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Paris show: Mercedes shows off B-Classier

More stylish third-generation Mercedes B-Class confirmed for mid-2019 launch

Mercedes-Benz logo2 Oct 2018

By RON HAMMERTON in PARIS

MERCEDES-BENZ has smoothed off its B-Class compact multi-purpose vehicle and given it a large injection of high-end technology and expressive design in the third generation revealed at the Paris motor show this week.
 
The new model also marks the introduction of an all-new 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that meets next-generation European emissions standards, but Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific is yet to decide if that powertrain will join the line-up, as it is leaning towards an all-petrol range as it has done with the freshly launched A-Class.
 
Mercedes-Benz Aust/Pac head of external affairs and corporate communications David McCarthy indicated a final decision on the line-up had not yet been made.
 
He said the company was planning to reduce the B-Class range from the current four variants due to the relatively low volume compared with the closely related A-Class.
 
The diesel variant – known in the current range as B200d – might be a casualty of that cull. 
 
For the same reason, a plug-in hybrid B-Class is unlikely to be added to the range if – as rumoured – one becomes available in 2020. 
 
Mr McCarthy said a PHEV was planned for the higher-selling A-Class in which it was expected to do well in Australia in place of diesel when the petrol-electric version is launched late next year.
 
The only certainty for the new B-Class is the top-selling B180 which, this time around, gets a 1.33-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine co-developed with Renault. In the current range, the B180 accounts for about 45 per cent of sales.
 
The release of the new-generation B-Class marks the halfway point in the rollout of Mercedes’ new generation of compact front/all-wheel-drive vehicles, following the newly released A-Class hatchback and A-Class sedan, with the latter sharing the limelight with the B-Class in Paris.
 
Still to come are the new-generation CLA in four-door coupe and Shooting Brake guises, as well as the next GLA small SUV and slightly larger GLB.
 
Mercedes-Benz engineers and designers have addressed perceived shortcomings of the B-Class in the new generation by stiffening and refining the MFA (modular front architecture) for improved handling, ride comfort and noise suppression, while also stretching the wheelbase by 30mm, to 2799mm, to increase rear legroom.
 
The stylists have delivered a smoother, more rounded exterior shape for a less dumpy, sportier look helped by a slightly lower roofline that also contributes to an improvement in aerodynamics, which now start at 0.24Cd – a figure Mercedes claims is best in class.
 
Despite the lower roof, the driver still sits 90mm higher than in an A-Class, providing a high-perch view of the road – one of its main attractions to customers who like the seating position without having to go full SUV.
 
This 360-degree vision is also enhanced by a lower beltline, along with roof pillars designed to block less of the outlook from the driver’s seat.
 
The B-Class remains a five-seater, but a sliding rear seat configuration on some variants adds cargo flexibility for families. Mercedes says that with the seats fully back on the 14cm rails, legroom is maximised and luggage space is 455 litres.
 
With the seats fully forward, luggage space grows to a hefty 705L. By folding the 40/20/40-split rear seats (now standard on all variants), the cargo hold grows to 1540L.
 
The interior of the B-Class has been given a major makeover, gaining many of the features introduced on the A-Class, including the latest MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multimedia system with voice commands triggered by a simple “Hey Mercedes”.
 
The system comes with 3D graphics and uses artificial intelligence to learn on the run, a feature that Mercedes says creates a bond between car and driver.
 
A wide range of features come with MBUX, including the ability to upload and sort apps, car-to-X communication and a notification function that contacts the owner if the car is towed or bumped.
 
The all-digital cockpit comes with a free-standing display that, depending on variants, ranges from two 7.0-inch screens on the base variants to a whopping twin 10.25-inch display.
 
Turbine-style air vents – five in all – protrude from the dash, glowing colourfully with the ambient lighting that offers 64 colours and “10 colour worlds”.
 
Seats are said to be flatter and more comfortable, while a wide cabin (1456mm) provides an extra 33mm of shoulder room.
 
Optional seats have seat climate control and fine adjustment with a memory function.
 
The B-Class gains optional driver aids that have filtered down from the S-Class, including semi-autonomous driving and active cruise control that uses maps and navigation data to predict hazards such as bends or intersections and slow the car accordingly.
 
Autonomous braking now includes the ability to detect wayward pedestrians and cyclists, as well as vehicles.
 
The B-Class also gains active lane assist, a semi-automatic lane changing feature that debuted in the E-Class.
 
In Europe, where the B-Class will go on sale in December, five powertrains will be available at launch – two petrol and three diesel.
 
If the A-Class is any guide, the B-Class in Australia will kick off with the 120kW/250Nm four-cylinder 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
 
A 165kW four-cylinder B250 is also available in Europe, but yet to be confirmed for Australia.
 
The new 2.0-litre diesel engine for Europe, coming in 110kW B200d and 140kW B220d states of tune and hooked up to a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, is unlikely for Australia due to declining interest in such diesels.
 
A new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) variant dubbed B250e is also an unlikely starter for the Australian range, despite the company’s policy to launch an electrified vehicle in every model line.
 
According to European reports, the B250e has an 84kW petrol engine driving the front wheels and a 67kW electric motor on the back axle for all-wheel drive.
 
A lithium-ion battery is said to deliver up to 50km of electric driving.
 
Timing for this powertrain and others are yet to be confirmed.
 
In Australia, the current B-Class that was launched in 2012 will battle on until the middle of next year when, Mercedes hopes, the new model will provide a sales lift in the premium small-car class.
 
B-Class sales this year are down 23.1 per cent, to 626 units, mainly because of the growing popularity of small and medium SUVs.
 
With B-Class and A-Class combined, Mercedes leads the luxury small-car segment in Australia with a healthy 37.7 per cent share.

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