Mercedes 190E City By Schulz: The Rear-Wheel-Drive Hatchback That Came Before The BMW 1-Series

Mercedes 190E City by Schulz is the forgotten grandfather of the Mercedes A-Class

When you think of 1980s Mercedes-Benz cars, you probably think of the bulletproof W124-generation or maybe its smaller brother, the 190E (W201), also known as the “Baby Benz”. But what you probably didn’t know is that, in the 1990s, a tuning company called Schulz took a Mercedes 190E and turned it into the first Mercedes hatchback, way before the A-Class and BMW 1 Series. It’s called the Mercedes 190E Stadt (City).

It started with a regular Mercedes 190E chassis

Mercedes actually had a concept for a rear-wheel-drive hatchback, in 1981, called the 190E Compact Car or “Stadtwagen”, but eventually, it was scrapped. Eberhard Schulz, founder of Schulz Tuning, decided he wanted to make his own Mercedes 190E Hatchback, so he took a regular Mercedes 190E and chopped off the rear end just behind the C-pillar. Then, he grafted the rear panel and tailgate from a Mercedes W124 Wagon and that was it.

The 190E City also known as the 190E Compakt by Schulz, was offered in both three-door and five-door versions. That said, even the three-door version retained the small quarter windows from what used to be the rear doors.

It could wipe the floor with the VW Golf GTI

Mercedes 190E City By Schulz: The Rear-Wheel-Drive Hatchback That Came Before The BMW 1-Series
- image 1041632

At the time, Schulz came up with the hatchback version of the Mercedes 190E, the Golf GTI – one of the most iconic hot hatchbacks – was already in its second generation. That said, while the Golf GTI had only 129 horsepower and 124 pound-feet (168 Nm), the Mercedes 190E Compakt was fitted with a 2.6-liter, inline-six unit that made 164 horsepower and 168 pound-feet (228 Nm), which was enough for a 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) time of under 8.0 seconds versus the Golf GTI’s 8.6-second time.

The engine did not necessarily come with the donor car, but was included as part of the conversion. Just to put things in perspective, most hot hatchbacks at the time, had no more than 120 horsepower, with the Golf GTI being one of the most powerful, not including the much rarer, supercharged GTI G60, which packed 160 horsepower and 166 pound-feet (225 Nm).

Why was the Mercedes 190E City forgotten?

Mercedes 190E City By Schulz: The Rear-Wheel-Drive Hatchback That Came Before The BMW 1-Series
- image 1041633

The conversion was simply too expensive for most. It may have been one of the first rear-wheel-drive hatchbacks, but the reality was that the Golf GTI offered a similar package, even if front-wheel drive, at a much more attainable price. It is unknown how many conversions have been made by Schulz Tuning.

What is the legacy of the Mercedes 190E City?

Mercedes 190E City By Schulz: The Rear-Wheel-Drive Hatchback That Came Before The BMW 1-Series
- image 1041634

Mercedes finally decided to make a rear-wheel-drive hatchback/MPV in 1997, which would best be forgotten – the first-generation Mercedes A-Class (W168), famous for spectacularly failing the moose test. Mercedes finally gave up on it, in 2004 and every other A-Class after it featured a front-wheel-drive layout with a transversely-mounted engine.

At the same time, BMW capitalized on the rear-wheel-drive hatchback formula, with the first-generation BMW 1 Series (E87), which reached a seven-digit production figure. Perhaps, Mercedes should have gone through with their idea of a rear-wheel-drive hatchback after all. What do you think?

Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
About the author
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: