It appears that Mercedes-Benz has taken very seriously the criticisms hurled towards the outgoing third-generation W176 A-Class, particularly in the driving department. Many chastised its poor ride quality and drivability, but the Stuttgart-based automaker vows to improve on this. Big time.

Mercedes-Benz’s chief of compact cars testing, Jochen Eck told Autocar that the next-generation A-Class will be receiving two different suspension sets. The use of MacPherson strut for the front will be standard across all variants, but it’s the rear that sees the biggest change. Lower output models will get a newly-developed torsion beam setup, while top-end models look set to receive a revised version of the current five-point multi-link suspension (used in the outgoing model).

The move is similar to what Volkswagen is doing to the Golf and Beetle models. For example, the Beetle 1.2 TSI, which makes 103 hp and 175 Nm, gets a torsion beam setup for the rear suspension, whereas the 2.0 TSI model gets a multi-link type arrangement. However, it’s unlikely that we will ever see the cheaper torsion beam setup here in Malaysia – we’re more likely to see the more sophisticated independent setup.

“We knew we had to improve the ride. The whole class has moved on since we launched the old model. We’ve spent a lot of time tuning the bushings and kinematic properties of both systems to get the result we were looking for. The added torsional rigidity of the body structure helps a lot, too,” Eck told the publication.

Eck also spoke to Auto Express, saying there’s a sport chassis option which reduces ride height by 15 mm, although this is largely done for aesthetic purposes. To that, the A-Class can also be fitted with wheels of up to 19-inch (currently available for the A 45 only) in size. Adaptive dampers will also be offered, and in Comfort mode, ride will be more supple than cars fitted with the standard passive dampers.

Similarly, there will be a new electro-mechanical steering providing a fixed or variable ratio, again depending on the chosen model. The rack has been repositioned so it sits further back in the chassis, but remains “quite light in overall weighting and fairly direct in comparison to the competition, but there’s definitely more feedback and communication than before,” said Eck. “I think enthusiast drivers will like it. There’s more on-centre precision, but it doesn’t come at the expense of off-centre sharpness,” he added.

The increased body rigidity also improves NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels, thanks in part to more extensive use of sound deadening foam in the body structure, said Eck. He added that while the predecessor’s NVH “wasn’t too bad at launch,” the competition has upped its game.

Another problem the current A-Class suffers from is poor outward visibility, an issue Eck transparently agreed. As a result, the B-pillars on the new model have been made thinner and the rear windows are also larger. “There is much better vision to the rear,” said Eck.

In terms of overall size, the new A-Class will grow by 120 mm in overall length, with a wheelbase that’s stretched by 30 mm. It’ll be 16 mm wider and rides on track widths that are 14 mm further apart for both the front and rear. Eck told that the growth brings numerous benefits – dynamically, the platform is more stable, yielding greater comfort while cabin space increases. “I spend a lot of time sitting in the back, so you’re lucky I’m tall,” admitted Eck.

During a ride in the prototype A 160 d (entry-level model with a 1.5 litre diesel) in Arvidsjaur, north of Sweden, the Autocar team found ride to be smoother and better controlled over rough surfaces compared to its predecessor, even with the basic torsion beam setup and standard single rate dampers. “There’s greater absorption of road shock and less vertical movement over bumps, particularly at the rear,” read the report.

There are discernible improvements to comfort levels, as well as NVH and visibility, but it’s worth noting that the observation came from the rear passenger seat and not from driving. While we know exactly how the A-Class’ cabin will shape up to be, it seems that the top variants that feature dual 10.3-inch displays will feature touch operation for infotainment and navigation. This is a first for Mercedes-Benz.

“The predecessor model was good, but I think we’ve managed to move the game along. It is more grown up, you could say it now meets the expectations of a Mercedes better than ever before,” added Eck.

Powertrain options should range from a choice of 1.2 to 2.0 litre petrol engines, all featuring stop-start technology and turbocharging. Higher-performance engines will feature cylinder deactivation, according to the report, whereas the A 45 is expected to benefit from the company’s latest 48-volt mild hybrid system, boosting performance and fuel economy. Plug-in hybrids and pure-electric versions are expected to join the range as well.

Diesel engines will be available too, but don’t expect any to make it to Malaysia. That includes petrol engines that are smaller than 1.6 litre. Standard transmission options are a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic (for now it’s unknown if it’ll be a dual-clutch transmission like the current models or a new torque converter), and drive is predominantly sent to the front wheels unless equipped with the 4Matic all-wheel drive system.

The next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class is slated for a world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2018. The new entry-level AMG A35 is also expected to join the line-up.

GALLERY: 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class interior

GALLERY: 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class spyshots