On the one hand, there was an absolute imperative to ensure the car reached people who’d hitherto never have considered buying a Mercedes. At the same time, the brief precluded alienating the still sizeable constituency of people who’d hitherto never have considered buying anything else. These were, after all, Mercedes’ most loyal customers, and their money was as good as anyone’s.
So at its heart the car stayed conventional, with a traditionally long wheelbase and a short front overhang. The theoretical temptation to extend the still innovative original A and B-Class platform was obviated by its obsolescence, so the car remained resolutely rear-wheel drive and remains so to this day, at least in right-hand drive markets where the four-wheel-drive option is unavailable.
And in order to not frighten the establishmen, Mercedes made less sporting models available with a multi-bar grille and the three point star mounted in traditional fashion on the bonnet. The young guns, meanwhile, got the big central star in the middle of the grille and a much more open mouth. So successful was this latter approach that when the car was facelifted 2011, the more restrained face was dropped.