Where last decade luxury automakers were on the race to pricier, more exclusive cars, the 2010s are signifying a race to the bottom. Following cheaper vehicles like the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class that are barely a sniff above a loaded Toyota Camry, Mercedes-Benz is likely to unveil a smaller, cheaper model in the form of a crossover. About the size of a Ford Fiesta, the upcoming tiny Benz will be quite a departure for the German automaker.
Already, Mercedes-Benz is planning a compact crossover based on the CLA’s front-wheel-drive architecture, called the GLA. The new “City-G,” as it’s known currently, will be smaller yet. Co-developed with Renault-Nissan, the City-G is said to look rugged like the G-Class, yet whereas the larger GLA will be aimed at the on-roader market, the City-G will compete with small off-roaders like the Land Rover DC100-based Defender replacement. It will be based on a smaller version of Mercedes’ MFA–modular front architecture–platform.
Mercedes-Benz is partnering with Renault-Nissan to develop engines and share platforms. Sooner than not, Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury car offshoot, will introduce a compact car in the U.S. based on the CLA’s platform, and the two automakers already share diesel engines overseas.
Rugged and luxurious, the City-G will enter new ground for Mercedes-Benz, perhaps even bringing a fight to Jeep. An insider at Mercedes-Benz told Autocar to expect the City-G in showrooms sometime around 2016, a year or two after the GLA. Will the City-G be successful? Likely, especially considering the initial hype buildup the entry-level CLA is garnering. Will it come to the U.S.? The answer to that question is far murkier.