The funky – Mercedes Benz A Class

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In just one generation, the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has gone from dull to delightful. It has a sporty and radical design based on an all-new front-wheel-drive architecture, one which the five-door hatchback will eventually share with other body styles such as a coupe and a crossover.

The new A-Class has a lower centre of gravity, thanks to Merc’s decision to ditch the previous sandwich floor construction. The car is also bigger at 4,355 mm in overall length with a wheelbase of 2,699 mm but with a height of just 1,433 mm.

Its interior is equally funky. The groundbreaking design has a trio of centre air vents punched into the smooth one-piece dashboard fascia. The centre console is shaped as a module below them, while the free-standing colour screen for the Comand audio and navigation system is above.

The brand with the three-pointed star says that all trim elements have been electroplated for genuine metal surfaces that are cool to the touch.

Under the bonnet, the petrol engines driving the front wheels through a new seven-speed 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission are available with three output levels – the A180 with a 122 hp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine; the A200 which is also a 1.6 but producing 156 hp; and the A250 with a 2.0-litre turbo and 211 hp.

This new generation of four-cylinder engines already meets the stricter Euro 6 emission standard before it comes into force.

One of its innovations is Camtronic, featuring early intake closure and variable intake valve lift – the first for a direct-injection engine with forced induction.

So when the engine is under partial load, the amount of fresh air is limited to reduce fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent.

The A-Class can be ordered in a variety of trim levels, with the highest being AMG Sport. AMG is the tuning division of Mercedes-Benz and the A250 AMG Sport comes with several high-performance modifications.

The most obvious are the diamond grille, aggressive aerodynamic kit and 18-inch alloy wheels. In the cabin, there are red accents and white dials for the meters. But beyond the cosmetic differences, the AMG Sport variant gets a 15 mm lowered sports suspension and Direct-Steer variable steering system.

AMG input has also resulted in a dedicated front axle. The wheel carriers and linkage points have been modified to increase understeering behaviour for lower lateral acceleration situations, thus boosting straight-ahead confidence at high speeds. As for the rear axle, it gets shorter links for higher lateral acceleration.

What this does is reduce stability to encourage sportier behaviour at medium speeds of 100 to 120 kmh. On the race track, the Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Sport’s power allows it to enter a fast curve enthusiastically. In keeping with the Mercedes philosophy, the suspension setting is still relatively comfortable.

As a result, there is noticeable body roll but the A250 still manages to inspire confidence with its reassuringly precise steering. Manual gear changes are quick and crisp, with the software for the 7G-DCT gearbox coming from the SLS AMG sports car.

With the A250 AMG Sport, Mercedes-Benz has managed to overhaul its image in one fell swoop. And as if that’s not enough, look out for the A45 AMG with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine driving all four wheels in the first quarter of 2013. – AsiaOne