Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a compact car, originally launched only as a four-door hatchback in 1997. W168 A-Class was quite unusual for Mercedes-Benz featuring a front wheel drive layout and unusual tall yet short body. One innovation of the W168 was a frontal-impact absorption system called the "Sandwich". The A-Class was facelifted in 2001, with minor alterations to the front and rear bumper design and the addition of a new 170 mm (6.7 in) longer wheelbase version. All A-Class models are powered by four-cylinder engines, with 1.4 L and 1.6 L petrol models at launch (M 166 series), followed by two versions of a 1.7 L diesel engine (OM 668 series).
The W169 is constructed with high-strength steel alloys with bonded joints. It has a large number of airbags including optional rear side airbags, optional side-curtain airbags, and standard head and thorax-protection side airbags. The front airbags are adaptive with two-stage gas generators operating according to the severity of accident. The angle of the A-pillar is flatter than the windshield angle. The cargo capacity of the W169 was increased by 15 percent compared with the W168.
The production version of the third generation of A-Class vehicles was based on the 2011 Concept A-Class. The third generation A-Class is designed to be a direct competitor to the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. The Concept A-Class is a 3-door concept car that previewed the design of the third generation A-Class. It included M270 four-cylinder gasoline engine rated 211 PS (155 kW; 208 hp), radar-based collision warning system with adaptive brake assist, and exterior design language from Mercedes-Benz F800 concept.
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