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We'll see three new entrants due to lob within the next 12 months, including Mercedes-Benz's new A-Class.
It will be joined in the fray by Audi's new A3 and the new Volvo V40, a shorter, hatchback variant of the S60 sedan for want of a better description.
All are five door hatchbacks with front wheel drive. BMW's stylistically challenged 1-Series is the only rear wheel drive. Although some manufacturers are reluctant to admit it, the main competition for all players is VW?s super popular Golf.
The Benz is a clean sheet project having nothing at all in common with the previous A-Class mini people mover. That job has been ceded to the new Benz B-Class and it's an effective device for everyday family motoring.
New A-Class is taking Benz in a totally new direction that will open up a wider and younger customer base to the three pointed star. Early kick-off price guesstimates are in the $35,000 range.
It's a car precisely targeting the Gen Y and Xers (so called Digital Natives) replete with a full array of connectivity right down to being able to seamlessly hook up your iPad or iPhone to the in-car info/control system.
It will be a smart phone on wheels offering a smooth transition from a digital lifestyle to a digital driving style. And get this, there's a virtual co-driver you can question or instruct to operate in-car functions.
The stunning looker, which bears a remarkable similarity to the A Concept of 2011, will be made in Germany, Hungary and tellingly, China. And we can expect a few other variants built on the same front wheel drive platform (moving to all wheel drive when AMG gets its hands on A-Class).
UNDER THE BONNET
It will be powered by a range of existing and a couple of new Benz turbo direct injection petrol and turbodiesel engines rated from 80kW through to 155kW with capacities ranging from 1.6 through to 2.1-litres. Benz hasn't confirmed it but a three door hatch variant should become available a little further down the track and possibly a drop top cabriolet.
Benz's performance partner AMG has been enlisted to develop certain A-Class parts so they have intimate knowledge of the car already. The A250 Sport enjoys significant AMG input. New A-Class will be offered with six-speed manual and seven-speed dual clutch manumatic transmissions and all models will have auto stop/start to optimise fuel economy.
Camtronic that alters valve lift in the petrol engines for peak efficiency will also make an appearance. An 'Eco' mode will be available to squeeze out the last kilometre in fuel economy if you drive carefully.
ACRONYMS R US
Benz won't hold back on the acronym features list either that will see the new baby Benz fitted with a speed limiter (Distronic), radar-based Collision Prevention Assist (CPA), Pre-Safe collision preparation and Lane Keeping Assist as well as Fatigue Alert and numerous other electronic driver and safety aids. They have filtered down from larger models as has the luxury inventory.
It has an assertive stance on the road with a masculine frontal appearance and deeply sculpted panels. The ride height is low and a striking "pointillist" style grille is available on some models. It looks ready to pounce from all angles and inside, the assertive, quality theme carries through with seats for four and a reasonable boot space.
The dash is from funky town featuring an electroplated look to many surfaces and impressive audio and lighting spex. It rates a strong five stars in crash testing and boasts newly developed pedestrian safety technology. The multi-faceted headlights feature a bank of LEDs for daytime running, indicators and parking lights. It rates a low 0.26Cd for aerodynamic efficiency.
If it goes as good as it looks the new A-Class could be a world beater. It has the potential to lift Mercedes-Benz to a new level with a wider audience and still maintain that prestige aura associated with the 110 year old automotive brand. We find out soon enough.