Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class

In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.

Official designer’s sketch of the 2022 A-class, photo (c) Driven To Write

The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.

“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”

Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”

Styling, incidentally, is the focal point of W177’s overhaul. Since its market introduction in 2018, the current A-class has turned out to perform well below expectations in terms of sales, never matching its smash hit W176 predecessor in that regard.

Market research has proven that the current car’s more muted – to some eyes: anonymous – styling hasn’t met the taste of the A-class’ customer base, which demands a more youthful and expressive appearance than the current cars’. This facelift is intended to meet these concerns, as explained by Dick van Kok, exterior designer in charge of the A-class range: “We know what we owe to our customers. The previous A-class is something special in that it introduced the Mercedes brand to people who’d never dreamt of not just not owning a Mercedes, but being proud of it. The facelift will reinstate that pride.”

So significant are the changes to W177 that no sheet metal, apart from the wing mirrors, roof and front doors, is carried over from the original car. “We don’t do things by halves here at Mercedes-Benz. We want the A to be both ruler and challenger. That’s why we went to such lengths to ensure the car embodies the values of ‘hot & cool’.”, van Kok explains.

Our Panamericana front end is now more expressive than ever. We’ve increased the grille’s size by more than 20%, which lends the A-class the sort of presence that’s usually the reserve of luxury performance cars. Our new NuPredator front, with its dramatic triangular light graphic, makes this the most aggressive-looking car in its class.’, van Kok explains with some glee, before adding: ‘But what I’m most proud of is the rear. We’ve given this car a shoulder that’s very strong, it’s like an animal’s muscle that’s about to burst. We call this our NuPredator rear, because it finally matches the front’s sense of menace. Note how the line from the rocker flows into our NuPredator shoulder, that’s just a thing of beauty!”

To his boss, Gorden Wagener, the W177 facelift is no less than a watershed moment. “This marks the birth of Sensual Purity® 3.0. The first version of Sensual Purity was about introducing art and expression to our cars. The second generation was about adding premium appeal. Now we combine all of this into cars that are iconic, progressive and very, very self-assured.”

When pressed whether W177’s original design was a misstep, Wagener will only go as far as saying that he’d “misunderestimated (sic) the customers’ boldness. In a sense, Mercedes owners understood Sensual Purity® too well. We thought we’d give them some breathing time, but what they actually wanted was more! And now we give them the most sensually pure interpretation of Sensual Purity® ever!”

Of course, only time will tell whether these changes will turn the A-class’ fortunes around and continue the success story its predecessor turned out to be. The significant costs such an unusually extensive facelift entails certainly suggest the powers that be at Stuttgart Untertürkheim are convinced the mistakes they made when Wagener’s Sensual Purity® form language was dialled down can be rectified.

Or, in other words: Sensual Purity® 3.0 had better work!


The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

11 thoughts on “Geneva Motor Show 2021 Preview: Mercedes-Benz A-class”

  1. Most of the “customer base” I see driving Merc’s A are 50+ and want less menace in the world, not more. So you lose those to win a few rich kids.

    1. In Germany, the A-class as done wonders to lower the average age of that range’s owners by a perceived 40%. It’s the preferred ride of Babos (a sort-of German spin on the chav concept) in the compact class, and by some significant margin. They’ll applaud the return of ‘real’ Sensual Purity®.

    2. Maybe “chav”is not the best translation; in the UK and France they don’t have that kind of money even if they do like to show off.

      btw, I’m not sure you can register ordinary English words like sensual and purity.

    3. I appreciate your linguistic precision, Vic.

      You are correct in stating that a babo is not the exact equivalent of a chav. Hence the inclusion of the qualifying
      ‘sort-of’. However, to suggest that a German babo is considerably better off than a chav isn’t correct either. More than one youthful, badge-obsessessed, not too well-educated A-class owner on these shores has benefitted from Daimler AG’s generous leasing deals.

      As far as the correct notation of Sensual Purity®’s concerned, I’d simply leave the matter in the more than capable hands of Daimler AG’s marketing department. Their terminology, their rules, ay?

    4. I had forgotten about leasing, and other finance deals so widely used nowadays.
      As for “sensual purity”, it’s the kind of phrase a film reviewer could use to describe a mildly revealing scene, and I’m pretty sure they’re not going to put a ® in it!

  2. This Dick van Kok is a rather talented chap isn’t he? I want to hear more about him. With his level of stylistic talent, the Gorden really ought to start watching his blessed back – or have his minions watch it for him…

    In other news, my Sindelfingen sources tell me Mark Fetherston is speechless with rage over the W177 leak – (and van Kok’s [ahem…] elevation), but now that he’s back designing hubcaps, there’s little he can really do about matters.

    The words, scape and goat spring immediately to mind…

  3. I may be missing the joke in part, but isn’t the sketch up top like the previous A Class with the new car’s nose strapped on the front of it? Going back to the 2018 just-launched car, in my book it already rates as a runner for most disappointing design of the year. Surely it should have been the source of some excitement for me, instead I can barely shrug a shoulder over it. The first A, for all its faults, was radical in concept and execution which captured the attention; I’m trying to recall the last MB model which managed that.

  4. If this isn’t actual satire then Mercedes is even further down the loo than I had imagined. The Lexus predator beak already swimming down there will be snapping at them in the sewer mains for their flights of fancy. There is now a race on for dumbest looking “premium” cars, fuelled by people whose self-confidence in proffering overt vulgarity as artful design knows no bounds.

  5. What I’ve learned from reading this and the comments is that satire doesn’t travel.

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