A new model of vehicle is a dangerous animal; a gamble, if you will. Will it become the new model of luxury and reliability that we judge all others by? Will it turn into a flash-in-the-pan bust that hangs around for a few years and then goes the way of the dinosaur? That’s the excitement of buying a brand new model, you don’t know if you’re going to be getting in on the ground floor of a new franchise, or if you’re just a guinea pig who gets to say “Yeah, I owned one of those,” with a scowl for the rest of your life? Or, is it just another middle-of-the-road model that will blend in with the rest of the pack? For a brief preview into what could be one of any of the above choices, let’s take a look at a new model preview of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

Powertrain

The B-Class will be one of the many new subcompacts to hit the market in 2012, so don’t expect a power plant. It has been available in Europe for a few years now, and judging by predictions, it will have a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine available in both gas and diesel versions. Horsepower is estimated at 200 for the gas engine and 175 for the diesel; torque will be in the neighborhood of 206 lb-ft. for the gas and 222 lb-ft. for the diesel. A six-speed manual transmission will be standard, with the option of a six-speed automatic.

“Some European B-Class models already offer an optional ‘mild hybrid’ stop/start system, and this will undoubtedly continue on the 2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class, perhaps as standard for the U.S. Like similar setups on “strong hybrid” gasoline/electric vehicles, this one uses a battery-driven electric motor, sandwiched between the engine and transmission, acting as a starter/generator. Electronic controls automatically shut off the engine at stoplights to conserve gas and eliminate idling emissions, then provide near-instant restarts on releasing the brake.” (Consumer Guide)

Features

Perhaps the most notable feature for the B-Class will be the inclusion of Mercedes’ Active Parking Assist. This is the feature that uses sensors on the side of the vehicle to search for vacant parallel parking spots (only travelling up to a max of 21 mph) and, once selected, the driver stops, puts the vehicle in Reverse, and pushes a button on the steering wheel. The system will then proceed to parallel park the vehicle. Mercedes claims the system is accurate enough that there needs to be only 51.2 inches of clearance for it to get in.

Interior

The interior combines Mercedes pension for practicality with a nice array of curves and a two-tone color scheme. The wood-grain console around the heater controls provides a nice luxury feel without being overly extravagant or flashy. Despite its small size, the interior does seem to be rather roomy for this vehicle. It is nearly as tall as it is wide, so headroom is ample for the front, but does slope downward in the rear, making the back seat less suitable for taller passengers. The hatchback styling adds a modicum of versatility and cargo space as well.

What the Experts Say

According to all the sources, the B-Class will only succeed in America if it offers an alternative fuel option, like plug-in or hybrid. Mercedes may answer with an “F-Cell” option, which takes a bit more explaining than we have space for. Suffice to say this one will have a Mercedes look, Mercedes feel, and Mercedes price in a much smaller package.

Price and Buying Advice

The B-Class is estimated to start off around $30,000 and climb from there. That’s pretty steep for a subcompact car, even if it is a Beamer. This one may be worth waiting a couple years for, to see if its reliability and popularity catch on like they did in Europe.

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