Now we know why Mercedes released pictures of just the ‘inside’ of their new B-Class a few weeks ago. Despite liberal use of the word ‘sport’ in the press release, we can’t imagine many buyers choosing a B-Class for its external appearance or street cred. No, this is a car that’s all about the experience of travelling inside a luxurious and well-designed cabin – a characteristic it borrows from the much maligned R-Class.

“No model change in the history of Mercedes-Benz has ever seen so many new developments introduced in one fell swoop,” stresses Dr. Thomas Weber, Group Research and Development Head at Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The big change with the new B-Class is its move upmarket and Mercedes have combined spaciousness with luxury to underpin the new car’s premium credentials. Despite being 5 cm lower than its predecessor, the new B-Class is bigger inside with more headroom (thanks to a 86 mm lower seating position) and a more upright driving position. In fact rear leg room is now so generous that at 976 mm it even surpasses that of the S- and E-Class.

Although Mercedes would never choose to describe the B-Class as an MPV, there’s a nod towards some of the versatility of that sector in the optional EASY-VARIO-PLUS system, which enables simple reorganisation of the interior so as to enable the transportation of bulky items.

Features of the EASY-VARIO-PLUS system include fore/aft adjustment of the rear seats by up to 140 millimetres thereby increasing the luggage compartment volume from 488 to 666 litres (121 litres more than its predecessor) and a front passenger seat whose backrest can be folded forward onto the seat cushion.

Despite the increased space the B-Class remains a truly compact vehicle, which at 4359mm long, 1786mm wide and 1557mm tall, is some 89mm longer, 11mm wider and 48mm lower than the car it replaces.

Inside is where the B-Class really shows its appeal – high-quality materials and finely structured surfaces meet precision workmanship and spaciousness. The dashboard is optionally available in ARTICO man-made leather finish and features stitching, while four equipment packages (Chrome, Sports, Exclusive and Night package) enable individualisation according to personal taste.

The 3-spoke leather trimmed steering wheel which incorporates a silver chrome insert in the middle spoke, the instrument cluster with four analogue round dials and suspended pointers in the 6 o’clock position and the seats with contrasting stitching underscore the new B-Class’ premium character.

New Mercedes-Benz B-Class Interior

The modular “Energy Space” platform (to be shared with the new A-class) means that the new B-Class is already designed to accommodate versions with an alternative drive – appropriate interfaces in the body shell enable the main floor panel to be modified and a step to be produced for the versions with alternative drive. An underfloor compartment covering part of the area under the rear bench seat also offers space for alternative energy accumulators.

But for now, the power sources are strictly petrol and diesel. At launch the B-Class can be configured with a choice of two all-new 1.6-litre four cylinder turbocharged engines with the B 180 producing 121bhp and 147lb ft, and the B 200 with 154bhp and 184lb ft. The maximum torque of both engines is available from just 1250 rpm.

A new four-cylinder diesel engine is a development of the OM651 unit deployed in the C- to the S-Class. It’s the first time a diesel engine has been mounted transversely in a Mercedes road car and with a displacement of 1.8-litres is available in two versions – the 107bhp/189lb ft B 180 CDI and 134bhp/221lb ft B 200 CDI.

Another Mercedes-Benz first is the new 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission, which can be chosen as an option to the 6-speed manual transmission which is fitted as standard. Mercedes claims the new 7-speed DCT delivers a 9 per cent improvement in economy over the CVT transmission it replaces.

The engines feature Mercedes’ third-gen direct-injection system and stop-start. These engines will soon be fitted to C-class and E-class models too.