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Mercedes-Benz has built a strong reputation in North America... and it needs to stay that way. Sporty or not, the various models in the portfolio are either very luxurious (think S-Class), impeccably designed (CLS-Class) or supremely comfortable (GLK-Class). Company executives are awfully proud of this image, and they're quite aware that such refinement needs to trickle down to smaller products in the lineup, even entry-level cars.With that in mind, Mercedes-Benz finally decided a couple of years ago to add the compact B-Class wagon to the list of Canadian offerings. The car seems so small, actually, that representatives in the U.S. said "Thanks, but no thanks", arguing that traditional Mercedes buyers would never purchase a vehicle like this.

Now, after a few years on the market, the B-Class appears to fare pretty well. It may not be one of the industry's true success stories, but it sure holds its ground in the premium compact segment.

The Mercedes B-Class B200 Turbo Is Designed To Appeal To The Young Executive Types. Steve Ghosley Finds Out If It Does Mercedes B Class is being sold as a compact sports tourer by the Germans, rather than a Zafira or Scenic-like mini-MPV. Itís a slice of marketing-speak much easier to swallow in the case of the derivative featured here, the desirable B200 Turbo petrol model. Heres a people carrier that better-heeled families will doubtless aspire to own but more importantly, itís also a car that young thirty-somethingís without kids who lead an active lifestyle might see themselves driving. Name another MPV you could say that about?

Priced at £22,795, the B200 Turbo is never going to be a cheap option and family buyers at this level have a vast range of different products within their reach that could perform a similar role. An extremely well-specified Renault Grand Scenic 2.0-litre turbo would be an option, a BMW 320i Touring wouldnít be too far out of reach or how about a 2.0-litre FSi Volkswagen Touran Sport along with some money left in your pocket? The B200 Turbo goes up against some accomplished and very different vehicles but aims to carve a niche out for itself with its own particular set of qualities.

The engine is an all-new 2.0-litre 4-cylinder 16-valve turbo-charged and intercooled unit mated with a 6-speed manual gearbox. A newly developed, continuously variable Autoerotic automatic option is also available. Performance, one of the strong selling points of this car, is impressive.

The 0-62mph sprint is achieved in only 7.6s and this amply-proportioned B Class can top 140mph where traffic conditions allow. Mercedes-Benz claim an average economy of 34.9mpg, which isnít bad for such a high-performance car, and the CO2 emissions figure of 195g/km is in the lower range of comparable 2.0-litre models. This B-Class handles neatly enough, with less body roll than you may expect for such a high-sided vehicle, although the ride is on the firm side. The electro-mechanical power steering feels a little odd at first, but trust it and itíll direct the cars nose accurately. The engine in the B200 Turbo is refined and delivers its power smoothly through the rev range, helped by the turbocharger.

The ESP stability control system can feel a little over-zealous for real press-on driving but otherwise itís fairly vice free. With a little more weight to carry around than the equivalent A-Class, the B-Class enjoys better front end traction and the B200 Turbo has little trouble getting its full quota of grunt down onto the tarmac.

"The B200 Turbo offers a luxury family package with a serious amount of performance"

Sit in the back of the B200 Turbo, stretch your legs out and youíll appreciate that its comparable with the amount of room in the back of an S-Class limousine. Only those at the extreme end of the ergonomic scale will have any problems with head or legroom and thereís ample room for three abreast. Despite this, the B-Class is only 4,270mm long. To put that figure into perspective, a Ford Focus measures 4,342mm from bumper to bumper, making this Mercedes something of a packaging marvel.

The rear seats all fold flat into the floor and the boot floor can even be raised to offer a flat loading surface. Other clever touches include a front passenger seat that folds forward to permit long loads and slots next to the rear doors to allow seat belts to be stowed safely out of the way when loading and unloading. The centre rear seat back can also pop forward, offering an armrest with a neat pair of cup holders when travelling four-up. The driving position is undeniably sporty.

The wheel sits almost vertical and your legs stretch forward into a deep footwell. It almost feels like sitting in a jacked-up Lotus Elise but for the interior quality. In order to best appreciate the great strides Mercedes have made with the B-Class, acquaint yourself with, say, an old A-Class or an early M-Class model. Open the glove box and observe how the hinges look only marginally more expensive than a CD case.

Pull at the floppy plastics of the lower dash. Marvel at how Mercedes had the chutzpah to put a plastic gear change selector in the M-Class that wouldnít pass muster in a Kia. The B-Class isnít quite back to the over-engineered Benzes of the Seventies, but itís as good as anything else out there in terms of perceived quality. Not only that, but the interior aesthetics are, to this eye at least, a lot happier than those in the latest BMW and Audi offerings.

The dashboard is cleanly designed with a neat mix of contrasting colors and metallic detailing. Standard specification across the range includes air-conditioning, a four-spoke steering wheel with multifunction buttons, an armrest between the front seats, electric windows and tinted glass, plus brushed aluminum trim on the fascia, transmission tunnel and door panels. This top of the range Turbo also features 18-inch AMG five-spoke alloy wheels, stainless steel double exhaust pipes, sports suspension and fog lamps with chrome surrounds. As with all B-Class models, this cars greatest strengths are its interior packaging and the Mercedes-Benz build quality.

Mercedes have taken some flak over recent years regarding the finish and quality of their vehicles, but the B-Class shows that they have started to return to the levels for which they were once famed. The B200 Turbo offers a luxury family package with a serious amount of performance. As with all things Mercedes, nothing comes cheap. Whether they have judged their target market correctly, only time will tell.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

CAR: Mercedes-Benz B200 Turbo
PRICE: £22,795 on the road
INSURANCE GROUP: tba
CO2 EMISSIONS: 195k/gm
PERFORMANCE: Max Speed 140mph / 0-62mph 7.6s
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (urban) 26.4, (extra urban) 42.8, (combined) 34.9mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front and side airbags / ABS / ESP
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height 4270/1777/1604mm


 

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