FEW cars in the Mercedes Benz range showcase the transformation the brand has undergone in recent years as well as the A-Class.
Before 2012 the entry-level model to the premium German car maker's range was a bland, compact MPV-type affair with about as much appeal as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Relying on a well-deserved reputation for reliability and luxury, Mercedes had somewhat dropped the ball where design was concerned - and many of its motors looked somewhat tired and dated.
When the penny dropped, though, bosses at the Stuttgart-based giant set about addressing the issue with considerable gusto - and the A-Class is arguably the prime example to date.
Its relaunch four years ago saw a jaw-dropping metamorphosis into a sleek, sexy hatchback which now provides some serious competition for fierce rivals like the BMW 1-Series and the Audi A3.
In fact, in the looks department I would say that the A-Class has the competition licked - especially in the sporty, low-slung AMG Line trim.
With its lowered, road-hugging chassis, distinctive diamond grille, AMG-style body kit, sculpted swage lines, alloy wheels, tapering windows and twin tail pipes it has enough attitude to satisfy the staunchest Fast & Furious fan and certainly had heads turning as it sat on my driveway.
The sporty theme is echoed inside the cabin with contrast stitching, sports seats with a stylish integrated headrest, carbon-fibre effect trim, sports steering wheel and pedals and, on automatic models like this, motorsport-style flappy paddles on the steering column for manual gear changes.
Practicality will probably not be the main priority for prospective A-Class buyers and it's fair to say that this is probably not a car that you'd choose to take the family on holiday.
However, there is ample room inside for four to get comfortable, some decent personal storage cubbies and the boot is certainly big enough to cope with a couple of weekend bags or the weekly shop. There's also a hidden area beneath the floor and the 60/40 split rear seats fold virtually flat to create a generous load bay if needed.
Apart from the striking design, it is performance which will attract most people to this motor and with a 0-62mph sprint time of seven and a half seconds and top speed of 137mph the version I drove has that box ticked off.
Petrol options may accelerate quicker, but the 2.1-litre diesel engine offers plenty of oomph across a wide rev range and progress is swift and smooth for the most part.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox is ever so slightly hesitant from a standstill or when looking for a rapid injection of pace which means it lacks the truly explosive feel that would really set the pulse racing - but it will still put a big smile on your face.
Intelligent all-wheel drive provides solid grip and the lowered suspension and low centre of gravity help to keep everything stable, meaning you can tackle winding country lanes with confidence.
A four-mode drive selector offers comfort, eco, individual and sport modes - and with the latter selected everything is sharpened up a little while the engine and exhaust tones also become satisfyingly gruff.
And with claimed fuel economy of 67 miles per gallon on average and modest carbon emissions of 124g/km, impressive performance is delivered alongside more than reasonable running costs.
Equipment levels are good and my car boasted an eight-inch display screen, Bluetooth, climate control, ambient lighting, electronic stability programme, collision prevention assist and a full suite of airbags - but you'll have to pay extra for satnav.
In fact, as with all top German marques, the options list is long and other extras on my car such as black alloys, heated electronically adjustable front seats, active parking assist, privacy glass and panoramic sunroof pushed the price up by £6,000.