It may have been 2001 or 2002 when I said to myself that in the A-class, Mercedes had finally built a car to be driven and thrown away without a care.
I can even remember where I was when I had that thought, in a Wimpey housing estate carved from a chalk pit near Greys, Essex. Now, 13 years later, my mental note was verified. If you want to get access to Mercedes privilige, €580 is what you need for a 1998 A140 Elegance with 186,000 km registered. For an equivalent VW Golf with 185,000 km you will need €450. That’s exactly the same ball park.
Here’s something even closer to worthless than the car listed at mobile.de. Rust has eaten at the rear wheel arches on both sides. The interior manages to look even less appealing than a Toyota of the same period. I never liked the jokey wavey profile of the dashboard. This car lacked gravitas. A Skoda Felicia gets small and serious right. So does any generation of Polo.
One day I’ll find the image of the Honda concept car that gave the world the wraparound rear window effect but here is the idea used to greatest effect. It seems like a smart idea: to disguise the van-like profile. The cost is a rising waistline and a disastrous conflict between shutlines, materials and graphics. It isn’t an idea worthy of Mercedes because it’s pure styling.
The passage of time only confirms that this car did not merit the Mercedes badge. And if there was one justification for Mercedes’s larger cars, it was that they lasted a long time, which is a form of sustainable design. This car fails to achieve even that.