For a few years BMW had the luxury mini hatchback market all to itself; they almost created the market on their own by releasing a car that was smaller than an Audi A3 or a Golf but more desirable than a Polo. Yes there was Alfa Romeo, and cars like the Alfa 147 were lovely to look at, but the wheels fell off and the electronics spontaneously caught fire or refused to work.
Mercedes have been faffing around with the A-Class since its launch in 1997. The first A-Class was a complete disaster. Its handling was riddled with stability issues, to such an extent that some of them tipped over if you cornered with even the slightest enthusiasm. Admittedly the hatchback/compact SUV design did mean that visually, the car was in tempo with the latest automotive fashion trends, so Mercedes sold a few. Mercedes could have got a way with the poor handling. The architecture of the A-Class screamed ‘mummsy’ and therefore the mothers of two probably didn’t notice the terrible handling coming out of Tesco’s car park. Unfortunately the cars were also unreliable and many consumers never looked back once they were shot of their A-Class.
The 2011 car has shaken off the ills of its tarnished past but in 2011 it looks dated. So Mercedes have decided it’s time for a refresh!
The new 2012 A-Class is an out-and-out hot-hatch! It’s not for your Mother. It’s lower, with a lower roofline and a longer wheelbase, so handling will be drastically improved. The aesthetics appeal to a much younger audience, with hints of the magnificent VW Scirocco seeping out of the lines and contours. If Mercedes play their cards right, the A-Class could be a BMW beater, but they should be under no illusions, the competition from both Audi and BMW will be tough and the Mercedes brand is still favoured by an older demographic.
The unveiling of the Mercedes A-Class will take place at the Geneva Motor Show next month. Watch this space.