The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class, which made its debut at last year’s Frankfurt Motor show, has been launched on the Irish market and can now be seen in dealer showrooms.

First of three new models due here this year (the new M-Class and SL follow in March/April), it is the larger of their two compact models, fitting into the range ahead of the well-known A-Class.

Said to represent ‘a quantum leap’ in the compact class given its billing as the first model change in their history to have so many new features introduced at one time, it comes on the market with a vastly improved range of standard specifications and an entry-level price that Mercedes-Benz says is 11 percent lower than the model it replaces.

Amongst its most striking aspects are its reduced height, lower centre of gravity, generous interior space and high standard of safety. Its redesigned electromechanical steering, new four-link rear axle and upgraded electronic stability system make it, what Mercedes-Benz says is, ‘fascinatingly agile’ without cost in comfort terms.

Arguably, its most impressive selling point and the feature most likely to appeal to

B-Class buyers will be its high quality and spacious interior. Seats are more upright and set lower to the road with the result that headroom has been improved. Its extra interior spaciousness can be made more valuable by an optional feature that allows the rear seats to be adjusted forwards/backwards to facilitate the carriage of bulky items.

In its driving and handling characteristics, the new B-Class outshines its predecessor. An optional lower sports suspension and direct-steer system emphasise its sporty character. Outstanding aerodynamics help to deliver low fuel consumption and reduced CO2 emissions while a standard item on all B-Class models is an ECO start/stop function.

In Ireland, the model likely to account for the bulk of B-Class sales is the 109bhp entry level B180 CDI which comes on the market at EUR29.330 (ex works) with road tax of EUR160 per annum. A second diesel, also with four-cylinder, common rail, direct-injection, is a 2.0-litre/136bhp unit whose price will be announced later.

In petrol form, the first version to go on sale is the 122bhp B180BlueEFFICIENCY selling at EUR29,890 (ex works) with road tax of EUR225 per annum. A 2.0-litre/156bhp BlueEFFICIENCY version will be added to the range at a later date, the price of which will be announced at the time.

Driving the new B-Class is a completely new 6-speed manual transmission notable for its extremely easy gear change and low shift forces.  Also available as an option is a 7G dual clutch transmission system that combines the comfort of an automatic with the efficiency of a manual.

Described by their sales manager Ciaran Allen as a car that ‘ticks all the boxes’, its lower price, reduced running costs, interior spaciousness and exceptional range of comfort and safety features are elements that he believes come together to give the B-Class a wide appeal amongst those seeking to match prestige to practicality.

Safety features on board the new B-Class include items imported from larger Mercedes-Benz models and introduced for the first time in this class of vehicle. These include adaptive headlamp, blind spot, lane keeping and speed limit assist systems along with parking assist, hill hold brake function, reversing camera and distance control.

A world-first in the compact segment is the provision of a new radar-based collision prevention warning with adaptive brake assist as standard to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions.