History of the Mercedes A Class
First launched in 1997, The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a German manufactured compact car. So far there have been three generations, the first was introduced in 1997, the second in 2004 and the latest and third generational model was launched in 2012.
First Generation (1997 – 2004)
In 1997 the W168 A-Class was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It made quite a splash as it was most unusual for a Mercedes-Benz with its tall yet short body and front wheel drive layout. The exterior was designed by Steve Mattin who was trained at Coventry University and his innovative design earned him the title of Autocar Magazine’s Designer of the year.
The innovative W169 featured a frontal-impact absorption system (referred to often as the Sandwich). It meant that should the car face a violent frontal impact, the engine and transmission wouldn’t enter the passenger compartment, but rather slip under the floor below the pedals.
Despite some safety advances, the W168 became infamous in 1997 after flipping over during an “elk test”. The test was organised by a Swedish car magazine and according to the resulting report, they turned the W168 to avoid an elk and this led to the W168 flipping over.
Whilst initial reaction from Mercedes was to deny the problem, they later went to the trouble of recalling all units sold (over 2,500!) and stopped all sales whilst they worked on resolving the issue. They solved the issue by fitting an electronic stability control and altering the suspension. The bad press didn’t seem to deter buyers though and between 1997 and 20014 1.1 million first generation A-Class cars were sold.
Second Generation (2004 – 2013)
The aptly named W169 was launched in late 2004 with safety in mind. It was made with high-strength steel alloys with bonded joints and feature a lot of airbags, including rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and a head and thorax-protection side airbags. The front air bags even featured an adaptive gas generator that performed according to how bad the accident was.
The seat belt system, too, was adaptive and the force exerted depending on the severity of the collision. There were also active head restraints which help protect against neck injury, particularly in a rear collision. A Selective Damping System was also put in place; the shock absorber forces were responsive to different conditions.
The new features went down a treat and between 2004 and 2012 1 million second generation A-Class models were sold.
Third Generation (2012 – Present)
The W176 was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. Design wise, it was entirely different from the previous two generations. For starters it is much larger, with a total length of 169 inches, making it viable as a small family car. The idea behind the new design was to attract youthful, premium buyers, so it was designed as a rival for the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. It even features an iPhone interface complete with an optional app, with which you can control everything from the buttons on the centre console!
published: 19/01/2016 09:37:30