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Steering, suspension and ride comfort

Independent multi-link rear suspension, a lower centre of roll, the option of a Sport-spec chassis… all of this suggests that the new B-Class has been designed with the amusement of its driver at least distantly in mind, rather than distantly neglected, as was the case with the previous B-Class. And on the right road, this Mercedes has its moments.

The previous B-Class’s parabolic rear axle has gone, replaced with a four-link arrangement. MacPherson struts remain up front. The old car’s much-maligned electro-mechanical power steering system has also been entirely redesigned. Range-topping Sport-spec cars feature uprated suspension, adaptive dampers, more reactive 'Direct Steering' and a 15mm drop in ride height.

The B-Class effortlessly eclipses its predecessor's handling capabilities, but there isn't much room for driver reward

On the standard chassis set-up and 16 or 17-inch wheels, the B-Class offers an acceptable ride, a relatively precise and composed feel and enough grip in corners to inspire confidence. There's little in the way of feedback but, given the target market, that's not a hugely negative point.

Sport versions of the B-Class can actually change direction too suddenly when you really lean on it, the car’s body pivoting around behind its front axle with giddy abandon. If you’re expecting exaggerated lean angles and a general unwillingness to respond to the steering wheel at speed, you’ll be more than a little impressed with a car whose singular dynamic triumph seems to be that it’s as lively and game as any ‘normal’ family five-door.

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On flat, medium-tight, well sighted corners, the variable-ratio DirectSteer steering system tugs the tenacious front end towards apexes without much at all in the way of body roll or understeer, however.

But once you’ve grown used to that idea, you might struggle to find a great deal of lasting driver reward in the B-Class. That variable-ratio steering rack adds an undercurrent of unpredictability to the handling mix, making it hard to dial in just the right amount of steering angle to position the car precisely. A conspicuous lack of feedback doesn’t help, either.

It’s a less relevant criticism of a Sport-spec car, but the B-Class’s ride isn’t the last word in subtlety or finesse. The amplitude-selective dampers just don’t seem capable of maintaining good rebound control of the car’s body over choppy surfaces, leaving occupants, in the second row particularly, tossed and ruffled. The ride at town speeds is equally disappointing. A premium-brand family car ought to be more cosseting, Sport spec or otherwise.