PUT the latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class side-by-side with its immediated predecessor and it would take a serious anorak to tell the difference.
Run a tape measure along the latest A-Class Merc and you'll see it's slightly wide and marginally longer than its predecessor. And the overall effect is a sleeker, more co-ordinated shape.
But the real difference lies in the dynamics and comfort.
Whereas the previous car was a notchy, fidgety drive, the independently sprung newcomer flows evenly over rippled and undulating surfaces and possesses the sort of intuitive feel that you might expect from Mercedes Benz' more exalted models.
The latest version is also roomier with better head and shoulder space as well as a bigger boot. It's also easier to get in and out of the rear doors. So it's a win-win situation for the replacement that came out last year.
Not that the earlier A-Class wasn't a showroom success. It really put Merc on the map in the small car category giving the firm a genuine answer to Golf and Audi A3.
You can choose from a catalogue of diesels and petrols, with the latter gaining ground fast in popularity. We went for the A220 which has a deceptively rapid turn of speed.
While it doesn't attempt to emulate a GTI, its performance is just marginally slower with 62mph coming up in under seven seconds and a flat out speed of 145mph. The engine is a 2.0-litre, 188bhp turbo four-cylinder which revs freely up to its 5,800rpm red line.
It's not the most entertaining exhaust note but the engine is refined and smooth so progress tends to be effortlessly rapid. It's one of those cars in which you need to keep a sharp eye on the speedo.
Despite the ample urge, it's no fuel guzzler. Even thrashing along nicely deserted A and B-roads it returned close to 40mpg with nearly 45mpg being easily possible on more restrained runs.
It clings on well through curves with little body roll but good bump-suppression. There's the odd moment when you get a spot of wheel spin at the front if all the power is applied in a low gear.
Special mention must be made of the seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox which is quick and exact, delivering razor sharp changes when you require them. Steering wheel paddles add to the enjoyment.
Although the latest model is roomier than before with a 370 litre boot (up by 29 litres), it's not over generously spacious but it can now compete on level terms with the obvious rivals.
However the A220 is definitely a class act cabin-wise, especially in AMG Line as driven here. Twin zone climate control, speed-sensitive steering, keyless ignition and sat nav are all in with the price.
Of course, there are the inevitable irresistible extras there to tempt you - panoramic opening glass sunroof, parking assist and connectivity package can boost the price tag by thousands.