First drive: Mercedes B-Class

* Restyled bonnet, grille and bumper * Improved engine performance and economy * Is it worth the premium price?...

First drive: Mercedes B-Class

B. Doesn't exactly signify first, does it? Always sounds a little bit 'second'. Unfortunately for Mercedes, its B-Class was always some way behind even second place in the family car rankings. This face-lifted model is intended to close the gap.

Styling changes include a restyled bonnet and grille, plus revised rear lights and bumper.

The B180 CDI we drove has a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that puts out 107bhp and 184lb ft of mid-rev torque. Acceleration is best described as moderate on your way to the top speed of 114mph.

However, the bigger headline is reserved for the changes to the engine; these have improved average economy by 7%, to 54.3mpg. CO2 emissions of 137g/km put in the 18% band for company car tax, too. Not bad.

However, you wont particularly enjoy clocking up all those miles. In town, the diesel engine always shouts for your attention, and sounds unbecoming of a car with such premium aspirations. Matters improve on the motorway, where the engine noise subsides. The optional automatic gearbox on our test car was also slow to change and further blunted the already lethargic performance.

Youll want to stick to the motorway, because twisty roads merely highlight the fidgety ride and the fact that the steerings woollier than a knitting convention.

Inside, all is as before, which means a huge amount of rear legroom and a vast boot. Fold down the rear seats and youve a huge, flat load area available.

The Mercs biggest issue is its price, which is simply too high compared with those of the competition.

Mercedes-Benz B 180 CDI
Price £20,850
On sale Now
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Power 107bhp
0-62mph 11.3sec
Top speed 114mph
Economy 54.3mpg
CO2 g/km/tax 137/18%