While Ford injected new life into the compact MPV sector with the B-Max at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz performed a U-turn by unveiling the new A-Class. Gone is the tall profile that first came to public attention 15 years ago, as a car overturned during a Swedish magazine test, involving a rapid lane-changing maneuver known as the “Moose Test.” It was enough to halt the A-Class production lines and ensure that every example was fitted with electronic stability control (ESC) as standard.
Mercedes-Benz maintains that same advanced application of safety systems in the new A-Class, despite the notably lower center of gravity. Standard equipment will include radar-based Collision Prevention Assist, to alert drivers to possible obstacles and prepare the Brake Assist system for rapid braking, triggered by heavy brake-pedal pressure. The options will include Mercedes Pre-Safe preventive occupant protection system first seen on the S-Class 10 years ago, smart phone integration, and an iPhone app designed to integrate the Apple phone into the car’s infotainment system. This is due to be followed by similar integration for other smart phones.
It takes no more than a few seconds to work out where Mercedes is going with the model. BMW has enjoyed a very successful run with the 1 Series, and the new A-Class pays homage to Chris Bangle’s “flame surfacing” with some distinctive swage lines in the body sides. Elsewhere at Geneva, Audi was unwrapping the latest A3. The new A-Class gives Mercedes the competitor it needs for such rivals.
The company quotes dimensions of 4292 mm (169.0 in) long, 1780 mm (70.1 in) wide, and 1433 mm (56.4 in) tall. Compared with the current A-Class, those dimensions around 409 mm (16.1 in) longer, 16 mm (0.6 in) wider, and 160 mm (6.3 in) lower.
The design is closely related to the Concept A-Class that Mercedes revealed at the Shanghai Show last April, which itself drew on the F800 Style concept displayed at Geneva in 2010. Mercedes describes the body as completely new but perhaps inevitably the car draws on the front-wheel-drive format of the B-Class, existing engines, and those from the alliance with Renault.
Gasoline engines are of 1.6- and 2.0-L capacity. The 1.6-L units will feature variable valve lift technology, which Mercedes has branded Camtronic. Few details of the system were available, but it follows established practice in restricting intake valve opening under partial load to control the amount of fresh mixture drawn in, thereby reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
Power output is quoted at 90 kW (115 hp) for the 1.6-L engine in the A180 and 115 kW (156 hp) from the same 1.6-L engine in the A200. The 2.0-L engine will deliver up to 155 kW (211 hp) in the A250. All gasoline engines will use direct injection and turbocharging.
Diesels draw on the 1.8-L turbocharged common-rail units fitted to the B-Class, delivering 80 kW (109 hp) for the A180 CDI, with 250 N·m (184 lb·ft) and 100 kW (136 hp) and 300 N·m (221 lb·ft) from the A200 CDI. Mercedes’ 2.2-L turbocharged four-cylinder diesel completes the lineup, producing up to 125 kW (170 hp) and 250 N·m. The diesels will deliver carbon dioxide emissions down to 99 g/km.
Automatic engine stop/start is another standard feature across all engines. Transmission choices include six-speed manual and seven-speed automated dual-clutch unit.
A high-performance model using 4Matic four-wheel drive is expected to be added later. AMG was involved in the project from an early stage to develop the A-Class A250 and A220 CDI Sport models. These will be equipped with five-spoke 18-inch AMG light alloy wheels, finished in black, using 235/40 R18 tires. Brake calipers for the Sport models will be finished in red. AMG has also developed the front axle and suspension for these models.
A new four-link rear axle is fitted at the rear. The electromechanical steering system has been redesigned with the electric drive motor mounted directly on the steering gear.
Mercedes quotes a Cd figure of 0.26, assisted by the standard roof spoiler, which also houses the car’s aerials. A-Class models are due to reach European showrooms by September.