Mercedes has given itself a kick up the backside recently and the net result is a new product offensive that’s delivering more new Mercs to the market than you’d find players’ relatives at an All Ireland Final.

We all know the German-based company makes decent big machines but the original A-class was a flop and the new A-class is only slightly better in terms of ride and handling. Instead of offering a long wheelbase A-class this time Mercedes has decided to launch a new model in what it calls the ‘sports tourer’ sector. Now why on earth a car company wants to hijack a motorcycling term is beyond me but my B150 test car never for a moment felt sports tourer like!

The exterior is interesting and looks strong. The grille and famous Mercedes Benz star is without doubt the big selling point as without it the car could literally appear to come from any other manufacturer. The front wings are PT Cruiser-like, the side hip-line is high and sturdy looking with the rear tailgate and bumper being bulbous and solid.

Inside the floor is raised like the A-class and the driving position compromised as a result. The steering only adjusts for tilt and does not enable me to get a perfect driving position; again this is not helped by the higher than usual sandwich floor. Of course the floor’s construction remains a piece of engineering brilliance as just with the A-class it allows the engine’s mass be diverted away from the passenger cell in a frontal impact.

The seats are big and supportive and the instrumentation elegant and familiar. My test car had a manual five-speed gearbox that was a little notchy but otherwise vice free. The boot offers a decent 544 litres of space and when you need to convert the B-class into a van by whipping out the front passenger and rear seats there is a whopping 2,245 litres of cargo space on tap.

On the open road the car’s height makes it a little nervous in windy conditions. The power steering is speed sensitive but there is little or no ‘feel’ to it. Road holding is reasonably impressive considering my car was sitting on big rubber. I certainly never felt like taking the long way home although there aren’t many 95bhp cars I would feel that way in. The cabin is well insulated and the B-class is certainly a big improvement on the small A.

There are six models in the range made up of four petrol units B150 (1498cc/95bhp), B170 (1699cc/116bhp), B200 (2034cc/136bhp) and B200 Turbo (2034cc/193bhp) and two CDi diesels B180 (1991cc/109bhp) and B200 (1991cc/140bhp). Prices start at a competitive €27,995 and rise to €38,300. Instead of the usual named model specification you can individualise your car (to a point) by taking up options. There are two equipment option packs, ‘chrome’ (standard on B200 CDi & B200 Turbo) at €485 and ‘sports’ at €1,125-2,2264.

Yes, the B-class is worth considering as it has great interior space, a certain sense of occasion and is large enough to be perceived as a proper Mercedes and that’s something the A-class will never do.

Michael Sheridan