Making its international debut at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show is the new A Class compact from Mercedes-Benz, pictured here in our exclusive live gallery.
Where previous A Class models have been objects of practicality, with tall bodies and surprising space for relatively small cars, the new model is aimed straight at rivals like the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and Lexus CT 200h.
That means a new, sleek body shape, with what Mercedes calls "emotive design".
It now looks dynamic and aggressive where the previous models looked slightly awkward, and it should appeal to male and female customers alike.
The A Class moves from a one-box to two-box design, and the roofline is now around half a foot lower than the previous model. Space hasn't been sacrificed though, and a sporty, high-quality interior now brings the A Class closer to its larger brethren than the previous model ever got.
A new range of gasoline and diesel engines makes an appearance, ranging from a 1.8-liter turbodiesel with 109 horsepower, to the 211-horsepower A250 with its turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder.
The most economical units dip under the all-important 100 grams per kilometer of CO2, that makes the car eligible for tax breaks all around Europe. All engines have ECOstart/stop as standard, and most will be available with a choice of either a 6-speed manual transmission, or Mercedes' 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic.
Like other recent Mercedes models, there's technology aplenty. Safety and assistance systems take center stage, with adaptive headlights, speed limit assist, blind-spot warning, a reversing camera, collision-prevention, and PRE-SAFE occupant protection. The latter ensures that, in the case of an accident, the car is in the most suitable state possible for protecting the occupants--closing windows, pulling the seatbelts tighter and more.
All those features were once exclusive to models like the S Class, so their appearance on Mercedes' smallest car is a mark of just how far car safety has progressed in the last decade.
Importantly, this will also be the first A Class to go on sale in the U.S. The launch date hasn't yet been confirmed, but it's expected to go on sale some time next year.
For Mercedes-Benz fans wanting to downsize, the 2012 A Class looks like quite a tempting proposition.