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Mercedes B-Class prototype

We get a preview of firm’s all-new ‘MPV’

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Although we were restricted to the passenger seat for our first taste of the all-new B-Class, it still impressed. The car has the same refined, polished feel as the brand’s big saloons, and if it can deliver the class-leading economy Mercedes claims, it should be a real contender. Price will be a major factor in its success, though, as family buyers are thriftier than most. 

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The facelifted C-Class is Mercedes’ rear-wheel-drive present – but this is the firm’s front-wheel-drive future!

Under the disguised body of this prototype is the all-new B-Class, and Auto Express travelled to Stuttgart, Germany, for an exclusive preview. 

The car has been developed on a lighter, longer and lower new platform. This will underpin a fresh family of front-driven Mercedes, as well as a Nissan Qashqai-sized crossover, according to insiders.

The styling is expected to be a toned-down take on the A-Class concept (seen at the recent Shanghai and New York Motor Shows), with a more dynamic look to appeal to younger buyers. Under the black tape we could clearly see dual-level LED light clusters at the front, and a sleek new face.

Aiming squarely at rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf Plus and new Ford C-MAX, the B-Class wants to set new standards in the sector for interior quality, as well as returning best-in-class economy and CO2 emissions. 

Helping it achieve these ambitious targets will be the range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines (mounted transversely for the first time) from the facelifted C-Class, mated to a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

During our passenger ride, the revised 1.8-litre diesel seemed particularly quiet and refined, and the new gearbox provided smooth, instant changes. There was plenty of mid-range punch, too, and as we pulled up to a set of traffic lights, the stop-start cut the engine, to save fuel. 

The ride quality is also very impressive, and has the same supple feel as the company’s bigger saloons. 

Inside, it’s not quite as roomy as an MPV; while there’s plenty of space for four adults, five would be a squeeze. Head and legroom are plentiful, though, and the car has a decent boot to match. 

However, the stand-out moment was when the covers were briefly lifted from the cabin, to reveal a top-quality layout. Highlights include a beautiful new multimedia screen, three-spoke steering wheel from the CLS and kit such as radar-guided cruise control, which wouldn’t be out of place on an S-Class.

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