Mercedes’ first forays into the ‘premium compact’ car segment have been innovative and interesting but, so far, not particularly successful. Saddled with a mechanical platform that delivered excellent packaging but at a considerable price, the A-class and B-class siblings have failed to win major success – despite having the BMW 1-series and Audi A3 caught in something of a pincer movement.But change is coming to Mercedes’ small-car range, and this new B-class is the first taste of it. Stuttgart’s pseudo-MPV has been given a new platform and format that, stylistically and dynamically, make it a more conventional fit for the so-called ‘premium C-segment’.
It is at the vanguard of a fresh effort by Mercedes to make real headway into a chunk of the luxury car market where it can ill-afford to be outperformed. As such, the impact crater of serious investment is readily apparent. The B-class, like the new A-class that will follow later this year, is an all-new car with a choice of the latest four-cylinder engines and gearboxes, and extensive class-first safety features.