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by Tim Beissmann

The wraps have finally come off the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class ahead of its official unveiling at the Geneva motor show.

The first ever traditionally styled hatchback from Mercedes is squarely aimed at the BMW 1-Series and Audi A3, as the German manufacturer filters its design, technology and powertrain expertise down into its entry-level car.

The 4.3m hatch goes on sale in Europe from September, and is set to reach Australian showrooms in the first quarter of 2013.

Three petrol engines and three diesels will be offered from launch. With displacements of 1.6 to 2.0 litres, the petrol options include the 90kW A180, the 115kW A200 and the Volkswagen Golf GTI-rivalling 155kW A250.

The diesel range comprises the 80kW/250Nm A180 CDI, the 100kW/300Nm A200 CDI, and the flagship 2.2-litre 125kW/350Nm A220 CDI. Mercedes-Benz promises CO2 emissions as low as 99g/km from the most frugal diesel model, translating to combined cycle fuel consumption of approximately 3.7 litres per 100km.

All engines incorporate stop-start technology, and offer a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as an option to the standard six-speed manual shifter.

In a strategy taken straight from the 1-Series’ playbook, A-Class customers will be able to personalise their cars with a selection of design and equipment lines, in this case called ‘Urban’, ‘Style’ and ‘AMG Sport’.

Additionally, A220 CDI and A250 buyers can add more heat to their hatches with the A-Class Sport ‘engineered by AMG’ package. A-Class Sport models score 18-inch five-spoke high-gloss black alloy wheels, the unique ‘diamond grille’, red brake calipers and front and rear apron elements, an AMG-developed front axle and suspension set-up, and a number of interior enhancements.

The A-Class Sport ‘engineered by AMG’ should temporarily sate the appetites of serious hot hatch fans waiting for the promised – but not yet realised – A25 AMG, which will launch further down the line.

The new A-Class has inherited a number of driver assist features from the larger Mercedes-Benz models to make it one of the most advanced small cars on the market. Standard is Attention Assist drowsiness detection system, brake hold function, hill-start assist, and Collision Prevention Assist, which warns distracted drivers of impending rear-end collisions and prepares the car for emergency braking.

Other available features include Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control, adaptive high beam assist, blind spot and lane-keeping assist, speed limit sign recognition, active parking assist, Linguatronic voice recognition system, and a reversing camera.

As detailed last month, the A-Class will also include an innovative iPhone integration system incorporating all the functions of the 4S model’s Siri personal assistant, giving drivers an unprecedented level of social connectivity.

Full specification and pricing details will be revealed closer to its European launch in September, while local specifications will emerge in the lead-up to the Australian launch in Q1 2013. Like the BMW 1-Series, the new A-Class is expected to start from under $40,000 when it launches in Australia.

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