2001 Mercedes-Benz A160

In the late 90s Mercedes-Benz started moving far away from the angular and no-nonsense look and feel of their cars of the 70s and 80s with some unusual additions to their lineup: the retractable hardtop convertible SLK (1996), the sport utility vehicle M-Class (1997), and the supermini A-Class (1997). Bruno Sacco's touch was no longer on every design. Quality was also starting to be a concern.

The W168 A-Class was unique for Mercedes in a lot of ways. It featured front-wheel drive, shocking for a company whose core tenet was the balance and refinement that rear-wheel drive provides. The compact but versatile body squeezed in four doors and a rear hatchback.

Some aspects of the A-Class were typically Mercedes, however. It featured an innovative "sandwich" system where the engine and transmission slide underneath the pedals instead of into the cockpit in the event of a major front impact.

Styling is credited to a Steve Mattin. While a departure for the brand, it still bears resemblance to other models at the time, with the ribbed taillights and integrated front-grille.

Mechanically, the seller says this one has only 73k miles. They state a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine is under the hood, and is mated to a 5-speed clutch-less manual transmission. Cosmetically, they say it wears the original paint, has had no accidents and is sitting on lowered springs and aftermarket wheels that don't hurt it aesthetically.

These were never sold in the U.S., despite some clamoring by consumers. The seller of this example says it has a clear California title, but will not pass the final stretch of those pesky, finger-wagging, nanny-state smog tests and is therefore illegal on in-state public roads. Whether it can be driven outside of California is anyone's guess.

Although it's essentially the same layout and size as a Honda Fit, there is a much higher cool factor here.

Available here on ebay in Camarillo, California with bidding at $6,100.

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