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The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Merc overhauls B-Class 'hatch'

2011-08-25 14:26

BIG B: The all-new B-Class makes its world debut at the Frankfurt auto show.

Could a more grown-up B-Class set the family record straight after being long-regarded as a stepchild to the Mercedes-Benz range of cars?

As the all-new B-Class prepares to make its debut at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show, Stuttgart has released details of the mini-MPV (although Merc, confusingly, refers to it as a “hatchback saloon”) that while remaining comfortable is sportier with a lower ride height and chunkier styling.

In addition to styling changes, the front-wheel drive B-Class gets a huge tech boost in the form of new petrol and diesel engines, new dual clutch and manual transmissions and new driver aids.

In fact Thomas Weber, the member of Daimler’s board of management responsible for research and development, acknowledged that “no model change in the history of Mercedes-Benz has ever seen so many new developments introduced in one fell swoop”.


Big responsibilities for one small Merc but the B-Class appears up to the challenge with its larger dimensions and increased occupant space and comfort levels.

The redesign includes a wider, more prominent, grille, headlights that sweep in an arc towards a very prominent crease along the flanks, a wider rear screen, and a split tail light cluster within a larger tail door. 

MADE FOR SPORTS?: The redesigned B-Class sits closer to the ground and comes with an optional sports suspension.

More athletic touches are seen in the slightly lared wheel arches and the aerodynamic side skirts.

Mercedes describes the B-Class as “fascinatingly agile” but credits the new car’s lower centre of gravity, new four-link rear suspension and upgraded ESP for the increased verve. An optional sports suspension is also offered.


The enhanced dynamic quality of the new B-Class is also demonstrated in the car’s reduced height – at 1557mm tall, it is almost five centimeters shorter than the car it replaces. Seats are placed lower in the cabin too, to make it easier to get in and out of the cabin, but also to give the driver a more commanding driving position.

As a result, headroom is improved and the 976mm of legroom on offer to passengers at the rear is more generous even than that seen on the S- and E-Class, Mercedes says.

The B-Class’ modular interior allows for the carting of large and bulky items with a sliding rear bench and a front passenger seat with a backrest that can be folded flat onto the seat cushion.

The manufacturer considers high-quality materials, details and surfaces as some of the highlights of the new B-Class, while the car will also showcase features usually seen on upper-segment cars. These include adaptive headlamp assist, blind spot and lane keeping assist, attention assist (debuted in South Africa on the new E-Class range), active parking assist, a Comand multimedia system with internet access and, as a first in this segment, Mercedes’ Pre-Safe system that prepares the cabin for impact when an impending collision is detected.

MORE REFINED: Mercedes' claims much time was spent fine-tuning the quality of the finishes and details within the B-Class's cabin.


Another first in this segment is the radar-based collision warning system with adaptive brake assist, called Collision Prevention Assist, which lowers the risk of rear-end collisions – and not just in fender-bending urban situations, Mercedes said.

As for propulsion power, the new B-Class will be fitted with range of new petrol and diesel engines – all turbocharged four-cylinders – and new transmissions, all developed in-house.

All engines have been designed for maximum efficiency with low masses and with the intention of meeting tighter emissions standards.  

The 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engines make use of Mercedes-Benz’s third-generation direct injection system and are available as the 90kW/200Nm B180 and the 115kW/250Nm B200.

Similarly, the 1.8-litre four-cylinder diesel engine uses the third-generation of common rail direct-injection to generate 80kW/250Nm in the B180 CDI and 100kW/300Nm in the B200 CDI.

Merc’s 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission debuts on the B-Class too, alongside a new six-speed manual transmission. All B-Class models come standard with Eco start and stop.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa has confirmed that both petrol and diesel models, and the seven-speed dual clutch transmission, will feature in the B-Class range when it is launched here in 2012.


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