Congested streets, parking space at a premium and long tailbacks raised new questions in motor vehicle research. Mercedes-Benz answered them in 1981 with the concept study “Nahverkehrsfahrzeug,“ NAFA for short – the short-distance vehicle. With an overall length of 2.50 meters (8.2 ft) and an overall height and width of 1.50 meters (4.9 ft), respectively, the innovative two-seater contradicted everything the company was known to stand for to date.
Owing to four-wheel steering the car could even be parked forwards into tight spaces. Its turning circle was all of 5.7 meters (18.7 ft). Even where the gap to other vehicles on each side was small, two sliding doors permitted convenient entry and exit. They opened forwards, and the side mirror folded in automatically. The car had front-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. The equipment included air conditioning, power steering and seat belt tensioners. The comparatively high seating position, the low waistline and large glazed surfaces made for an optimal all-round view.
The NAFA study did not fall into oblivion. The insights it furnished entered into the design of the A-Class of Mercedes-Benz, the prototype of which debuted in 1996. And in the smart city coupe, introduced in 1997, the concept of the compact urban car celebrated its coming of age and has since been manufactured in large numbers.