Mercedes-Benz Finally Unveils New A-Class Hatchback

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With new levels of refinement, the new A-Class was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show last night.

As one of Geneva's worst kept secrets, it was inevitable that Mercedes would reveal the A-Class without hesitation and at last night's evening event the hatch was displayed in three top-spec trims. "A is for Attack: the A-Class is a clear statement of the new dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand", explained Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. "It is completely new, down to the last detail. In automotive development, it's not often you get the chance to start with a clean sheet of paper."

The new five-door A-Class is based on the new MFA (modular front architecture) platform, and at 4,292mm long, 1,780mm wide and 1,433mm tall, it is 32mm shorter, 15mm wider and 12mm taller than its main competitor the BMW 1-Series hatchback. However given its front-wheel-drive setup there should be more space inside than the RWD BMW. With a sporty, sexier design both inside and out, it's clear Mercedes are targeting a new demographic of younger customers. The two-box profile has bold surfacing and the 'diamond' grille from last year's more radical concept has been maintained.

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All trim surfaces feature a 'silver chrome' electroplated finish, and although basic specs can be individualized with a range of high-quality materials, there is also a choice of design and equipment lines: 'Urban,' 'Style,' and 'AMG Sport.' From an early stage, AMG performance specialists were involved in the compact class' development. As a result the A Class Sport 'engineered by AMG' features high-gloss black 18-inch AMG light alloys in a 5-spoke design housing red brake calipers. The A250 Sport and A220 CDI Sport are also differentiated by a special AMG-developed front axle and a matching suspension, while a turbocharged four-cylinder engine should deliver over 300hp.

From launch, a broad array of gasoline and diesel engines will be offered. The gasoline lineup includes the A180 with a 121hp 1.6-liter turbocharged unit, the A200 with a 154hp version of the same 1.6-liter unit, and the A250, powered by a 208hp 2.0-liter turbo. Diesel units include the A180 CDI with a 108hp, 184lb-ft 1.8-liter, the A200 CDI with the same unit rated at 134hp and 221lb-ft, and the A220 CDI with a 2.2-liter turbocharged four, delivering 168hp and 258lb-ft of torque. All engines come with an ECO start/stop function as standard, and mated to either a new six-speed manual transmission or optional 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic.

Other highlights of note in the new A-Class include an in-house developed app allowing drivers to integrate their Smartphone into the car's infotainment system and a raft of assistance systems such as Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.

European dealerships will take ownership of the A-Class in September but there are no current plans for it to be released stateside. That said, Daimler confirmed a new family of small cars will head to the US in 2013, and the A-Class could be one of them. Finger's crossed.

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