Family cars: Mercedes - Toyota

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What Car? Staff
29 December 2011

Family cars: Mercedes - Toyota

Mercedes B-Class
What is it? The first and most practical member of a family of compact Mercedes models
Price from 21,290
On sale March

The second-generation Mercedes B-Class is the practical member of a family of new compact Mercedes models.

Although the B-Class is roughly the same size as a Ford Focus, clever packaging means its head- and legroom can match those of many much larger cars. Theres a capacious 488-litre boot, too. Interior materials are generally smart and theresa dash-mounted display screen.

An all-new chassis provides sharper handling, with good body control and plenty of grip. The steering is short of feel, however, and the ride is firm. Refinement could also be better, with rather too much wind and road noise at speed.

The new engines are refined, though; there are 1.6-litre petrols with either 120bhp or 154bhp, and 1.8-litre diesels with 107bhp or 134bhp.

Running costs should be reasonably affordable, but list prices are on the high side; the B-Class starts at 21,290.

Peugeot 508 RXH
What is it? Diesel-electric hybrid 508 range-topper
Price from 36,000
On sale March

The RXH is a high-tech, high-spec flagship model for the 508 range. It has four-wheel drive as standard and is powered by a hybrid system that combines a 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine with a 36bhp electric motor.

There are four driving modes: Auto, Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV), 4WD and Sport. In ZEV the car can operate solely on electric power for short journeys.

The RXH looks quite different from the standard 508 SW. As well as a higher ride height, theres extra SUV-style body cladding, bespoke alloy wheels and a new front bumper and grille.

Toyota Avensis
What is it? Toyotas fleet favourite gets mild tweaks
Price from 17,700 (est)
On sale January

With a new Volkswagen Passat on the scene and a new Ford Mondeo not too far off, Toyota has given the Avensis a timely update.

New bumpers, grille and headlights give the Avensis a more aggressive look. Inside, there are reshaped front seatbacks, extra metallic trim and new materials.

A combination of weight and friction-reduction measures has reduced CO2 emissions for the 2.0 D-4D engine from 139 to 119g/km. All models have tweaked suspension, while extra sound deadening measures boost refinement.

Our first impression of the updated Avensis is that it's improved, but not enough to push it to the top of the class.