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NEW MERCEDES-BENZ A-CLASS IN DECEMBER By Brian Foley

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is due here in December, later than perhaps originally expected and as a result will miss out on eligibility for the IMWA Continental Irish Car of The Year award for which the cut-off date is end of October. The new model is distinctly different from the previous model as the double-floor is gone which results in a low slung, sleeker, and more aerodynamic body that is 160mm closer to the road and has a low drag coefficient of 0.27.

Most noticeable is its sharper, more defined appearance. Contoured side panels, a pronounced V-shape front, side air intakes, double slat vents on each side of the central Three Pointed Star and a dropping line. One neat touch is a roof spoiler that conveniently hides all the aerials.

The instrument panel has two large round dials with smaller dial inserts with pointers coloured in sporty red. A free-standing display screen, three-spoke steering wheel with 12 function buttons, are amongst the standard or optional features depending on model specs. Air conditioning, an advanced audio system, electrically adjustable front sports seats with integrated head restraints and contrasting stitching, red seat belts, an intelligent lighting system, leather finished dashboard, electric windows all round and headlamp assist are all standard..

One item sure to get the market tweeting is its iPhone capability. Making it a natural home for the Facebook generation, this optional feature allows owners to extend their digital lifestyle by accessing e-mails, apps, tweets, advanced navigation information and other services that smart phones can deliver. However, do drivers really need all this gadgetry, which can be a major distraction with accident potential?

Power comes from new, more powerful, low-emission diesel and petrol engines with outputs from 109 to 211bhp. An ECO start/stop function standard across the range helps reduce fuel consumption by up to 35 percent. Transmission is 6-speed manual with 7G dual clutch automatic available as an option.

Diesel versions begin with an A180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY – a 109bhp version most likely to be the preferred choice in Ireland. . Consuming 22 percent less fuel than its predecessor, it is the first Mercedes to emit only 98g of CO2 per kilometre. Also available will be the A200 CDI with 136 bhp and a more powerful A220 CDI – a 170bhp unit that returns fuel savings some 25 percent better than its predecessor and already meets emission standards not due to come into force until 2015. When linked to 7G automatic transmission, this model consumes just 4.3 litres/100 km according to provisional figures.

There are two turbocharged, direct injection petrol versions. First is the 156bhp, A200 – a model that succeeds in matching a superior performance to a 26 percent drop in fuel consumption at 5.4 litres/100 km. Second is the more powerful 211bhp, A250 Sport . With 7G automatic transmission, this model still delivers an economical 6.1 litres/100km consumption and CO2 emissions of 143g.

The 5-door hatchback can accommodate five persons, and has boot space of 341 litres expandable to 1,157 litres with 60:40 seatbacks folded. Three chassis and suspension set-ups are available while safety features embrace an array of assistance systems adopted from the larger models in the Mercedes-Benz range.

Prices for the new A-Class have not yet been fixed. However, Mercedes sales manager Ciaran Allen says that the plan is to introduce it at a competitive price “that takes due account of the economic climate in Ireland at this time.”