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A German Tuning Company Made a Handful of Custom 190E Hatchbacks in the Early ’90s

The 190E Compakt is little awkward—in a good way.

Sometimes, wishing for a hatchback version of a popular German sports sedan doesn’t go quite right. BMW’s E36 hatch, the 318ti, is a prime example of this. The E46 hatch that came after it is even stranger. There’s just something a bit awkward about them. For some people, that makes them more charming. For me, this applies to the custom-built 190E City, or “Compakt.”

Created by (apparently now defunct) German company Schulz Tuning, the 190E Compakt was a derivation of Mercedes’ popular and race-proven 190E sedan, also known as the W201. The 190E has been deified among car enthusiasts since its homologation into a DTM championship-winning racer in the 1980s. The Cosworth-tuned street cars required for homologation gave the public a taste of that victory, further increasing respect and admiration for the chassis. 

A three-quarter view of the Compakt, Schulz-Tuning

The 190E Compakt was based on this chassis. None of the changes were drivetrain-related—all of the hatches used Mercedes’ standard 2.6-liter inline-six, producing 160 horsepower. Not bad for such a small car. This was the case with Schulz Tuning’s previous ventures, having modified the 190E into a convertible and BMW’s E28 5 Series into a wagon without modifying their respective drivetrains.

Offered in both a five-door hatch and a 3-door “coupe”, the 190E Compakt shared its rear hatch and taillights with the larger W124 wagon. There’s not a lot of images of these things floating around because Schulz Tuning apparently didn’t make that many. Some sources cite production numbers as low as four. 

Because of these low production numbers, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see one. They were also never sent to the United States, obviously only being produced and sold in Germany. That’s too bad. 

Even with its weird short doors and hatch transplanted from another Benz, it would’ve been cool to have another rear-wheel-drive hatchback floating around.