Sharp German Compact Wagons and Hatchbacks Coming

2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Finally, the U.S. is going to get access to the great small hatchbacks in the works by Mercedes-Benz. The B-Class (above) has been totally redesigned, as Benz has duly noted that Audi and BMW are eating its lunch in the small hatchback market.

The B has been a hit around the world for years. You see a lot of them in Mexico, and I’m going to try and find a good used one in the next few months. But the new car is a complete redesign, offering a new 1.8-liter turbodiesel in two variants (109 or 136 hp) and two new turbo-four gassers (122 and 156 hp).

No prices yet, but they won’t be cheap, since the cars will be carrying all the typical M-B goodies. But Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche promises it will be in the U.S., though likely not until 2013, as will other compact models like the A-Class.

The present A, which I also see in Mexico, is a bit weird-looking in its rear/side glass treatment, but Benz has been making noise about a very classy A-Concept, shown in New York last April. There are spy shots of a 2013 car testing in Germany, which unfortunately looks nothing like the beautiful A-Concept (see after the break).

Mercedes-Benz A-Class concept

Mercedes-Benz Concept A-Class

Audi’s A3 is a more conventional car than the promised B-Class but none the worse for that. Think beautiful interior, several gas or diesel choices, front- or all-wheel drive, two trim levels, and a well fitted-out base version at $27,270.

2011 Audi A3 Sportback

2011 Audi A3 Sportback

Actually, the A3 has been available in a 5-door version (Sportback) since 2005, but hasn’t been pushed in the U.S. market, which is a shame. It’s as good as the larger and more expensive Audis in quality and basic function. No chintzing to meet a price.

Audi also makes a hot 5-door Sportback version called the RS3, which reportedly does 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds with its 7-speed transmission and Quattro. No, we don’t get that one here. Nor do we get the A3 cabrio, which is very sharp.

Supposedly, a new A3 is coming next year, and Audi is pushing the envelope in a number of ways:

A compressed-natural-gas version is in the works, and Audi might also offer a plug-in hybrid. Even a fully electric A3 is possible, if demand warrants it.

…We expect the A3 to be as luxurious as compact cars can possibly get, once again giving it a significant advantage over [its main competitor] the Golf.

Unless you’ve got a big family or special needs, why would anyone want a bigger, more expensive hatchback than the Audi A3?

—jgoods

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Used Audi A3

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