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.
The seller lists the car as being located in Washington state, saying it came from Japan and they can transport it anywhere in the continental US if the buy-it-now is selected. They also say it has an Ohio title, but doesn't meed some federal regulation, so registering this thing in your state and planning on using it as an attention-getting commuter may not work. They also say the miles are low. The exterior and interior seem immaculate and the color combo is perfect.
This type of micro family cars was disappointingly absent from the US market until just a couple years ago when Honda debuted their Fit and cars like that. If the A-class was rear-wheel or even all-wheel drive or diesel powered it would still be unique, but it's not anymore, besides being an economical Mercedes-Benz, and for being rare. But rare doesn't cut it, at least not to the average car buyer.
Available here on ebay for $8,500.