New Mercedes B-Class details

* Longer, lower body * Range of power sources * On sale April 2012...

New Mercedes B-Class details

Mercedes all-new BClass will be packed with innovative technology and come with a range of different power sources.

The B-Class will be launched in late 2011 across Europe, and will go on sale in the UK in spring 2012. Its the first in a range of new compact Mercedes models - that share the same platform and technology which will go on sale over the next few years.

What is it?
Compared with the current car, the new B-Class is lower, longer and wider. The overall shape judging from the disguised models weve seen is similar to todays car, but the new models front end is expected to be a toned-down version of the Concept A-Class model that was unveiled at the Shanghai motor show earlier this year.

Mercedes is keen to point out that the B-Class is more aerodynamic than its predecessor, which helps to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The drag coefficient has been cut from 0.30 to 0.26, thanks to a range of features that channel airflow over the car. An Eco Technology package that includes lowered suspension and additional aerodynamic aids will drop the figure to 0.24. Itll be available as an option later in 2012.

Range of powertrains
Underneath, the B-Class doesnt use the sandwich floor concept that the current A-Class and B-Class use, where the engine is mounted at an angle and slides under the passenger compartment floor in a front-end collision. Instead, the new model has a lower floor and a longer front end, with particular attention paid to energy-absorbing members that keep the passenger compartment intact.

The new floorplan has been developed to accommodate various powertrains; eventually theres likely to be an all-electric version, an electric range-extender model and a version powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

At launch, however, therell be a choice of four all-new conventional engines. There are 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol units with 121- or 154bhp, both of which have been engineered to provide high torque at low engine revs. Mercedes aims to reduce the gap between the official fuel consumption figures and real world-use by making the engines as flexible and efficient as possible.

Therell be 1.8-litre diesel engines with 107- or 134bhp. The new units 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.

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

What's next?
The next A-Class which will share much with the B-Class under the skin is due to arrive later in 2012. Itll be different to the current car, with a much lower, sporty body. This time around itll be a more natural rival for cars such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and VW Golf. A five-door version is likely to arrive first, but a sportier three-door coupe version that should closely resemble the Concept A-Class will follow.

A compact SUV to rival the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque is also likely. Both front- and four-wheel drive versions are expected.