Vehicle: MCC (Micro Compact Car)
When: March 1994
What: Ultra-compact city car
1) Eco-Sprinter: 40 kWelectric motor, rear-wheel drive 2) Eco-Speedster: three-cylinder petrol engine, rear-wheel drive
Personal mobility has always been at the heart of the Mercedes-Benz vision. Gottlieb Daimler pursued the declared aim of providing just that with his vehicles. Looking at road transport today, it is clear that Daimler’s vision has become firmly established. What is also clear, however, is that many towns and cities are also having to contend with very heavy volumes of traffic. In the early 1980s, this prompted Mercedes-Benz to design its NAFA concept vehicle for urban and short-distance transport, with the aim of making better use of the available road space. Measuring just 2.50 metres in length and 1.50 metres in height and width, this two-seater challenged all the conventional ideas of what a Mercedes stood for. It even had four-wheel steering, which allowed the vehicle to be driven forward into tight parking spaces. Two sliding doors provided convenient access to the interior, even when there was not much room to spare at the side. Further features included front-wheel drive, an automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, and belt tensioners.
Although NAFA was soon forgotten by the public, it was not forgotten by Mercedes-Benz, which remained keenly interested in the idea of a compact city car and continued to work on one. This resulted, in 1994, in the unveiling of the compact MCC (Micro Compact Car) concept. ‘This is a project which combines pro-environmental design, emotion and intelligence,’ said Helmut Werner, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz AG at the time.
The MCC had its roots in NAFA – the dimensions were largely identical – but it also branched out in new directions. Fuel-efficient engines drove the rear wheels via an automatic transmission, and the concept car was also equipped with air conditioning, power steering and belt tensioners. The designers reverted to conventional steering and doors however – the NAFA solutions were optimal, but for volume production they would have been too elaborate and expensive for a vehicle of this size.
The two-seater interior is perfectly suited to driving solely around town, where statistics show that average vehicle occupancy is just 1.2 persons. The exterior length of 2.50 metres might not sound a lot but in the MCC two people enjoy a sense of spaciousness normally associated with a much larger car – and there’s still plenty of room to spare for luggage and other items.
On the question of safety meanwhile, the MCC was a significant improvement over NAFA. To this day the MCC offers unparalleled safety for a car of this size, allowing Mercedes-Benz to put an end to the prejudice that small cars are unsafe. This is achieved by the underfloor location of the compact engine/transmission module, the same principle that is used in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
The MCC was extremely agile and fun to drive, not to mention the fact that it certainly stood out from the crowd. Mercedes-Benz had come up with a clean-sheet exterior and interior design which was innovative, appealing, dynamic and even somewhat provocative.
Two drivable versions of the Micro Compact Car were presented at the public debut in Stuttgart: the ‘Eco-Sprinter’ and the ‘Eco-Speedster’.
The ‘Eco-Sprinter’ was a particularly ‘green’ machine. With an electric motor delivering 40 kW (54 hp), it also featured extensive use of high-quality renewable natural materials and recyclable components. The roof was fitted with solar cells which provided power for the interior fan even when the car was parked.
The ‘Eco-Speedster’ meanwhile had a removable roof so that with a few quick and easy adjustments it could be transformed into an al fresco convertible. With the top down, safety was ensured by a reinforced windshield frame and an integrated roll-over bar. The Eco-Speedster was powered by a three-cylinder petrol engine.
The MCC, Mercedes-Benz’s vision for a city car, is a vision no longer. By 1998 it had already gone into production as the smart city coupé, which was renamed the smart fortwo in 2003. Since then, smart production has reached almost 600,000 units. With the arrival of the roadster, the coupé and the smart forfour models, smart has already generated its own model family and become a mature brand.