Mercedes’ secret Golf rival revealed

Revamped A-Class has VW in its sights and will be specifically targeted at younger buyers.

Plans for a hot new Mercedes are hatching out! This is the German firm’s stunning replacement for the A-Class – and it’s taking a big swing at Volkswagen’s Golf. Auto Express has learned that the three-pointed star is readying a new small car to tackle the Golf, Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series. The vehicle is part of the luxury brand’s bid to steal younger customers from its arch rivals.

Based on a new front-wheeldrive platform, the compact hatchback will take its design cues from the F800 concept, which was revealed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

Our exclusive illustrations give you the best idea of how the Golf-sized machine will look. And with a prominent grille, neat LED headlights, plus bold creases in its flanks and pert tail, it’s every inch the desirable, upmarket small car. Expect both three and five-door models to be available, along with a range of super-efficient petrol and diesel engines with stop-start.

As well as its stylish shape, the newcomer will boast a better-quality cabin than the Golf, plus increased comfort and safety. Prices will be higher, too, with sales beginning in 2012. The model is likely to wear the A-Class badge, and will be one of four key vehicles to come from Mercedes’ new front-wheel-drive architecture. “In the next couple of years, we will launch additional cars where we don’t currently have predecessors,” global sales and marketing boss Dr Joachim Schmidt told Auto Express. “Our current A-Class and B-Class will be replaced by a new platform for four totally different cars defining new segments for Mercedes.” 

Schmidt confirmed these models would not resemble the current A-Class and B-Class. Their MPV practicality has appealed more to older drivers. The new Golf-rivalling A-Class is due in two years’ time, while a compact high-roofed five-door B-Class with hybrid and electric options is slated for late 2011.

In 2013, the quartet will be completed by a small 4x4 or 2x4 ‘crossover’ to take on BMW’s X1. Following the Geneva unveiling of the F800 (see panel, opposite), there are also plans for a small four-door coupé, possibly badged BLS, which will aim to replicate the success of the larger CLS.

“If you want young customers, you need to have a brand that is sexy and sporty,” explained Schmidt. “The reason we didn’t get this customer before was, in my opinion, not a brand issue, but a product issue.”

And it doesn’t stop there. Mercedes is planning a further youth-focused model to rival the forthcoming Audi A1 and BMW supermini. But this car is more likely to be badged as a Smart to replace the critically panned and unsuccessful four-door, four-seater ForFour.

It will be built on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as Renault’s groundbreaking Twizy electric model, as part of the recent small vehicle tie-up announced between the two car giants. The new range aims to lower the average age of Mercedes’ customer profile – 45 years old in the US and 55 in Germany – without alienating older customers.

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