Geneva 2012: new Mercedes A-Class

* New A-Class now Audi A3 rival * On sale in the autumn * Mercedes say it will cost same as outgoing model...

Geneva 2012: new Mercedes A-Class

The new Mercedes A-Class has been revealed at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

The new A-Class is a very different car from the mini MPV that was first to carry the badge. Mercedes believes the latest B-Class fulfils that brief, so it has restyled the A-Class as a regular-sized premium hatchback. Its aimed squarely at the new Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Volvos new V40.

The A-Class is 4292mm long, 1780mm wide and 1433mm high so its around the same width as the latest A3, but 6cm longer and 1cm taller. It will be launched as a five-door, although a sportier three-door variant is on the way.

See also: All Geneva motor show 2012 news

The styling follows Mercedes recent family look, with a grille and front-end look that are similar to those of the B-Class and even the recent SL. Theres quite a lot of detailing along the sides, while at the rear theres a narrow hatchback window and wide tail lights.

Inside, the fascia looks similar to the impressive design of the recently launched B-Class, with the circular air vents (first introduced on the SLS supercar) and a large central audio system. The infotainment system, which has a floating screen at the top of the dashboard, can be tailored to include full iPhone integration Mercedes says it will offer this feature for other smartphones shortly.

Mercedes says it has installed many of its big-car options on the A-Class; itll get Attention Assist (which monitors driver fatigue), radar-controlled collision prevention, a brake hold function and hill-start assist as standard. Other optional features will include adaptive headlights, blind-spot assist, lane-keeping assist, speed limit assist (with speed sign recognition) and active parking assist.

The petrol engines at launch will be 1.6- and 2.0-litre motors, all of them turbocharged. The entry-level A180 will have 120bhp, the A200 gets 2.0 litres and 154bhp, and the A250 will have 208bhp. Later on, a four-wheel-drive AMG version of the car will take the 2.0-litre engine to more than 300bhp.

The diesel models will be the A180 with 107bhp and 184lb ft, the A200 with 134bhp and 221lb ft, and the 2.2-litre A220 CDI with 168bhp and 258lb ft.

Regardless of whether theyre petrol or diesel, all engines get a stop-start system as standard. Theyll be paired with a six-speed transmission as standard, while a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox will be offered as an option.

Mercedes has also released the first images of the A-Class Sport, which gets AMG touches such as a new grille and 19-inch alloys. This trim will be restricted to the A250 and A220 CDI.

The A-Class is due in British dealerships in late autumn. Prices are likely to be higher than for the current model, reflecting the new cars repositioning as a 1-Series and A3 rival. Expect entry-level models to start at around 20,000.

John McIlroy