WHEN the likes of Mercedes-Benz began to join the ranks of the down-sizing brigade I did have my doubts.
Having been brought up to, “play to your strengths, lad,” as my father used to point out, it did seem somewhat off-track of creators of top class saloon cars such as the likes of Mercedes to find themselves ticking over in the lower ranks.
To an extent the strategy worked with A and B-Class models proving popular and bringing Mercedes motoring in reach of a wider audience.
A new A-Class is on the way and the B-Class arrived in a new guise only a few months ago.
The latest B-Class is a big improvement over its predecessor and behind the wheel of a B200 CDI Blue Efficiency Sport it showed off a high quality of kit and caboodle.
The list includes the likes of air con, ambient lighting, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, electric parking brake, electric windows all round, leather trimmed steering, tyre pressure loss warning and those ever useful locking wheel nuts.
In addition there are driver safety features which include brake assist, electronic stability with acceleration skid control and attention assist which monitors steering behaviour patterns and can help alert drivers to long distance fatigue.
Also on board is the Mercedes collision preventions assist which delivers a visual and acoustic alert if the set safety distance from the vehicle ahead changes – a clever piece of kit.
On the road this latest member of the Mercedes B-Class line-up handles well whatever the surface and the progressively weighted electro-mechanical steering proved hugely responsive featuring all the promise of a genuine junior Mercedes-Benz.
Inside the B-Class is more than just a little bit special. Most things on board are neatly integrated and seating is nice and comfortable in all parts.
Boot space, too, is good, ranging from 486 litres with all seats taken and a generous 1,545 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
The rear seat set up also comes with a clever sliding rear seat system as standard kit and overall this latest B-Class provides plenty of flexibility.
A stop/start system contributes to a combined driving cycle mpg of 64.2 along with a CO2 emissions level of 115g/km.
Mounted on 18-inch alloys and from a highly agreeable driving position the B180 did its roadwork well and the combination of a capable 1.8 diesel engine paired with a manual six-speed gearbox excelled.
Although perhaps a bit pricy for some at over £24,000, the Mercedes B-Class certainly turned heads and it has become a car which is much more a handsome and extremely capable five-seater sport hatch than the compact MPV of the previous generation.
Mercedes-Benz B 200 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: 121
BiK rating: 20%
Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles