UNITED STATES—Back in the 1980s, the decade of decadence, the “Yuppie generation” wanted something to brag about. These ambitious corporate ladder climbers wanted to one-up their peers in every way. They wanted the fanciest homes, the most modern gizmos, and the most luxurious cars. Unfortunately, most yuppies were too young to have earned enough dough to afford a ticket to travel “S-class.” The flagship Mercedes-Benz was still reserved for royalty and others who felt just as entitled.

To court the expanding yuppie market, Mercedes-Benz did something that would seem a bit crazy by today’s standards. The company spent close to $1 billion to develop an affordable compact sedan that drove just like (if not better than) an SEL (now S-class). Enter the Mercedes-Benz 190e, a technological masterpiece that has since become a modern classic known endearingly as the “Original Baby Benz.”

Today’s young executives have different priorities. Showing off now takes a back seat to more practical and responsible goals. Things like reliability, cost of maintenance, utility, and safety are the catch phrases that sell vehicles today, even prestigious luxury sedans.

Mercedes-Benz, compact sedans
Mercedes-Benz, compact sedans.

Mercedes-Benz has always been a pioneer in vehicle safety, but the market for cars that are luxurious, reliable and relatively inexpensive to maintain has become very crowded. Until recently, Japanese companies such as Lexus & Acura have lead the field. Whether the new GLA250 will help Mercedes-Benz earn a leadership role in dependability and cost of ownership remains to be seen, but the GLA’s initial base price of $31,300 combined with its foundation of simple yet proven engineering (i.e. front wheel drive) should give it a fighting chance.

Other selling points of the GLA include its impressive active safety features. Standard features include Attention Assist drowsiness detection and radar-based Collision Prevention Assist Plus with autonomous braking. The autonomous braking can help prevent collisions from speeds between 5 and 65 miles per hour when following a moving vehicle, and between 5 and 31 miles per hour when behind a stationary vehicle. Blind Spot and Lane Keeping Assist are also available on the GLA. And to prevent minor fender benders, the GLA offers the optional Parktronic with Park Assist. This system allows for both parallel and perpendicular parking.

Combine the aforementioned safety features with legendary Mercedes-Benz structural rigidity and industry-leading passive safety, and you can transport what you truly value from point A to point B in class, style and peace of mind. In this day and age, that is what drivers are bragging about. While quirky features and evidence of over engineering were enough to send yesterday’s yuppies into a frenzy, today’s up-and-comers have more human values. In these times of uncertainty, it is nice to know that the three-pointed star understands what is important to consumers in the 21st century.