The 2019 model year marks the first year that the United States market will receive the new entry-level Mercedes-Benz W177 A-Class. It was a long time coming because there is nothing more American consumers want than luxury products on a low monthly payment. I checked out a new A220 last week at the auto show and I have to admit it was better than the C117 CLA-Class that was introduced to the American market in 2014. That CLA is a sad exercise of how cheap you can make a car and holds the record for the largest ratio of bezel to screen on a dash screen. Thankfully, a new CLA is in the works and should be miles better than the original. Nevertheless, those old cars will hang around on the buy-here, pay-lots until the end of time much like the original cheap Mercedes that started it all, the W168 A-Class.
Launched in 1997, it was Mercedes first dive into the subcompact market that was most infamously noted for failing the Swedish traditional “elk test” and looking like a giant wedge of cheese. The design wasn’t by random chance, Mercedes engineers designed the car this way so encase of a crash, the engine and transmission would slide underneath the floor below the pedals rather straight into the occupants in the front seats. The front wheel drive layout allowed this as well as there was no need to deal with a driveshaft preventing anything from sliding. Still, this car needed to compete in the subcompact market so it couldn’t be twice the price of competitors. That meant making the interior resemble a children’s play-place and passing it off as funky and modern. Those late ’90s were a crazy time after all. These sold reasonably well with 1.1 million units leaving dealer lots between 1997 and 2004 thanks to their small stature ideal for the city streets and tight parking of traditional European cities. Now, over 20 years later, a well-used A-Class can be had for the price of a modest vacation to Ocean City, Maryland and even the nicest examples, like this example for sale up for sale outside of London, don’t command a high asking price. Thing is, are they even worth it?