Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a compact car produced by the German automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz. The first generation (W168) was introduced in 1997, the second generation model (W169) appeared in late 2004, and the all-new generation model W176 launched in late 2012.

Originally launched only as a five-door hatchback in 1997, the second generation W169 introduced a three-door hatchback to sit six inches below the five-door. In the markets that the A-Class is or has been sold in, it has represented the entry level model of Mercedes-Benz. Having grown by 68 cm since the original model, the 2012 A-class is now longer than the first-generation B-class.

Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the autumn of 1997, the W168 A-Class was quite unusual for Mercedes-Benz featuring a front wheel drive layout and unusual tall yet short body. One innovation of the W168 was a frontal-impact absorption system called the "Sandwich" (see patents DE4326 9 and DE4400132 in the name of Mercedes-Benz). In the event of a violent frontal impact, the engine and transmission would slide underneath the floor below the pedals rather than entering the passenger compartment.

This was the first complete exterior designed by Steve Mattin, 1987 Coventry University Transport Design Graduate, and for which he was named Autocar magazine's 'Designer of the Year'. Earlier, Mattin had mostly worked on design for the W210 E-Class in 1991. Concurrent to the W168, he designed the exterior of the W220 S-Class. The final design freeze occurred in January 1995, at 32 months before August 1997 start of production...