A new breed of Mercedes
THE new Mercedes A-Class gets here late in the year, and judging by this first drive, it is going to ring the changes.
It represents a formidable challenge to the likes of high-end VW Golfs and Audi A3s, to mention but two of its rivals.
It is a much better-looking car than the current one -- sleek lines and a clever rear spoiler certainly help.
While there is an impressive list of standard features, a plethora of engine options as well as the latest hi-tech entertainment equipment could easily push the final bill for the base model well over its expected €28,000 price tag when it eventually gets here.
The 1.6 and 2-litre petrol engines produce between 122 and 211hp. All have Blue DIRECT technology which helps cut fuel consumption by up to 26pc (5.4-litres/100km for the A200).
Low-emission diesel engines come in 1.8-litre to 2.2-litre guise. You can have a six-speed manual or 7G-DCT auto transmission.
A derivative of the SLS AMG super sports car, an entry-level 'AMG 45' with a powerful new four-cylinder engine, will emerge late next year.
All versions have a choice of three chassis and suspension set-ups.
But the car doesn't do everything it says on the tin. Mercedes's claim that it can ferry up to three passengers in the rear doesn't stand up. Two adults would exhaust its capacity for optimum comfort.
But that's a minor quibble beside its on-the-road credentials, its agility and its precise and assured handling -- especially at speed.