In the words of company chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche, the new Mercedes B-Class has "more new features than we have had in any new model in the history of Mercedes Benz". That is a bold boast, and it underlines how important this car is considered to be by its manufacturer. The reason is partly due to a change of policy at the lower end of the Mercedes car range. The A-Class and B-Class have previously been similar in concept, but different sizes. The next generation A-Class is going to be much more sleek and sporty to chase younger buyers, so this new generation B-Class has been designed to have a wider appeal as a more practical, well-equipped mainstream model.
Most people would probably regard it as a tall hatchback, but Mercedes prefers to view the B-Class as more of an MPV-style compact sports tourer. It is roughly the same length and width as a Ford Focus, but taller with a longer wheelbase and the wheels pushed further out into the corners.
It may not look it, but this car is remarkably slippery through the air. Its 0.24 Cd drag figure makes it the world's most aerodynamically efficient family car, according to Mercedes. To achieve it, the body design includes a steeply raked windscreen, specially shaped mirrors and front wheel arches that create a drag-reducing 'cushion' of air over the front wheels. The swept-back screen and more flowing body lines give the new generation B-Class quite a handsome look that is a big improvement over its rather dumpy-looking predecessor.Performance
The B180 CDi, with its 1.8 litre turbodiesel engine, is expected to be the most popular version, but there is plenty of choice. The range of engines on offer includes both petrol and diesel, and the transmissions available are an excellent six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch auto.
Diesels are expected to outsell the petrol models. This is the lesser powered of two newly-developed diesel engines in the range. Confusingly, they are both 1.8 litre units, with differing power outputs. This engine with 107 bhp and 184 lb ft of torque is the sweeter choice for refinement, it is nicely flexible and adequately lively. In the B200 CDI you get livelier performance with 134 bhp, but there is a penalty to be paid in a bit more noise penetrating the cabin. Fitted with 17-inch wheels, the test car rode comfortably and the suspension, though relatively firm, never felt unduly harsh. But Sport models on bigger wheels give a harder ride that some might find a touch unforgiving over the bumps.
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