All-new for 2006, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class is the company’s first North American foray into the compact sports touring market.

Available as the B200 or B200 Turbo, the B-Class features a compact footprint, “tall-wagon” styling and functionality, five-passenger seating and the cargo capability of a mini-minivan. It’s also the first Mercedes-Benz sold in North America with front-wheel-drive.

The B-Class features an innovative “sandwich” double floor, which places the running gear below the cabin and provides a tall seating position, both for better visibility and improved side-impact collision protection. The engine is tilted and designed to move under the passenger compartment in a frontal impact, providing the crashworthiness of a bigger vehicle; the hood is designed to meet European standards for pedestrian safety. The low centre of gravity also provides excellent handling.

The B200 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual or optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). Features include 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, cloth seats, tilt wheel, CD player with six speakers, eight airbags, four-way manually-adjustable front seats, air conditioning, electronic cruise control, power windows with express up/down, tire puncture warning system, heated mirrors, fog lamps and SmartKey system. Available options include ten-way adjustable front seats with power height and recline, active bi-Xenon headlamps, DVD-based navigation system, digital surround sound stereo system, heated front seats, manual tilt and telescopic steering column, cargo net, roof rack and sunroof.

The B200 Turbo adds a turbocharger to the 2.0-litre engine, and comes with a six-speed manual or optional CVT. Additional standard features include a leather-wrapped wheel, cargo net, and 16-inch alloy wheels; 17-inch alloy wheels are available.

Canadians love their hatchbacks, and the B200 should do well for itself: the seats fold, it features a two-stage cargo floor, the rear seat is relatively roomy for the car’s size, the interior is nicely finished, and the optional CVT acts and sounds much like a conventional transmission, but with improved fuel economy. Handling is crisp and precise, the ride is comfortable and smooth for the vehicle’s size, and while there are a lot of tall wagons with smaller price-tags, the three-pointed star carries a lot of weight with discerning buyers.

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