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.
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.
In this review
- 1IntroductionAuto Express celebrates 1,400 issues by driving our favourite 1,400cc cars from the last 25 years
- 2Reliant Scimitar SSTReliant may have been most famous for its three-wheelers, but it has also dabbled in sports cars.
- 3Caterham Seven K SeriesClassic looks and modern tech are an enticing mix in a sports car, and the Caterham Seven Classic has them both.
- 4Volkswagen Polo BlueMotionEco-focused superminis are common now, but even in the late noughties that wasn’t the case
- 5Mercedes A140 - currently readingIt’s easy to forget how influential the original A-Class was. Mercedes’ first people carrier was tall, but had a short wheelbase.
- 6Audi A2
- 7Volkswagen Golf GTE
- 8Vauxhall Nova 1.4SR Boxy styling and blistered wheelarches inspired a generation of car fans in the eighties, and the Vauxhall Nova SR was the aspirational warm hatch for young drivers who wanted thrills without the bills.
- 9Fiat Panda 100HPThe Fiat Group has used 1.4 power several times in its history
- 10Abarth 595C
- 11Rover 214When planning this road test we knew there was one car that had to be here: the Rover 214.