We already know from an earlier report that the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class will debut sometime next year, along with its sedan counterpart. However, our European spy photographers managed to capture close-up photographs of what appears to be a plug-in hybrid version of the premium hatchback.

At first glance, this A-Class looks no different from those spotted over the past few months. But the devil is always in the details, and in the case of this camouflaged mule, it gets two fuel caps, one on each side of the car. The only other giveaways are the high voltage warning in the rear passenger seat and a sticker on the top left windscreen that says “hybrid”, together with the cautionary high voltage and highly flammable symbols.

Apart from that, there’s no other exterior visual indicators to suggest its electrified nature, not even coloured brake calipers. Other sources say the lack of a physical exhaust system (at least from this set of photos) points to the direction of a fully-electric A-Class, which is a rumoured project by the Stuttgart-based automaker, but we think the exhaust pipes may be concealed by the two cutouts.

As for the hybrid system, one can expect the A-Class hybrid to get the company’s latest 48-volt on-board electrical system that will at least be used to power its water pump and air-con compressor. Plug-in hybrid versions on the other hand, may benefit from a larger battery pack that is able to provide up to 50 km of pure electric range, sources say.

Main propulsion still comes from an internal combustion engine, the details of which remain a company secret for now. That said, the new 1.3 litre engine that’s jointly developed by Daimler and Renault will likely be fitted to the A-Class (as well as other front-drive Mercedes-Benz models), but it’s unclear if it will receive any form of electrification.

Last month, Mercedes-Benz gave us a good look at the new A-Class’ cabin, which looks far more contemporary and premium after taking cues from the latest W222 S-Class and C238 E-Class Coupe. The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class will make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

GALLERY: 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class undisguised

GALLERY: 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class interior