Mercedes reinvented the A-Class from a frumpy mini-MPV to a conventional hatchback back in 2012, but while the image was right, the execution wasn’t perfect. The all- new fourth-generation model due in the UK by 2018 will address the current car’s biggest criticisms – becoming more practical, more spacious and better to drive.
Key to those aims will be the introduction of a new platform. The A-Classwill remain front-wheel drive and be underpinned by a heavily revised version of the current MFA structure, called MFA2. A slight increase in length and wheelbase will add some much- needed space inside, while the car’s new look and reshaped rear end will increase load volume above the 341 litres offered in today’s model.
Our exclusive images give a taste of what we can expect from the fourth- generation version. Spy shots (below, right) of the car undergoing development testing show how the A-Class will stick to the current formula in terms of proportions, although an extended roofline which falls away later than it does on the existing model gives a more stretched appearance and will increase headroom for those in the rear.
New headlamps will feature a lighting signature, while at the back a new two-part light cluster – which can be picked out on our spy shots – adds some visual width. But the A-Class will remain a strict five-door model, with no three-doorversion on the cards.
More changes will come under the bonnetwith the dated but popular 2.1-litre diesel in the current A-Class being switched for a newly developed 2.0-litre version as part of Mercedes’ modular diesel engine family. Outputs ranging from 160bhp to 190bhp are likely.
Earlier this year, bosses also expressed interest in developing a three-cylinder diesel. Bernhard Heil, head of powertrain development at Mercedes, told Auto Express: “It could be an option because in future there might come electrification where it might make sense to have a three-cylinder.” It’s also understood that a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is under development.
The re-engineered chassis and Mercedes’ promise of introducing 10 new plug-in hybrids by 2017 means a fuel-sipping part- electric version of the A-Class will also arrive. The powertrain could be made up of a small turbocharged petrol engine ora new three-cylinder diesel working in conjunction with a 50kW electric motor, and driving through a newly developed nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox. An all-electric range of around 30 miles should be achievable.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Mercedes-AMG engineers in Affalterbach will also get their hands on the new A-Class. Even though the current A 45 is already the world’s most powerful hot hatch, engineers will look to outdo themselves with the new model. A figure of around 400bhp is believed to be the target.
There is also the possibility of Mercedes introducing another high- performance variant of the A-Class – perhaps as an A 43, which would join the likes of the new GLC, E-Class and C-Class in the Mercedes-AMG 43 line-up.
Rounding off the changes will be a brand new cabin architecture, designed to be brought in line with the C-Class and E-Class. It’s here where the A-Class will undergo a more radical redesign than the exterior, with far plusher materials, a simplified dash design and larger digital displays all being added. The swivel wheel on the console that controls Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system will be replaced by the touchpad controller like that found on the compact exec and exec saloons.
As part of Mercedes’ Intelligent Drive system, the A-Class will also come fitted with a range of standard and optional safety and autonomous set-ups, indicated by the array of sensors on the windscreen of the car in our spy shots. Distronic Plus with Steering Assist Stop & Go Pilot, along with Park assist, could grace the new A-Class.