2013 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Hatchback - FROM $
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz B-Class should inject some luxury and refinement in the compact/hatchback class. We'll have to wait to see if it's worth the premium.
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz B-Class is an all-new model for the U.S. market.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz B-Class is one way Mercedes will gradually acclimatize Americans to the idea of a compact Benz. Those last two words probably sound jarring and mutually exclusive to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the brand. But make no mistake: Small Benzes are coming to the U.S.
Of course, compact Mercedes cars have been available in the rest of the world for years. You can even buy a current B-Class in Canada and Mexico. But the model that comes to the U.S. near the end of 2012 will be built of an entirely new platform, the same one that will underpin other Mercedes small cars like the CLC and A-Class. As such, it grows slightly compared to its predecessor, and will offer greater interior room and higher-quality fit and finish.
This five-passenger compact hatchback features a low floor that eases entry and exit, and improves slightly on its already generous headroom. An optional panoramic glass roof should actually increase that further. But the real news is in back, where a sliding rear seat allows 38 inches of legroom, beating even the E-Class's accommodations. Luggage space is also a not-insignificant 23.5 cubic feet.
In Europe, the B-Class will offer a choice of turbocharged and direct-injected 1.6-four-cylinder engines making 120 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque, or 154 hp and 184 lb-ft in the upgrade. American buyers may only see the more powerful version, as the base engine -- less powerful than that in the new Chevrolet Sonic -- could be a tough sell for Mercedes.
There's also a possible 1.8-liter diesel, also turbocharged and direct-injected, that makes 107 hp and 184 lb-ft, or a more robust 134 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. Whichever engines arrive, all will join with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The new platform on which the front-wheel-drive B-Class is based can accommodate all-wheel drive, and we'd expect to see that standard on a high-performance AMG variant should Mercedes decide to offer one.
Inferior cabin materials form a common complaint with the current B-Class, and early prototype reports suggest that Mercedes has addressed those grumblings. Expect a higher level of faux-leather upholstery, tasteful accents and improved seating. And, unusual for the class, Mercedes will load up the B-Class with safety and convenience features including collision avoidance, adaptive brake assist and drowsy driver alert.
Mercedes may need time to convince Americans that its small cars are worth the price premium compared to other compact hatchbacks like the Mazda 3, Toyota Prius V or VW Golf. And while Mercedes-Benz officials still won't confirm that the company will sell the B-Class for the U.S. market, we're convinced it will arrive at dealers by the end of the year. Check back for a full review of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz B-Class, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.