ONE of the great things about the automotive world is its sheer inventiveness and the ability of car makers to come up not just with new cars but whole new classifications.
Mercedes-Benz’s B-Class is a case in point.
Put simply, there’s nothing quite like it.
Is it a hatchback, is it a small estate, or is a compact MPV?
The answer is it’s probably a bit of all three.
Mercedes calls it a compact sports tourer – though whether the acronym ‘CST’ will be tripping of the tongue in years to come is anyone’s guess
The original version might not have made waves so to speak but it represented an interesting development in the world of family cars, if only for the fact it offered almost as much space as a seemingly far larger C-Class estate.
But the trouble with cars that don’t fit easily into a category is that people sometimes don’t quite know what to make of them.
This can translate into limited sales, though if the concept takes off then the trend is for competitors to start following suit.
It would probably be fair to say the jury is still out as far as the B-Class is concerned though I think one could also say the second generation version should speed up the deliberations and the delivery of a verdict that may well see other car makers going down the same route.
While the original looked like a semi-inflated A-Class its successor has far more style and presence, with the stature of a sleek and sporty hatch, albeit a slightly chunkier one.
Again it offers a terrific amount of space in what looks like a relatively compact package and is characterised by an open and roomy cabin with acres of head and leg room.
Despite the rounded hatchback looks the boot is huge and can swallow an impressive amount of luggage with ease.
The interior has that familiar Mercedes quality feel and the switchgear seems well laid out and is both easy and intuitive to use.
Another change sees the B-Class given a couple of new more efficient engines offering lower CO2 emissions without denting performance and the new 1.8-litre diesel in the B200 does a good job.
It offers decent driving dynamics and a sufficiently sporty feel to satisfy the more enthusiastic driver and well-weighted and noticeably accurate steering is another strength.
Ride quality, while perfectly satisfactory, isn’t quite up to the customary Mercedes glide-like level but the B-Class is nonetheless pretty comfortable to travel in.
Most of my miles were notched up on the motorway where it proved a highly capable cruiser, even if road noise was a tad noticeable at higher speeds.
Economy is excellent, even making pretty swift progress I was getting between 50 and 55mpg overall.
It might be a long time since I’ve fallen out with a sat nav (okay I know they’re only computers and not out to get you – even if it sometimes seems like they are) but I did have a couple of gripes with this one, firstly for taking me off a motorway, only to take me back on to it, via several of the slowest changing sets of lights I’ve ever encountered.
However it was the school mistressy reminder to ‘please observe the speed limit’ that really got my goat.
That said, such minor moans did little to detract from a driving experience that was essentially very positive and the B-Class represents a practical, classy and competitively priced premium alternative to some of the more traditional hatches, estates and MPVs currently available.
Mercedes-Benz B200 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport
Mechanical: 136bhp, 1,796cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Combined mpg: 64.2
Insurance group: 20
CO2 emissions: 121g/km
BIK rating: 18%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles