The wait, short as it was, is over: here is the 2012 Mercedes-Benz A-Class, revealed today in a handful of leaked images from the European patent office.
Based on the ultra-sharp Concept A-Class revealed at last month's Shanghai Auto Show, the 2012 A-Class remains relatively loyal to its progenitor.
The usual pre-launch 'softening' sees the grille and lights transformed to a simpler and more market-friendly design. The roofline too has been levelled out, although the production three-door version may draw more inspiration from the concept.
Moving away from the 'minivan' styling of its predecessor, the new A-Class will give Mercedes a more direct competitor to Audi's A3 and BMW's 1 Series - although the Merc is expected to remain a front-wheel-drive alternative to the rear-driven 1.
The new A-Class may also offer a pricier competitor to the Golf GTI: the concept shown at Shanghai is powered by a direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0 litre petrol engine, directing 156kW to the front wheels.
Speculated power figures for the AMG version vary wildly however, with Britain's Autocar claiming numbers upwards of 230kW - putting the front-wheel-drive A-Class AMG into Ford Focus RS territory.
The 2012 A-Class is expected to make its production debut at September's Frankfurt Motor Show.
The current A-Class is no longer offered in Australia, the larger B-Class filling the 'small car' niche in the German carmaker's local line-up.
The new A-Class represents a significant step forward for the company's plans in the segment however, and an Australian debut for the new model is likely.
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