By Nick Jaynes
Sunday, Mar 10th, 2013 @ 3:25 pm
 
Mercedes-Benz is looking to leverage its recent partnership with Renault-Nissan in order to build a new subcompact hatch for the 2018 model year.

Tentatively called the X-Class, the new Mercedes would fill the gap at the bottom of its lineup where the BMW 1-Series, the next-generation MINI, and the Audi A1 fall. To be designed hand-in-hand from the beginning with Renault-Nissan, the X-Class will be sure to embody the bespoke Mercedes heritage with both a refined interior and high-end architecture.

CAR Online is reporting that Mercedes would buy 1.0-liter and 1.5-liter gasoline engine block designs from Renault-Nissan and add its own cylinder heads and direct-injection fuel management systems. A jointly designed dual-clutch transmission is also expected for the luxury micro car. With the California EV sales mandate, an all-electric version could also be in the works.

The X-Class, which would be priced in the $20,000 range, would be sold in China, North America, and Europe. As customers have come to expect from Mercedes, the X-Class would be offered with a leather interior, eight airbags, and the COMAND infotainment system.

Potential X-Class buyers ought not expect world-class handling from the subcompact, however. Engineers expect independent rear suspension would have to be left on the drawing room floor in order to keep costs down.

A big indicator of the X-Class' potential for success will be gauged from the new CLA four-door coupe, which will enter showrooms later this year. If buyers are willing to accept a new entry-level, front-wheel drive Mercedes stateside, a subcompact X-Class could prove viable.