Mercedes-Benz has released details of its new B-Class, set to make its debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show.

Mercedes claims the new B-Class takes the advantages of different vehicle concepts and combines them into an interesting and distinctive profile of its own: as a Compact Sports Tourer, the B-Class is a touring, family and recreational vehicle in one.

One of the major advantages of the Compact Sports Tourer is the sandwich concept developed by Mercedes-Benz. Thanks to the space-saving arrangement of the engine and transmission partly in front of and partly beneath the passenger cell, the new B-Class offers the interior spaciousness of larger saloons and estate cars despite its compact external dimensions. The body has a length of 4270 mm, corresponding to the compact car class. Inside, however, the new Mercedes model offers more than other cars of comparable size in this segment in all comfort-related respects, e.g. shoulder-room, legroom and headroom.

Occupants in the rear benefit from the long wheelbase (2778 mm); this allows a distance between seats and generous kneeroom which almost matches that in the S-Class.

Thanks to a height-adjustable load compartment floor, an asymmetrically divided, folding and removable rear seat unit plus an optionally removable front passenger seat, the Compact Sports Tourer is quickly converted from a comfortable touring car to a practical van. Depending on the number and position of the seats, the load capacity can be increased from 544 to up to 2245 litres (with rear seats and front passenger seat removed). This corresponds to the load capacity of large estate cars. The maximum loading length is 2.95 metres.

High-torque CDI diesel engines and up-to-date petrol units meet the need of the Sports Tourer concept for effortless performance and a high level of driving pleasure. There is a choice of six four-cylinder engines with outputs ranging from 95 hp to 193 hp. The top-of-the-line B 200 TURBO is equipped with a new two-litre, four-cylinder engine which delivers a maximum torque of 207 lb/ft from as little as 1800 rpm thanks to turbocharging and intercooling, and maintains this value over a wide engine speed range up to 4850 rpm. This means that the most powerful of the Compact Sports Tourers accelerates from standstill to 62.5 mph in just 7.6 seconds, takes the fifth-gear sprint from 50 to 70 mph in 7.3 seconds and achieves a maximum speed of 140 mph.

The diesel line-up is headed by the B 200 CDI with 140 hp, which has a remarkably high torque of 221lb/ft. The newly developed turbodiesel with common-rail direct injection accelerates the Compact Sports Tourer from nought to 62.5 mph in 9.6 seconds, and from 50 to 75 mph in 10.0 seconds (in fifth gear). The maximum speed of the B 200 CDI is 125 mph. Despite this superb performance the combined fuel consumption is 50.4 mpg. The CDI models in the B-Class meet the stringent EU 4 exhaust emission limits even without a particulate filter, though Mercedes-Benz offers a maintenance-free diesel particulate filter system on request.

The new B 200 TURBO and the CDI models B 180 CDI and B 200 CDI are equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as standard. The newly developed, continuously variable AUTOTRONIC automatic transmission is optionally available for all engine variants of the B-Class.

The newly developed electromechanical power steering system generates its servo effect with an electric motor, varying it as a function of road speed. This means the servo action is greater at low speeds than at high speeds, which means that the steering is much lighter than a conventional system when parking or manoeuvring slowly. The parabolic rear axle is likewise a new development. It makes a major contribution to the stable, sporty and precise handling, as well as the excellent ride comfort of the new B-Class.

The improved Electronic Stability Program now has a new, additional function: the STEER CONTROL steering assistance system. This operates in tandem with the electromechanical power steering system, providing the appropriate servo assistance in critical handling situations to help the driver stabilise the vehicle. When braking on road surfaces offering less grip on one side than the other the new, additional ESP function also helps with steering corrections and provides the driver with better road contact.

As a further special feature included as standard, the suspension of the Compact Sports Tourer has a new, selective damping system which adapts the shock absorber response to the current driving situation. A soft shock absorber configuration ensures a high level of ride comfort during normal driving, but switches to maximum damping force when taking bends at speed to give the B-Class maximum stability.

The unique sandwich concept is the centrepiece of the safety concept in the new B-Class. Intelligently arranging the engine and transmission in an inclined position partly in front of and partly beneath the passenger cell makes a greater effective front end length available for crash deformation. During a severe frontal impact the drive unit is not moved backwards towards the interior, but slides downwards along the likewise inclined pedal floor panel. Moreover, the sandwich concept has significant advantages in the event of a lateral collision because the occupants are seated approx. 200 mm higher – and therefore above the impact zone.

Adaptive, two-stage front airbags, belt tensioners in the front and on the outer rear seats, adaptive belt force limiters, active head restraints, ISOFIX child seat attachments and newly developed head/thorax sidebags round off the standard occupant protection system.

The design and feel of the interior features complement each other, creating an atmosphere in which the occupants are immediately at ease to enjoy the high level of long-distance comfort. Standard specification includes air conditioning, a four-spoke steering wheel with multifunction buttons, an armrest between the front seats, power windows and tinted glass, plus high-quality trim of brushed aluminium on the centre console, tunnel and door panels.

Mercedes-Benz has grouped further design features which accentuate the sporty, elegant appearance or sporty attributes of the new B-Class into optionally available chrome and sports packages.

High-tech systems from the Mercedes luxury class further enhance comfort and the driving experience in the new Compact Sports Tourer. Optionally available features include THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control, electrically adjustable front seats, leather upholstery and the COMAND APS or Audio 50 APS radio/navigation system.

A newly developed, panoramic louvred sunroof provides the occupants of the new B-Class with an open-air feeling as an optional extra, and in its closed position it also contributes to the light, friendly atmosphere in the interior of the Compact Sport Tourer. The roof aperture is around two thirds larger than that of a conventional sliding roof. A fixed panoramic roof with a grey-tinted, 0.6-square-metre glass panel is optionally available as an alternative to the sliding roof. On request the standard projection-beam headlamps behind their clear lenses can be upgraded with bi-xenon technology, the Active Light System and a cornering light function.

The new B-Class, the Compact Sports Tourer by Mercedes-Benz, will appear in the showrooms of Mercedes-Benz outlets and authorised dealerships around the UK in the winter of 2005.