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As perverse as it might see, returning to a more mainstream position with this A-Class might be a bolder step for Mercedes than the original design of its radical predecessor. Is it an admission of failure?

A recognition that the brand values should really only be extended down so far? Perhaps. Mercedes, however, is nothing if not a froward looking company and once again it hasn’t done things by halves. Of all the high-profile launches at the 2012 Geneva Show, the A-Class was the one that most industry observers identified as the big one.

The A-Class has abandoned the ‘one-box’ shape of its predecessor for a more conventional two-box hatchback design, but it’s packed with interesting styling features. The eye is immediately drawn to the upsweeping feature lines on the car’s flanks which gives shape and tension to the profile. Even the entry-level models have a stance and attitude that looks sporting, and the upper specification cars look seriously purposeful.

There’s a decent amount of space inside although the focus has clearly been on improving perceived quality and offering a sportier feel. Perhaps the most interesting design touch in the cabin is what looks like an iPad sitting on the upper part of the centre console but which is in fact an integrated touch-screen system.

There’s real substance here and a focus that’s rare in such a huge project. All too often the initial vision gets watered down and diffuse as it nears production, but the A-Class seems to have all of Mercedes’s current brand values sublimated into an economically packaged and wholly desirable hatchback. Today’s Mercedes has its swagger back and no car better typifies that than the A-Class. Who’d have thought it?

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Mercedes-Benz A-Class range

PRICES: £tba

INSURANCE GROUP: tba

CO2 EMISSIONS: tba

PERFORMANCE: tba

FUEL CONSUMPTION: tba

STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: ESP, ABS with EBA, Collision Prevention Assist, Attention Assist, twin front,side and head airbags

WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height mm 4292/1780/1433.