It has taken 15 years and two generations, but finally Mercedes has built an entry-level model in its range that reflects the same values as its most high-end executive cars. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an A-Class that you might genuinely ‘desire’.

The functional MPV style of its predecessor, with its engine mounted underneath the passenger compartment (in the first generation cars), has evolved to become an emotive, and dare I say it, dynamic compact hatchback.

Whilst some will bemoan its less mountain-bike-friendly interior, and a distinct absence of quirkiness – others will be grateful that Mercedes now offer a serious competitor to BMW’s 1 Series.

The Golf-sized hatchback is a crucial part of Mercedes product strategy as it continues to lower the average age of its buyers, with more driver-centric cars and work towards meeting the stringent Euro 6 emissions standards.

The A-Class is completely new, down to the last detail. In automotive development, it’s not often you get the chance to start with a clean sheet of paper.

The new A-Class adopts the more traditional two-box design that has been shown previously in “Concept A-CLASS” form, and comes as a result of Mercedes’ designers being given the opportunity to start anew with a clean sheet of paper.

At 4292mm in length, 1780mm wide and 1433mm tall, the new A-Class remains at the ‘compact’ end of its class and comes in three different design and equipment lines – “Urban”, “Style” and “AMGSport”.

Power will come from a newly-developed range of turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines, ranging from 107 bhp (A 180 CDI) to 208 bhp (A 250 petrol), with emissions from just 99 g of CO2/km – the lowest ever for a production Mercedes-Benz.

All engines feature the ECOstart/stop function as standard and can be combined either with the new six-speed manual transmission or, as an option, with the 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Dr Dieter Zetsche, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars said, “..the A-Class is a clear statement of the new dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand. The A-Class is completely new, down to the last detail. In automotive development, it’s not often you get the chance to start with a clean sheet of paper. Our engineers and designers have made the very most of that opportunity.”

The sportiness promised by its new dynamic shape is delivered by a noticeably lower centre of gravity and a new 4-link rear axle (with the promise of 4MATIC all-wheel drive at some point in the future).

Customers can choose between various suspension settings, among them the optional sports suspension with Direct-Steer system. The electromechanical steering in the A-Class has been completely redesigned, so that the electric motor for the power assistance now sits directly on the steering gear in the form of a compact and extremely precise Dual Pinion EPS. This improves efficiency whilst providing a more linear and predictable response to steering inputs.

The new A-Class comes with many of Mercedes’ latest safety systems, including a standard radar-based collision warning system with adaptive Brake Assist – a first in its class, and Collision Prevention Assist which uses a series of audible ‘beeps’ to warn a distracted driver and prepares Brake Assist for the most precise braking response possible.

The all-new A-Class should reach the UK this Autumn and be priced from £24,000. There will also be an Audi RS3/BMW M135i competitor available later in 2013, likely to be called A25 AMG 4Matic, which is likely to use a highly tuned version of the A250’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, producing around 320 bhp.