litre petrol units, and a 122bhp 1.6-litre diesel.
When the first model arrives, the new B, the initial launch engines will be Mercedes’ own ilk though. There’s a new turbocharged and direct-injected 1.6 (designated M270) available in 121bhp and 154bhp guises – a 2.0-litre variant will follow – and a 1.8 diesel (OM651, and based on the Merc 2.1 but with a stroke shortened from 99 to 83mm) with 107 and 134bhp. A new six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch will be offered and all models come with a stop/start system as standard.
||4-cyl turbo petrol
||4-cyl turbo petrol
||4-cyl turbo diesel
||4-cyl turbo diesel|
||121bhp @ 5000rpm
||154bhp @ 5000rpm
||107bhp @ 3200-4600rpm
||134bhp @ 3600-4400rpm|
||148lb ft @ 1250-4000rpm
||184lb ft @ 1250-4000rpm
||184lb ft @ 1400-2800rpm
||221lb ft @ 1600-3000rpm|
Although front-wheel drive is standard, the 4Matic four-wheel drive system can be specified for the BLK, CLC, CLC Shooting Brake and for the AMG editions.
So what about the AMG version?
Originally the A25 and CLC25 AMGs were supposed to boast a supercharged four-cylinder petrol good for 272bhp, but since the innovative Hyprex charger application turned out to be more complicated than expected, the team from Affalterbach reverted to a more familiar twin-turbo 2.0-litre four pot. This engine may be a little thirstier, but at 340bhp it also is a lot more potent – and thus requires the assistance of the permanent AWD system.
But true to its green reputation, Mercedes is also laying the finishing touches on four different Blue Efficiency and Blue E-Motion models, including a hybrid which features a 27bhp electric motor for brief EV stints. One step up we find the plug-in hybrid which mates a frugal three-cylinder engine sourced from Renault to an electric propulsion source rated at 54 or 108bhp. The hybrid offers a smog-free driving range of up to 60miles.
In 2013 the B-class goes fully electric, but production of this earth-saver is at least initially limited to 1000 units. The fuel cell edition, which musters a combined power output of 175bhp, is geared for a total production volume of 10,000 units – the B is the only NCCC descendant capable of packaging the battery kit, the hydrogen tanks and the fuel cell.
>> Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know what you think of Mercedes' plans for the A- and B-class