Geneva Motor Show 2012• It’s an A-Class, but not as you know it
• Will compete directly with the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series
• Power of between 109 and 211bhp at launch

Welcome to the new Mercedes A-Class, it has changed somewhat since the last time you met. Gone is the upright MPV-cum-hatchback, replaced by a sleek Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series rival.

Mercedes A-Class

What is it?

The A-Class is still the first step on the ladder of Mercedes ownership, but it now looks very different. Low, sleek and desirable, it’s a world away from its clever but ugly predecessor. Its interior is so much more sporty now, with a three-spoke sports steering wheel, brushed aluminium dials and SLS AMG supercar-inspired chrome air-vents. If you have an iPhone, download the bespoke A-Class app and it will integrate the phone into the car’s operating system.

What’s it like?

Interesting. It has been designed to look fast from all angles, with a front grille of Peugeot proportions. Is it good looking? That’s subjective, of course, but it certainly has attitude. Objectively, it’s now much better placed to go toe to toe with the A3 and 1 Series, in fact Mercedes itself is saying the “A” in “A-Class” now stands for “attack”. Scary stuff. Indeed, its lower stance should have vastly improved its handling and performance as well as its saleability.

What engines will it get?

So far, engines with power between 109 and 211bhp have been announced, ranging from the ultra-economical to the reasonably high performance. Emissions will be as low as 99g/km at launch, so a tax-free model will be available. Petrol engines will vary in size from 1.6 to 2.0-litres, while diesel models will be from 1.8 to 2.2-litres.

When can I buy it?

Going on sale in Europe in September, UK cars should follow a few months behind, just in time for Christmas.

By Andy Goodwin, senior web journalist

The cars of Geneva 2012:

Audi A3
Audi RS4 Avant
Ferrari F12berlinetta
Ford B-Max
Ford Fiesta ST
Ford Kuga
Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Lamborghini Aventador J
Land Rover DC100
Lexus RX 450h
Mercedes A Class
Nissan Invitation
Porsche Boxster
Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet
Volkswagen Polo BlueGT