No new Mercedes A Class any time soon, but CLA goes on sale in the fall

Mercedes CLA

Mercedes CLA

 

Mercedes A Class

Mercedes A Class

Mercedes-Benz still hasn’t decided when it will bring the new little A Class to America, but its more expensive and slightly bigger sibling, the CLA, will be available in the fall.

Mercedes plans to be the top selling luxury car manufacturer in the world by 2020, and it needs to liven up its smaller cars if it is to defeat its German rivals Audi and BMW.

It’s a measure of a previous model’s failure when the latest version of a car looks completely different from the one it replaces. The new Mercedes A class has nothing at all in common visually with the old version. The previous A Class was a formidable piece of engineering, with its so-called sandwich floor hiding the engine, main mechanicals and transmission. It was very practical for storage and comfort. But its egg-like body shape, looking like a bulked up Smart car, was deadly dull. It couldn’t compete on looks with the big competitors in the sector, the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.

You can see from the picture that Mercedes has consigned that problem to history.

The previous A Class had its teething problems too, when it tipped over during a road test in Sweden designed to replicate the kind of evasive action you might take if you encountered an elk while driving at high speed in the wild, northern part of the country. Mercedes Benz had to withdraw the first A Class after the roll-over, and spent much cash to make the stability control system standard across the range. So far there have been no new reports from Sweden concerning failed “elk” tests.

The new A Class has been lauded in the European media for its great handling and performance, with an unnecessarily harsh suspension emerging as a negative. Inside, the car is suitably luxurious with expensive, high quality materials.  The big computer screen reminds you that high technology is the watchword, and the target audience for the CLA in the U.S. is successful younger buyers who want connectivity for Smart phones and their apps.

When Mercedes-Benz unveiled the new CLA just before the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), it said it will spearhead new conquest sales in the U.S. for buyers from so-called generation Y who value internet connectivity as much as cars themselves. Mercedes didn’t reveal the cost of the car, but prices will likely start at above $30,000. Engines will be four-cylinder, turbo-charged gasoline, producing up to 350 hp. There may be a diesel too. Top of the range models may have four-wheel drive.

Mercedes officials said the new CLA was built with connectivity with the internet at the forefront of the design and all models would integrate services like Facebook and Twitter. The body design was also highly aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of only 0.22.

Even though the CLA was unveiled on the eve of Detroit Show, Mercedes chose not to include it on its Cobo Center stand.

 

Neil Winton
Neil Winton writes the European Perspective column for Autos Insider. He was Reuter's Science and Technology Correspondent and European Auto Correspondent before setting up as a freelance columnist and web site publisher, writing about the European automotive industry and its products. Neil can be reached at neil.winton@btinternet.com.