Mercedes A140

It’s easy to forget how influential the original A-Class was. Mercedes’ first people carrier was tall, but had a short wheelbase.

Years: 1997-2004Price new: £14,490Engine: 1.4 4cyl, 80bhp

It’s easy to forget how influential the original A-Class was. Mercedes’ first people carrier was tall, but had a short wheelbase. The height came from a clever ‘sandwich’ floor design, which means you climb up into the car so that in a crash, the engine and gearbox would slide under the split floor, rather than towards the driver’s legs.

However, the A-Class initially made safety headlines for the wrong reasons, when it flipped over in testing during a high-speed swerve test. But Mercedes solved the problem so the car’s packaging didn’t go to waste – plus with ESP standard on all models, it moved the game on another step.

Mercedes A140 and Audi A2

You need to push the 80bhp 1.4-litre petrol hard to get the A-Class going, which affects the refinement. And with solid, dull grey plastic covering the dash it’s easy to date the A140 to a time when Mercedes’ build quality was on the wane.

Still, the A-Class’ cabin feels roomy, and while it might not look premium today, it opened up the three-pointed star to a whole new group of buyers. 

Click the links below for the other 1,400cc cars that have made our list.

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