This is my 1998 Mercedes A140, imported from Europe. Today I’m reviewing this ridiculous yet special A-class, and I’ll show you all the many quirks and features. I’m also going to get behind the wheel of the A-class and show you what it’s like to drive.
I Bought a Ridiculous Mercedes A-Class From Europe
It’s easy to assume the first generation A-class, despite its small size, would be luxurious. But, it really wasn’t.
The headline above might have you thinking the A-class Mercedes wasn’t all that great. But we promise, it’s accurate. At least according to Doug DeMuro. You see he’s just bought one and has one of the only ones in the US that we could really think of. Naturally, he wanted to see what it was all about. We wanted to as well.
“It debuted in the summer of 1997, and it was tremendously controversial at the time,” Demuro notes. Reason being, the then-current “baby Benz” was the W202 C-class. And it was a Mercedes through and through. Rear wheel drive, luxurious (when equipped that way), and styled like the flagship S-class. The A-class definitely wasn’t any of that.
Instead it was a total revolution to the brand. In terms of both styling and safety. Styling, we see some of the wrap around glass at the hatch that would be seen on the W163 ML class, and inside, the gauges were more so like that of the early W203 than the W202. Safety was improved by this car, perhaps unintentionally.
We all remember the “moose test” A-class that tipped up and over. Well pressure was applied to Mercedes in order to fix the situation. Demuro says, “Mercedes soon recalled all A-class models made and added stability control, and made stability control standard to all A-class cars made after that.” So the traction control that helps your A45 AMG go faster around corners owes its dues to the A-class’s top-heavy proportions.
So what’s it like to drive? Well, Demuro’s A140 has the 1.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine. It makes 80 horsepower. “It just drives like a fairly dull little car. It’s not any more luxurious just because it’s a Mercedes,” Demuro admits. He then goes on to compare it to a Chevy Sonic, but we’ll spare the details of that hatchback. So don’t think of it as a luxury car. It’s just a decent compact car. Because remember, the luxury compact car segment hadn’t really been created at that point. But cars like the A45 AMG exist entirely because of this ride. As such, we give the humble A140 a tip of the hat.