New A-Class: no six-cylinder engines yet

* Only four-cylinder A-Class from launch * Six-cylinder engines a possibility * Mercedes won't downsize to three-cylinder units...

New A-Class: no six-cylinder engines yet

The new Mercedes A-Class won't come with Merc's larger six-cylinder engines for now although senior sources admit that the new hatchback could accommodate the motor if required.

The A-Class is being launched with a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, including a 1.5-litre diesel sourced from Renault-Nissan. Its largest motor is the 2.2-litre diesel in the A220 CDI.

An even more potent version of that engine will reach dealers early in 2013, but Mercedes' A-Class development boss, Jorg Prigl, revealed to What Car? that with work, the car could accept even larger six-cylinder powerplants.

'This platform has been designed for four-cylinder engines,' he said, 'because there are compromises in weight and so forth that come with six-cylinder engines, and it does not make any sense to have those right across the model line-up.

'However, if at some point the market requires that the car should be offered with a six-cylinder engine, then we could find a way to make it work.'

The deciding factor in whether the A-Class gets the six-cylinder engines is not likely to be sales in Europe, but in markets where fuel economy is less of an issue, such as China, North America (where the model as a whole has yet to be confirmed for sales) and Russia.

Russian or Chinese markets could accommodate the Mercedes A-Class with six-cylinder engines

Prigl also said that Mercedes has no plans to follow the strengthening trend for downsized engines in family hatchbacks. Ford now sells a 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ford Focus and the next version of the VW Golf, due in the autumn, is likely to be offered with a similar configuration of engine.

'For some manufacturers there is a communications benefit through having a three-cylinder engine,' said Prigl, 'but I believe with this generation of four-cylinder engines we will deliver a good level of performance in the A-Class.'

John McIlroy