Make / Model Search

Mercedes-Benz A-class

W168 A-Class

1 Oct 1998

Probably no Mercedes, ever, has launched into the market with such bad press as the W168 A-Class.

As the first real Mercedes small car, it was in the process of showing its clever, trail-breaking design to the world when a group of journalists inadvertently inverted a test car during a moose-avoidance manoeuvre.

Benz demonstrated its brand strength by surviving the embarrassment, and worked improvements into the A-Class straight away to ensure it didn’t happen again.

In addition to reworking the suspension, the company also made electronic stability control a standard fitment on its smallest and cheapest model range.

So the little five-door, front-drive Benz cam to market in 1998 as the sub-$40,000 1.6-litre A160, with exceptional passive safety (via its double-layer, “sandwich” floor construction) and amazing packaging efficiency.

The A-Class could carry four passengers in surprising comfort, yet fitted into a Nissan Micra-size parking space.

The 75kW single-cam engine did a good job, although the sequential-shifting five-speed manual transmission wasn’t all that pleasant to use, making the regular five-speed auto the preferred option.

Requests for more power were answered by the 92kW A190 in September 1999, while the entry price dropped to the low $30s with the 60kW A140 in February 2000. Long-wheelbase A160 and A190 versions with even more interior space followed in September 2001.

Read more

When it was new

Mercedes-Benz models

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here