DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes-Benz division has revealed first details of the redesigned A-class after 1.1 million units of the first generation car, 85,000 of those in the UK.

The new A-class will offer a three-door version as an alternative to the five-door which is offered in two body lengths in the current model line.

Standard equipment will include a multifunction steering wheel, speed-dependent power-assisted steering, ESP, a selective damping system, head and front-side airbags as well as adaptive front airbags and belt force limiters. New or further-developed four-cylinder engines deliver up to 38% more power while fuel consumption falls by up to 10%.

The new compact Mercedes car is 232 mm longer and 45 mm wider than its predecessor.

Available models at launch towards the end of the year (Europe and LHD) and early 2005 (UK and RHD) will be 95 hp A150; 115hp A200 petrol and 136hp A160CDI, 82hp A180CDI and 109hp A200CDI diesels.

A total of more than 200 patents are used in the new Mercedes model which retains the unique ‘sandwich’ body construction concept of its predecessor.

Safety equipment includes adaptive two-stage front airbags, seat belt tensioners for front seat passengers and passengers sitting in the outer rear seats, adaptive belt force limiters and newly developed head and front thorax-side airbags in place of the former sidebags.

The main technical chassis innovation is the parabolic rear axle which offers precision tracking and good anti-roll support when cornering.

The chassis features another innovation fitted as standard: a newly developed selective damping system, claimed to be a world first, which adapts shock absorber forces to driving conditions.

The new range will feature seven four-cylinder engines – including three newly developed CDI direct fuel injection models and one new 193 bhp turbocharged petrol engine.

Compared to their predecessors, the performance of the petrol and diesel engines used in the new A-Class has increased by up to 38% and torque levels have improved by up to 46%. All engines satisfy the stringent EU-4 exhaust gas limits and a particulate filter system can optionally be supplied for the diesel engines.

The three newly developed CDI diesel engines are based on second-generation common-rail technology which operates with dual pilot fuel injection and a higher fuel injection pressure (1600 bar). This and other measures result in a considerable increase in performance and torque, a drop in exhaust gas emissions and audible noise reduction.

Fuel consumption of the CDI models in the NEDC cycle is 57.6 mpg to 52.3 mpg. The A160 CDI can travel around 680 miles on one tank (54 litres).

All new A-class can be supplied with the newly developed Autotronic continuously variable automatic transmission, Mercedes’ first.

The new compact Merc offers up to 97 mm more shoulder room, 95mm more elbow room and 30mm extra rear kneeroom. The 805mm distance between the front and rear seats is the same as that found in a medium-size saloon.

For the new A-Class, a high-performance air conditioning system is now standard with a ‘Luxury Climate Control’ automatic system optional.

Other options include the latest generation innovative Comand APS control and display system, the Audio 50 APS navigation car radio and bi-xenon headlamps.

The luggage capacity of the new A-Class exceeds that of its predecessor by up to 15% with a 60/40 rear seat split and individual folding seat cushions and backrests.

The capacity of the luggage compartment is 1310 litres. If the optional Easy-vario-plus system is supplied in the five-door model, both rear seat cushions and the rear seat backrests can be taken out. This system also offers the option of folding the passenger seat backrest forwards or removing the passenger seat completely. The load area then increases to a length of 2.75 metres and the loading volume goes up to 1955 litres.

All A-class cars sold in the UK will have a space-saver spare tyre instead of the ‘Tyrefit’ emergency kit fitted in Germany.