Pity the poor automotive designer. When every marque performs well, starts first time and encourages us to be aspirational, there’s little room left for genuine unique selling points. Of course, a few icons stand out, like the new Mini, the Audi TT, or the celebrity footballer’s run-about of choice, the Bentley Continental.
The popular small MPV category – created by the Renault Scenic – suffers severely from me-tooism in design terms, with its near-vertical boots and short bonnets. Now Mercedes has added to this family with its latest offering, the B-Class. This one aims to appeal to activity-hungry young things. While a hatchback, it has the capacity of a family estate, so that the ‘boys’ can comfortably get their ‘toys’ in, whether skis or surfboards. Of course, the less glamorous driver might see the B-Class as a good vehicle for loading up at Ikea. Or as Karlheinz Bauer, director of design at Mercedes-Benz, would have it: ‘The B-Class successfully combines both the family and fun aspects in life.’
As far as aesthetics go, it has some nice cheekbone-style indentations down the sides – what Bauer refers to as part of its ‘feline’ character. The dashboard, meanwhile, smacks of early Bang & Olufsen: all black with flat square buttons and stainless steel trim. Fine for the target market, but probably not so hot for the more overtly design-aware.