In the United States we don’t equate Mercedes-Benz with hatchbacks (or MPVs, or vans….) but in Europe it is a whole different story. Mercedes-Benzes there are viewed as a more mainstream vehicle. In particular the A- and B-Class lines have been important sellers for Mercedes, and they are taking on an even bigger importance in the future.
The previous generations of these cars haven’t exactly been stunning in their levels of design and refinement. This time around, Mercedes has put an all-out effort into redesigning them, with an eye on entering the U.S market and gaining more share in Europe. According to Mercedes, this new aggressiveness begins with the name: “A is for Attack: the A-Class is a clear statement of the new dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand”, says Dieter Zetsche, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “It [A-Class] 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. Our engineers and designers have made the very most of that opportunity.”
An A-Class, with style. That is definitely a change. One of the defining features of the A-Class was its sandwich platform that was designed for safety and gave the car its unique, upright design. This time around that platform has been replaced with the new Mercedes Front Architecture (MFA) that the company plans to underpin a good portion of its future sales growth.
The design of the A-Class stays remarkably true to the concept, and it further develops brand’s recent, sharper edged styling language. Premium elements such as the grille detailing and body surfacing help to set it out from more plebeian hatchback models. If there is one area we aren’t feeling it is out back, where the A-Class does little to establish an identy for itself.
Still, it is very good looking and the new A-Class seems to have a luxury presence that the old one sorely lacked. There isn’t one element of stodginess to be found. The interior is similarly worlds apart. For a supposedly premium vehicle, the previous A-CLass didn’t come across that way at all. In stark comparison is the sporty cockpit design of the 2013 A-Class, which features circular gauges, contrast stitching, ambient lighting and upgraded materials.
The optional integral seats are a design element we really like. The new A-Class projects as sporty, youthful fulness inside and out that isn’t usually seen from Mercedes.
An AMG Sport model, developed by AMG, will be available from the get go. It features an AMG-developed front axle, sport tuned suspension, diamond grille and unique wheels along with red contrasting elements in the interior. One of the stand out elements Mercedes plans for the A-Class is the “democratization” of technology, which includes the availability of Pre Safe, Brake Assist and Collision Prevention Assist.
Under the hood is a wide range of power options. Gas engines include 1.6 and 2.0-liter units, making 115 (which is painfully low), 156 and 211 horsepower. As far as diesel engines there is 1.8-, 2.0- and 2.2-liter units making 109, 136 and 170 hp respectively. They will all feature ECO Start/Stop technology as standard. If (when?) the A-Class is sold in the U.S, we’ll probably get the top-shelf gas engine as standard.
At some point you have to ask what makes a Mercedes a Mercedes, but playing hard in this segment is clearly one of the company’s chief priorities. Overall, the A-Class appears to be a very compelling offering in this emerging segment – much more so than Audi’s A3, to be honest. Now we’ll just have to see what BMW brings to the table.