Frank Wilksen is a veteran of the Broom editorial team. He has worked as an automotive journalist for over 50 years and tested a large number of cars both at home and abroad.
He remembers some cars better than others. Now Frank shares the memories with all of Broom’s readers. This time it’s about the first Mercedes-Benz A-Class since 1997.
It’s been 25 years since Mercedes-Benz launched its first true small car – the A-Class. Just the fact that the largest reputable manufacturer of large luxury cars should make a small car was very exciting. So it was not without reason that many are excited about how this happened. Small cars and very good small cars, there were already many …
So Mercedes-Benz was due to enter this market now, and the group did so with an ambition to gain strong market shares. Those ambitions received a severe blow to the arc, when the car simply flipped over in launch year in the so-called Moss test, in Sweden. This is all about swerving away from a sudden obstacle – and for the car in question, it ended up flipping! Such a sensation, the model was immediately dubbed “Veltepetter”.
The publicity surrounding the accident was massive – a new car model rarely gets much publicity! Unfortunately, much of what was put on the market was unpleasant, something to which Mercedes-Benz itself contributed initially by denying that there were any problems.
However, soon all the cars sold were recalled, and production was suspended until the problem was resolved. The solution was, among other things, for the A-Class to become the first compact car with stability control (ESP).
The one-sided negative focus that the Class A got due to the Mohs test was really unfair. We ourselves acquired an A140 from 1998 vintage for a year, and enjoyed the drive. Reviews of previous owners about the “owners believe” in the Broom give much of the same impression – a good car that gave the owners few problems in everyday life, although some believed that the prices for spare parts were at the highest level – if something happened first.
The rest is history – and today’s Class A seems to be a great product; Fully worthy of the Mercedes-Benz reputation for quality.
How was this first really small car with the famous star in the grill? This brand alone was enough to spread expectations.
My answer is that it was actually very good. Regarding the design, it is true that opinions differed sharply – some liked the look, while others did not want to see it in the aisle; “Long, narrow, strange…”.
Regardless of opinion, the design was actually pretty clever. Significant height allowed entry and exit with a good level of SUV, which made many “adults” fall in love with the car. At the same time, the interior has become large, and the car carried more than one might think at first glance.
Good for long trips
What Mercedes called the sandwich solution gave a little higher ground than usual, but the upside here was that in the event of a collision, the engine would have to be pressed forward down and under the car, rather than straight back into the cabin. In other words, smart and well thought out in terms of security. At the same time, the solution meant we were sitting relatively high.
On the road, we passed a comfortable car that was fun to drive. In fact, it gave a very light touch to the special Mercedes feel that, for my part, I was at the time in memory of a new C-Class. One of the things I remember most favorably are the good long-distance characteristics of the car. Class A can easily go on a long journey with – and endure long stages.
Runs about 700 km
The concept was traditional enough, with a transverse engine in front-wheel drive and front wheels. The brakes consist of discs in the front and drums in the rear, which are also traditional. The tires were 195/50 on 15-inch rims all around.
The A140 has a maximum output of 82 horsepower from the 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine. This wasn’t entirely impossible, but with a net weight of just over 1,000 kilograms, the car wasn’t very bouncy. Maximum torque of 130 Nm didn’t help much either…
In contrast, consumption was “inside”. The factory stated a combined consumption of 0.71 l/mi – and only 0.56 l/mi when driving on the highway (constant 90 km/h). Both parts were on the positive side of the line, and with a tank capacity of 54 liters, the range was good. Depending a bit on the type of road and speed, it was a good idea to sweep around 700km before you even thought about refueling again.
Also AMG versions
I don’t know if it was the little “accident” with the testing of the Moose that was an additional catalyst for further development of this model, but the truth is that today’s A-Class – which came in the fourth generation in 2018 – has become a true gem of a small car, with Solutions and equipment you wouldn’t expect before on larger, more expensive models.
The somewhat bizarre design solution is gone, and we have left a fresh, modern design that broadly appeals to both age and gender. This hides a lot of advanced technology, gasoline engines with a power of 163 or 224 hp. Diesel is also produced. Today, the car in this country is the most popular as a plug-in hybrid. For a little more than two decades, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class has been delivered in many different variants, also with the 4Matic all-wheel drive system.
For those who want that little bit extra, there are of course also AMG versions to turn to. The common denominator between them is that they remove the skin of even large sausages without any problems – in short: a lot of driving fun here!
Mercedes-Benz A140 1998 – Some numbers:
Engine: 4-cylinder in-line engine, positioned transversely at the front. 1.4 liters 82 hp, maximum torque 130 Nm.
Driving: front wheel drive, five-speed semi-automatic gearbox. The first small car with ESP (Electronic Stability System)
L x W x H: 3.58 x 1.72 x 1.60 m
Wheelbase: 2.42 m
Net weight: 1,020 kg
Luggage compartment: 350 / 1,190 liters
Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h: 12.9 seconds
Maximum speed: 170 km / h
Fuel consumption, mixed driving: 0.71 l/mi.
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