MY earliest recollections of cars from premium German manufacturer Mercedes-Benz many years ago are that while they were of excellent quality they were not over endowed with standard equipment considering their purchase price and owners had to pay quite a bit more for optional kit much of which should have been standard writes Bryan Longworth.
But not any more for the wind of change has blown through the Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart and now they are among the best equipped cars in the world of premium automobiles including their German competitors at Audi and BMW.
I was reminded of this situation when testing the latest B-Class car which has arguably the most impressive standard equipment of any cars in this market segment including their German rivals and those from elsewhere.
My test car was the B200 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport which at £24,710 is one of the most expensive models in the range but even so the standard equipment was really impressive and the new B-Class is totally different from the previous model which was rather bland.
Standard on the test car was Attention Assist which warns the driver if they are starting to suffer from journey fatigue and Collision Prevention Assist which also warns the driver if the car is getting too close to the vehicle in front.
Then there is Hill Start Assist for starting from steep inclines, bi-xenon headlights, leather seats, run flat tyres with pressure loss warning, one of the best reversing cameras I have come across and sports suspension.
The new B car is lower and also has much more impressive styling than the previous model especially up front where the famous three pointed star and LED daytime running lights provide this Mercedes compact car with real street cred that attracted considerable attention.
The test car was powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine with a six speed manual gearbox that produced a top speed of 130mph, a zero to 62mph time of 9.5 seconds, a combined fuel consumption of 64.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 121g/km.
And not only did the new car look a lot better than the previous B-Class it also was much more enjoyable to drive with precise steering and excellent handling and there was a very roomy and comfortable interior with plenty of legroom for rear seat passengers.
It is also the first Mercedes to have been designed without a spare wheel well which saves space and weight that contributes to the improved fuel efficiency of the car and the run flat tyres mean the driver is not going to get stranded if there is a puncture.
Apart from quite a bit of road noise over certain surfaces the new B-Class is hard to fault and overall a much better car in every way than the model it has replaced especially regarding styling and is further evidence of Mercedes now assembling a really good range of premium cars especially at the lower level.
My Verdict: A B-Class belter.
Model: New Mercedes B-Class B200 CDI Blue EFFICIENCY Sport.
Engine: 2.0-litre four cylinder diesel.
Output: 136bhp @ 3600rpm.
Transmission: Six speed manual.
Top speed: 130mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 9.5 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 64.2mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 121g/km.