IT was very much a case of all change for the third generation of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class ... and what a difference there was between the old and the new.
For not only did the latest A-Class have buyers queuing up to get their hands on one, it also proved something of a match for main competitors such as the VW Golf, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, thanks to its radical styling and high-tech and safety on-board features.
Out went the square, top-heavy boxy body style the German marque had stuck with for the previous models and in came a sleek conventional-shaped styling more in tune with what buyers are looking for.
Lower and longer, squatter and more purposeful looking, it certainly looked the part, while inside the cabin there was much more space for greater passenger comfort.
The high, upright driving position of the old car was also ditched for a coupé-like driving position that's perfect for any journey, be it a short one around town or a high-speed, long-haul motorway dash.
Inside, the design team much got things spot on first time, with the on-board fittings and fixtures of the finest quality. Mercedes also went for a modern tablet-styled centre display to replace the somewhat dated colour screen where on-board information was usually to be found.
This up-to-the-minute look gave the A-Class something of a march on the competition, but sadly the tablet is part of the fixtures, so can't be removed to be used elsewhere.
A new engine range was introduced for the A-Class, including a highly-economical, sub-100g/kg diesel. This 108bhp gem was designed and built by Renault especially for the A180 and with emissions coming in at just 98g/km it made a great choice for business drivers and private owners alike.
Confusingly, a larger Mercedes-powered 1.8-litre model is also badged A180. It pumps out 133bhp and pulls 221lb/ft of torque. Emissions for this engine come in at 118g/km so there is annual road tax to pay.
However, top choice in the used car stakes is the oil-burning A200 BlueEfficiency CDI. It is powered by a 133bhp 1.8-litre engine which delivers a nicely-balanced compromise between performance and economy. Top speed comes in at 130mph, and it has a standing-to-62mph dash time of 9.3 seconds along with an official combined fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg, so is also worth looking out for.
As with all Merc passenger vehicles, safety features are given high priority, making the A-Class a pretty safe place in which to travel, especially when fitted with optional Collision Prevention Assist which brakes the car if the on-board computers sense a crash is imminent.
Other options to look out for are Attention Assist which calculates when you need a break, Blind Spot Warning, and Active Cruise Control which prevents you getting too close to the vehicle in front. There's even Park Assist which will find a suitable space and automatically park the vehicle for you.
Expect to pay between £9335 and £11,925 for a 2012, 12-plate entry-level Renault-powered A180 BlueEfficiency model with around 40,000 miles on the clock. Find one in higher spec Sport trim and you'll have to fork out somewhere between £10,275 and £13,135, but worth every penny.
Move on a year to 2013 and a 13 plate and corresponding prices will jump to between £10,685 and £13,305 for the entry-level BlueEfficiency CDI and from £11,755 to £14,630 for one in higher-spec Sport trim.