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Mercedes B-Class

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β€’ Second-generation family car
β€’ Price from 21,500 (est)
β€’ On sale April 2012

The new Mercedes B-Class is Mercedes big news at Frankfurt. The second-generation model has a new platform and advanced technology that will be shared with a family of future Mercedes models.

Whats it like inside?
The new B-Class is longer, wider and lower. It doesnt have the current cars sandwich floor, where the engine is designed to slide under the passenger compartment in a collision. Instead, theres a longer front end to provide crash protection and a lower floor that gives a more conventional driving position; you no longer feel like youre sitting with your legs stretched out ahead of you.

Inside, the current cars austere, angular design has gone, replaced by a curvy dash with large circular air vents. Mercedes says the design is inspired by nature, and that its cabins had become too rational and devoid of emotion.

A display screen, unashamedly iPad-like in appearance, takes centre stage. It comes in two sizes, depending on trim, and is linked to a controller on the centre console.

The B-Class will be practical, with plenty of head- and legroom and a 488-litre boot. A split/folding rear seat will be standard; sliding rear seats will be an option.

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Technical details
At launch, the B-Class will be available with four new engines. There will be 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol units with 121- or 154bhp and engineered to provide high torque at low engine revs. Therell be 1.8-litre diesel engines with 107- or 134bhp, which are based on the 2.1-litre diesel engines used in Mercedes larger cars. Six-speed manual gearboxes and a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission will be available.

Mercedes has engineered the B-Class to run on more than just petrol or diesel. The floorplan has been developed to accommodate various powertrains. Eventually, there could be an all-electric version, an electric range-extender model, a plug-in hybrid and a version powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Five key facts:
β€’ Lower and wider
β€’ Various power sources planned
β€’ Dual-clutch semi-auto option
β€’ Advanced safety features
β€’ New 1.8-litre diesel engines

A huge range of active and passive safety features will be fitted as standard or available as options. Collision Prevention Assist which uses radar technology to monitor the road in front and warn the driver if a collision is imminent will be standard. Every B-Class will have Attention Assist and front-, side-, curtain- and drivers knee airbags. Rear side airbags will be optional.

Should I buy one?
The B-Class goes on sale in April 2012. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but wed expect it to start at around 21,500.

A range of cars using the same technology and platform as the B-Class will follow. The next A-Class will arrive later in 2012;
the five-door being followed by a sportier three-door. A compact SUV and a mini-CLS-style saloon are also due.

Also on the Merc stand is a range-extender B-Class concept. Like the Vauxhall Ampera, the E-Cell Plus combines an electric motor with a small petrol engine, but it can manage up to 62 miles on pure electric power (the Ampera can only manage around 40).

After the batteries run out of juice, a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine generates enough electric to keep you going. At higher speeds it helps out further by driving the wheels directly.

Mercedes says the E-Cell emits just 32g/km of CO2 on the combined driving cycle. Yet despite this performance isn't too shabby: 0-62mph takes 11.0 seconds and top speed is 93 mph.

A road-going version of the E-Cell is expected to go on sale in 2014.