Almost 1.1 million cars of the W168 series were made in Germany between 1997 and 2004.

It was the summer of 1981 when Mercedes introduced the NAFA concept as a proposal for a pint-sized city car, but that one failed to materialize as a production model. Fast forward to 1993, the Vision A 93 concept was unveiled to lay the groundwork for what was to become the first-generation A-Class (W178). At the 1997 Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes officially downsized when the “ingeniously compact car” made its debut in full production guise.

The original A-Class boasted more than 20 technical innovations, including a new body shell based on the sandwich principle. In other words, there was a cavity between the floor plate and the passenger compartment to boost safety in the unfortunate event of a crash. At the same time, the new layout granted the engineers with the freedom to install alternative drive systems, such as hydrogen tanks or battery packs.

Mercedes A-Class W168
Mercedes A-Class W168

Mercedes is happy to remember the first-gen A-Class was one of the most versatile cars at the time of its launch two decades ago. No less than 72 different seating variations were available and a cargo capacity of 390 litres with all five seats in place or as much as 1,340 litres with them folded down. It also had a removable front passenger seat to further boost available space to no less than 1,740 litres. The facelift implemented for the 2001 model year also saw the introduction of a long-wheelbase derivative (V168).

Aside from being big on space despite its compact size, the W168 was also very safe, prompting the company to say it “was of the same high standard as the exemplary E-Class.”

In total, Mercedes put together almost 1.1 million units of the first-gen A-Class at its Rastatt factory in Germany until the model was phased out in May 2004. An additional 63,448 cars were assembled up until September 2005 at the Juiz de Fora plant in Brazil.

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As far as its successors are concerned, the W169 launched in 2004 was available until 2012 when it was replaced by the current W176. While the A-Class was never sold in North America, spy shots have revealed work on the fourth-gen model is already well underway for other markets and we will likely see the new A-Class debut sometime next year.

Source: Mercedes-Benz

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