New Mercedes A-Class exclusive

We get an exclusive tour of the new Mercedes A-Class ahead of its launch later this year

Forget the past – the new Mercedes A-Class is the most desirable car in its class. That’s the bold statement its British designer Mark Fetherston made as Auto Express was given an exclusive tour of the “revolutionary” entry-level car.
 
The new A-Class is charged with attracting younger buyers to the brand. It’s set to go on sale at the end of the year, starting at less than £20,000.
 
Fetherston said: “We haven’t really had a model to compete with the BMW 1 Series or Audi A3 – this car exists to attack that market and beat its rivals with a much more dynamic design.”
 
The newcomer is a complete departure from its MPV-like predecessor. It’s lower, wider and longer, following on closely from the Concept A seen at last year’s Shanghai Motor Show.
 
Fetherston explained: “A lot of us [within Mercedes] are surprised at how it ended up, as it hasn’t been watered down very much from the original.”
 
Among the car’s most striking features are the detailed creases on its side body panels. These give it real presence and were only made possible by a more design rather than engineering-led approach at Mercedes. This also allowed the design team to give the car a long bonnet, short rear overhang and low roof (18cm lower than the old model’s). All of this helps give the new A-Class its youthful, sporty stance.
 
But has function been left behind in favour of form? The company doesn’t deny the new car is less roomy inside than its boxy predecessor. But there’s always the new B-Class for those who want more space. And as we found, rear head and legroom in the A-Class are fine for adults, while the boot is as big as a BMW 1 Series’ – the only problem is its rather narrow opening.
 
Inside, there’s a distinct air of quality. Soft-touch materials are everywhere, and while the finish isn’t quite up to the level of the new A3, it’s easily a match for the 1 Series.
 
There are plenty of gadgets, too. A 5.8-inch colour screen is standard, and buyers will be able to control their iPhone through the car like never before thanks to a brand new app.
 
It’s obvious Mercedes has designed the A-Class’ interior to appeal to a younger audience – it has a low seating position and its sporty instruments and air vents have been inspired by those in the SLS AMG supercar.
 
Exact UK specifications have yet to be confirmed, although there will be three trim levels available, including a Sport model with larger alloys, deeper side skirts and more aggressive front and rear bumpers. Buyers will also be able to fit an optional AMG pack, which includes red accents and the striking pin grille seen on the silver car in our pictures.
 
Mercedes decided to make this feature a production reality after it amazed crowds on the Concept A at Shanghai. However, Mark said some modifications to the grille were required. “We had to change the shape slightly to accommodate the front crash structures and increase the gaps between the pins to help cooling,” he explained.
 
This is particularly important for the forthcoming AMG version, which is tipped to have a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 350bhp and all-wheel drive.
 
At launch, the A-Class will be available with 1.6 or 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines and 1.8 or 2.2-litre diesels, all with various outputs. The most efficient will emit less than 100g/km.
 
Yet whichever model you choose, the A-Class should offer impressive driving dynamics. Not only does it get clever multi-link rear suspension, buyers will also be able to specify stiffer sports suspension and even an AMG-designed front axle for improved steering feel.
 
We’ll have to wait for the car’s launch later this year to see if the front-wheel-drive A-Class can match the rear-wheel-drive 1 Series for driver thrills. But will this really matter to most buyers? Probably not. It should sell like hot cakes on looks alone – and that’s something we’d never have said about the old A-Class.
 
Summing up, Mark told us: “Mercedes producing a car like this has surprised a lot of people. We think it’s a real revolution, not just another evolution.” We couldn’t agree more.

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