Company Car Today - Issue 54 - 26th June 2019

lighting. Apple CarPlay and wireless phone charging are in a £395 pack, and for a further £495 the excellent (but probably not worth the money) augmented-reality navigation tech and traffic sign recognition can be added. For £1495 there’s also the driving assist package, which brings a big chunk of safety kit, but it’s a lot of money given that few people pay for optional safety extras. Mercedes claims that the new B-Class has been designed to be more chic and sporty, and it continues in the vein of the new A-Class’s aggressive front styling with the narrow headlamps and chrome elements to the grille on the AMG Line trim. That said, this stance doesn’t quite follow round to the less radically changed side and rear views. On the inside, the quality and design both impress, especially with the red stitching of the sports seats on the higher trim level, which carries through to the two slightly sculpted rear seats that are comfortable for adults, but not quite as useful for fitting bulky child seats. Rear headroom is good, as might be expected given the high roofline, and legroom is adequate, considering that this is an expanded A-Class hatchback. Indeed, the B-Class is the same length as its A-Class sister car, but is 122mm taller and 28mm wider, while there is an extra 85 litres of boot space at 445 litres. The downside is that this is still shy of the space offered by the car’s major rivals. The infotainment system is worked via either touchscreen or touchpad, with neither being completely flawless in response. Much of the system, along with cruise control, audio and phone use, can be operated by the hefty number of buttons and touchpads on the steering wheel itself – at very least taking the car close to the limit of what can be safely operated on the move. And the fact that Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are merely optional is another example of the premium brands trying to charge for something their volume rivals are fitting as standard on cars costing half the B-Class’ price tag. Mercedes is certainly not alone in this regard, but it is disappointing to see the lack of connectivity offered as standard. At least the clever ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant system is fitted to all cars, although certain elements are free for only the first three years. Mercedes has succeeded in instilling a surprisingly sporty character to the B-Class’s driving experience, providing a car that is sharp and pretty entertaining to drive, while not being too harsh or uncompromising. Ride and refinement are good, with the only let- downs being that the B200 engine of our test car is a touch on the noisy side above 2500 revs, and the throttle can be quite sensitive at low speed. Wind noise is quiet at speed ROAD TEST COMPANY CAR TODAY.CO.UK 15 ASSISTANT The infotainment set-up can be controlled simply by saying ‘Hey Mercedes’, by using the touchscreen or centrally sited touchpad COMPLEX The steering wheel houses a multitude of buttons, roller switches and touchpads. It’s verging on being too much