MERCEDES BENZ A-Klasse
Generations Timeline, Specs and Pictures
The fourth generation of the A-Class was unveiled in 2018 and it brought new improvements for the compact-premium vehicle, with cleaner engines and new infotainment units.
First two generations of the A-Class were not among the best vehicles made by Mercedes-Benz. With shapes of a scaled-down MPV and front-wheel-drive systems, they didn’t make a good impression on the market and sales figures were low. The third generation though came out as a hatchback and it was well-received by the market.
Mercedes-Benz needed a compact vehicle in its stable. With some help from the French car-maker Renault, it succeeded to build a better platform for the premium-compact car. The basis of a two-box design with better proportions and dimensions led to a better-looking car. The A-pillars were raked to improve the drag coefficient, while the back followed. The vehicle had a wider look at the rear end thanks to a wider greenhouse, which also emphasized the shoulders, and to the wider-spaced rear reflectors in the modular, two-section rear bumper.
Inside, Mercedes-Benz took a completely new approach with a new feeling of spaciousness.
The unique interior architecture is shaped in particular by the avant-garde design of the dashboard: For the first time, a cowl above the cockpit has been completely dispensed with. As a result, the wing-shaped main body of the dashboard extended from one front door to the other with no visual discontinuity. The Widescreen display was completely free-standing. It was available with either two 7” displays, a 7” plus a 10.25” or two 10.25” displays.
The entry-level engine had a 1.33-liter displacement and it was carried-over from Renault, the European big specialist in small engines. It was mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and it increased the fuel-efficiency and lowered the CO2 emissions.
After two generations of MPV-shaped bodyworks, the A-Class finally received a hatchback shape and entered into the premium compact market, joining the Audi A3 and the BMW 1 Series for the same segment.
The German carmaker understood that it lacked the experience in building a compact hatchback. Its R&D department could fit the vehicle with all the necessary amenities for a premium vehicle, but it couldn’t develop a front-wheel-drive hatchback from scratch. Thus, Mercedes-Benz signed an agreement with Renault-Nissan Alliance.
In 2012, Mercedes-Benz finally unveiled the third generation of the A-Class, and it was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t a minivan anymore. Its front fascia featured a two-slats grille, inspired by the one from the C-Class, or a single-slat one for the AMG package. Its hatchback design with five doors followed a fresh, young look. It became an instant hit among young buyers.
Inside, the carmaker installed a two-dial instrument cluster with a TFT display between them. On top of the center stack, the carmaker placed a floating screen for the MBUX infotainment unit, depending on the options. A tall and thick center console with a cooled storage compartment under the armrest was a clear sign for an upmarket vehicle. There was hardly room for three adults in the back, but just enough for two, on the split-folding bench.
Under the hood, there was a mix of engines carried over from Renault and Mercedes-Benz, paired with either manual or automatic transmissions. However, unlike other regular hatchbacks on the market, the A-Class featured either front- or all-wheel-drive systems.
A is for Attack: the A-Class is a clear statement of the new dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand”, explains Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
The new A-Klasse has nothing to do with the old boxy model, everything being built on a new platform and getting more standard hatchback proportions while following Mercedes-Benz’s new sharper, bolder design language.
The interior is as well brand new, with a more organic feel to it and a better fit and finish. A thick, three-spoke steering wheel, round airvents, race-inspired seats, ambiental lighting and a floating infotainment system are all part of the new packaging.
A fully independent suspension, four-disc braking system and an electromechanical power steering make sure the car is both comfortable and very maneuverable. Power comes from a multitude of new turbocharged direct injected four-cylinder engines, coupled with both 6-speed manual and 7-speed automatic transmissions.
Mercedes-Benz introduced the facelift for the second generation of the A-Class in April 2008 at the Leipzig “Auto Mobil International”.
The car kept its main ingredients but added more refinement.
Before the first generation of the A-Class, Mercedes-Benz was known for its rear-wheel-drive vehicles. The sudden move to the front-wheel-drive showed some lack of experience in the area and that led to the failure of the “Elk-Test” in Sweden. A mistake that cost the company DM 300 million (USD 150 million) to fix it. But the second generation was studied thoroughly and it became the safest car from its class. In September 2007, over 500.000 units of the second generation of the A-Class were on the roads. The facelift was introduced to keep the sales up.
There were some minor changes on the exterior of the car. The bumpers, front and rear lights were redesigned. The most noticeable change was at the rear, where the taillights featured one clear bar instead of two for the 2003-2007 model.
Inside, there were more modifications to the dashboard, that featured new controls for the ventilation and new instrument cluster. New materials were included, after a study among the drivers of the A-Class. It was a true appreciation and dedication for the small Mercedes-Benz A-Class customers. A start-stop function was added for the A150 and A170 models. On top of that, there was an option for automatic parallel parking, where the driver only had to do the acceleration and braking. For the safety part of the MY 2009 A-Klasse, the car got adaptive flashing brake lights and crash-responsive emergency lighting as standard in the interior.
The engine range remained the same as its pre-facelift version.
Mercedes-Benz introduced the second generation of its small-sized minivan A-Class in 2004.
It was an important step above its predecessor but still wasn’t a big hit on the market.
The German carmaker considered that the market needed a premium product in the small segment and offered the A-Class as a unique solution. Neither BMW, Audi, or Volvo had anything to offer here. But still, maybe they had a good reason for that.
Even though the MPV segment was going down un customers’ preferences, the A-Class offered more than anyone expected. It wasn’t much taller than a Golf, but it was shorter. At the front, the car sported a classic Mercedes-Benz grille with three horizontal slats that supported the three-pointed-star badge in the middle. Its swept-back headlights, with sharp endings, resembled those installed on the S-Class flagship model. The windshield followed almost the same line as the hood. Just behind the roof, the carmaker made a vertical, slightly arched drop for the tailgate.
Inside, thanks to the tall cabin, Mercedes-Benz was able to create a roomy interior. The high-mounted seats and the big window area led to an airy feeling for the passengers. Despite the unusual look for the brand, the dashboard and the upholstery was Mercedes-Benz level. Even the center stack and the instrument cluster sported a similar design language with the rest of the carmaker’s stable.
The 2004 A-Class offered a wide engine choice, either gasoline or turbodiesel. They were paired with either a manual or an automatic transmission, while a CVT was available as an option for specific powerplants.
After the big scandal regarding the elk stability test failure for the first generation of the A-Class, the Mercedes-Benz fixed the problem, and, in 2001, it came up with a much better version.
The 2001 A-Class had to pay-back for the failure of the 1997 model. The Mercedes-Benz car-manufacturer recalled all the cars to fix the problem. It was a DM 300 million DM (around USD 150 million) to fix the 2600 cars. It was a huge cost that included a new project and modifications for the assembly lines. But it paid off.
In 2001, at the Geneva Motor Show, the A-Class facelift returned with an option for a longer wheelbase, clear headlights, and more powerful engines. It still had the same MPV-look that offered a generous interior space. The facelifted model also had some materials taken from the Mercedes-Benz flagship model, the S-Class. Around 980 components were modified or redeveloped.
Some of the newly developed features for the car included windowbags, and an improvement for the ESP with the hydraulic Brake Assist, which ensured maximum braking pressure and hence minimal stopping distances in emergencies.
A new 75 hp turbodiesel engine was available, that replaced the older 60 hp version. The new technology brought better fuel-efficiency as well. To prove the vehicle’s abilities on the road, the A-Class featured a 2.1-liter gasoline engine that could propel the vehicle with 203 kph (126 mph).
When Mercedes-Benz tried to make a compact luxurious vehicle to be used in cities, it unveiled the A-Class MPV in 1997.
In 2001, the long-wheelbase was introduced, to fix more mistakes of the car.
The A-Class became notorious after it failed the “elk-test” performed by a Sweedish magazine. That test is also known as an avoidance test when the driver had to violent maneuvers with right and left turns. After that, Mercedes-Benz stopped the production line to re-work the car and made a recall for the ones it sold. They restarted the production with the revised product and, in 2001, they came with a facelifted version that included the long-wheelbase A-Class.
The long-wheelbase version was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2001, at the same time with the facelift version for the A-Class. It came with a new design for the bumpers, headlights, and taillights. The long-wheelbase offered an additional 170 mm (6.7”) between the axles and longer rear doors.
Inside, there were minimal differences over the non-facelifted version. The steering wheel still featured a three-spoke design, but it was different. There were the same three trim-levels of Classic, Elegance, and Avantgarde. The intelligent solution for seats removable was kept and only the driver’s seat couldn’t be removed.
There were two new engines under the hood: 1.6-liter gasoline and a 1.7-liter turbocharged diesel unit.
In 1993, Mercedes-Benz showed the “Vision A 93” concept-car at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
It was a styling exercise for a compact vehicle, fit for five adults, and great in crowded cities.
The “Vision A 93” featured a small, 1.2-liter engine either diesel or gasoline. Both were mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The idea caught on and, four years later, at the Geneva Motor Show, the production version of the A-Class was unveiled to the public. It was a completely new philosophy for the German car-maker. From a classical layout with front engine and rear-wheel-drive to a front-engine and front-wheel-drive system. On top of that, the double sandwich floor allowed the car to pass the crash test with flying colors.
The MPV-style bodywork with the raked A-pillars built as an extension to the hood. The car featured an integrated trunk and cabin under the same roof. The overall egg-shaped vehicle was well received by the market.
Inside, there was a roomy interior, with plenty of space for five adults. Some features were similar to those from the C-Class. But all things went south in 1997 when a Swedish magazine tried the elk-avoidance stability test and the A-Class flipped over. Mercedes-Benz had to do a major recall and fix the cars.
The A-Class was offered with a wide choice of gasoline and diesel engines. They were mated either to a five-speed manual or with a CVT.