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Mercedes to return fire with new B-class

Hatched: The entry-level Mercedes-Benz B-class B180 petrol will kick off from below $40k when it launches here in April.

More value, greater efficiency for new Benz B-class as Mercedes bolsters entry model

Mercedes-Benz logo19 Jan 2012

MERCEDES-BENZ is preparing to shore up its domination of the small end of the prestige car market when it launches its all-new second-generation B-class hatchback in April with sharper pricing, improved fuel efficiency and greater safety.

The top seller in its class – small cars priced above $40,000 – with 2211 sales last year, the boxy B-class has come under pressure recently from arch-rival BMW’s new 1 Series, which thumped all comers in December after arriving on the market late last year.

But Mercedes is about to return the favour with the redesigned B-class that will be launched in a matter of weeks with a choice of three engines – two petrol and one diesel – all with seven-speed automatic transmissions.

The German importer – which is already running out of stocks of the outgoing model – pre-empted the launch by announcing basic details of the new range at this week’s launch of the flagship sportscar, the SLS AMG Roadster.

Pricing for only one model was released – the $38,950 (plus on-road costs) entry-level petrol B180 BlueEfficiency that is expected to make up more than half of all sales – which is $1825 cheaper than the current equivalent model when equipped with automatic transmission.

4 center imageThe current manual B180 is still cheaper, at $37,875, but the self-shifting gearbox will be dropped from the new range due to lack of demand.

Pricing of the two other models available at launch, the B200 BlueEfficiency and diesel B200 CDI BlueEfficiency, will be announced when the cars hit local showrooms in April.

Later this year, the range will get a fourth model with the arrival of the flagship petrol B250 with a direct-injection 250 CGI four-cylinder engine.

All engines fitted to the 2012 B-class are new, each offering more power and greater efficiency over the current line-up, thanks to the adoption of direct injection, idle-stop and the standard seven-speed dual-clutch auto that replaces the flawed continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The entry-level 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine achieves 6.1 litres per 100km on the combined test cycle – down from 7.6L/100km – while generating 10kW more power (90kW) and 45Nm more torque (200Nm).

The new B200’s version of the 1.6-litre turbo four steps up the performance to 115kW (up 15kW) and 250Nm (up 65Nm), while improving fuel economy from 8.0L/100km to 6.1L/100km.

The most frugal of the bunch remains the 1.8-litre diesel B200 CDI, but it too has come in for all-round improvement over the previous 2.0-litre unit, cutting thirst from 5.8L/100km to just 4.7L/100km, and lifting power to 100kW (up 2kW) and torque to 300Nm (up 50Nm).

This is not quite as efficient as the 4.5L/100km achieved by the 2.0-litre diesel of the F20 1 Series with its eight-speed automatic transmission, nor as powerful (5kW less).

However, the Benz will come armed with a range of features only found until recently in its top-shelf models.

These include Pre-Safe Brake crash preparation and automatic braking technology to maximise protection of occupants when a radar sensor at the front of the car detects an imminent collision.

A parking system, anti-fatigue driver alert system and Mercedes’ Audio 20 media interface system are among the other goodies on the standard features list.

The new B-class, which was unveiled at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, is built on a new “half sandwich” compact car platform – unlike the previous model’s full sandwich floor construction – that will also spawn the upcoming A-class and a range of other vehicles, including a new compact SUV.

The new A-class – said to be a more conventional passenger car hatchback than the previous upright design – will be restored to the Australian market early next year to give Mercedes-Benz Cars Australia a two-pronged small-car range.

Mercedes-Benz B-class pricing (before on-roads):
B180 BlueEfficiency (a) $38,950
B200 BlueEfficiency (a) TBA
B200 CDI BlueEfficiency (a) TBA

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