The six-speed manual gearbox is the best choice for driving enjoyment, with a creamy-smooth gearchange and well-spaced ratios. The seven-speed automatic transmission is now, but it is a bit ponderous and you often find yourself wishing it would shift gear more urgently and have a more responsive kick-down. Save the £1,450 price of an auto and go for the manual instead.Ride and Handling
The body structure on this car feels very taut, and that is helped by the bracing cross-beam that sits above the rear axle between the wheel arches to aid body rigidity. Handling is poised and tidy, and the B-Class is grippy on the bends with a planted feel that belies its relatively lofty height. Ride quality is reasonably good, but you need to be careful about trim choice and tyre size. The test car in SE trim on 17-inch wheels rode with reasonable comfort, but the Sport version on bigger wheels is firm to the point of jarring over coarser surfaces. The car has reasonably good steering feel, but it is not quite as informative as you might wish.Ease of Use
For a car with relatively compact exterior dimensions, it has a spacious interior. The overall height means that there is plenty of headroom, and knee space is really quite generous in all five seats. Good space instead is not at the expense of boot space, though. With a 488-litre boot, the new B-Class has more luggage room than its most obvious rivals, including the Focus. A worthwhile option is the Easy Vario Package, priced £600, which provides greater flexibility by adding split-folding rear seats with fore, aft and rake adjustment. It also lets you extend the boot to a very handy 666 litres by sliding with the rear seats further forward. The only disappointment is that the rear seats don't lie completely flat when you fold them down to accommodate a longer load.Comfort and Refinement
The interior is well laid out with some interesting details. For example, the five circular air vents across the dash have an elegant curved cross design on the centre, and stylishly perk up the look of the fascia. It is a bit disappointing, though, that only the horizontal dash-top trim is soft-touch. Facing you ahead of the driver and front passenger are hard surfaces that detract somewhat from the cabin's otherwise premium ambience.
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