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by Jez Spinks

The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class will have sharper value when it goes on sale in April as the German car maker begins an aggressive marketing strategy for its new wave of small cars.

Mercedes has revealed the second-generation B-Class will start from $38,950, for the B180 model that currently accounts for more than half of B-Class sales in Australia.

The most affordable Mercedes-Benz increases slightly in price from the outgoing B180’s $37,875, though that model is equipped with a manual transmission while a seven-speed dual-clutch auto is standard across the new B-Class range.

The current B180 auto costs $40,775.

Mercedes has yet to confirm pricing for the other two models in the new B-Class range, the B200 petrol and B200 CDI diesel, though insiders have suggested to CarAdvice that the models will improve their value by about $5000 compared to the current B200 and B180 CDI that start from $47,090 and $49, 090 respectively.

Mercedes-Benz Australia is believed to be negotiating hard with company headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, to offer identical pricing for the petrol and diesel B200s.

The diesel variants cost more to build but Mercedes Australia wants to sell more diesel-powered B-Classes locally, which accounted last year for just 13 per cent of total sales.

Mercedes says improved fuel efficiency and enhanced safety features are two key points for the new B-Class.

The 1.6-litre direct fuel injection four-cylinder turbo powering the petrol models – 90kW for the B180 and 115kW for the B200 – use an average 6.1 litres of fuel per 100km according to official figures.

That represents efficiency improvements of 20 per cent for the B180 and 24 per cent for the B200.

The B200 CDI’s 100kW 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine sips 4.7L/100km for a 16 per cent improvement over the previous model.

All three engines feature engine stop-start technology.

Standard features for the new B-Class range include electric parking brake, active parking assist, attention assist, Bluetooth audio streaming, 6-CD audio system, 14.7-inch iPad-style colour dash display and safety technology including ‘Pre-safe’ and collision prevention assist that is designed to help prevent common rear-end accidents.

Options will include bi-xenon headlights with daytime running lights, blind spot warning, and lane keeping assist.

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz B-Class sits on the car maker’s crucial new ‘MFA’ modular platform that cost a fortune to develop but will underpin a whole range of compact front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models aimed at younger buyers.

They include the next-generation A-Class that will be unveiled in production form in 2012 but won’t reach local showrooms until early 2013 – when it is expected to start even lower than the new B180.

A pint-sized SUV likely to be called either MLK, BLK or GLK will also launch within the next two years, with Mercedes’ army of new compact models also expected to feature a sedan and sports car.