Despite its own efforts with smaller, subcompact/C-segment vehicles and their growing popularity worldwide, at least in the U.S., Mercedes-Benz hasn’t had widespread success in this size class of vehicles, with buyers preferring its larger, more luxurious compact/D-segment models.
In 2016 and 2017, Mercedes sold only about 24,000 of GLAs each year versus 47,000 and 48,000 GLCs, and only about 25,000 and 20,000 CLAs versus 77,000 units of the C-Class for each of those years in the United States. In Europe, however, where smaller cars have a much higher preference, Mercedes-Benz sold nearly triple the amount of GLAs and CLAs the past two years, and along with the A-Class and B-Class, sells several hundred-thousand C-segment vehicles in Europe each year.
Originally introduced in 1997, the A-Class was Mercedes’ first foray into the C-segment, and was the brand’s smallest offering, a title it still holds despite having grown in size with each subsequent generation. Breaking tradition and premiering Mercedes’ latest design language even before the new flagship W202 S-Class did, the W245 A-Class represented a dramatic change from the wedge-shaped designs of the preceding decade by incorporating organic shapes with flowing lines and curves. A highly successful model, the W245 sold some 1.1 million examples worldwide over eight model years.
The original A-Class will always be a somewhat special vehicle for me, because its was among the first vehicles not sold in my home country that I was well aware of, due to the fact that I owned a Maisto 1:18 scale model of it. I recall being particularly stricken by it due to the very fact that it looked so different from the somewhat stodgier-styled Mercedes I knew at the time, designs I’ve now grown to appreciate and love over the years.
Photographed: Rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons in Strasbourg, Grand Est, France – September 2017