Meet The Mercedes-Benz T-Class: The Compact Family Hauler

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Despite the compact dimensions, the brand is promising plenty of practicality - and efficiency, too.

The recently revealed 400-horsepower Mercedes-AMG C43 may be grabbing all the headlines, but it's not the only new model from the three-pointed star. First teased as far back as last year, Mercedes-Benz has pulled the cover off the T-Class. Positioned as an affordable family hauler, the luxury brand says it's ideal for families and leisure enthusiasts.

A seven-seater will be released in due course but, for now, a five-seater will have to make do. Despite the compact exterior dimensions (it measures 177 inches long), there's plenty of interior space. Sliding doors on either side make ingress and egress easier for children, while a very low 22-inch loading sill makes it easy to utilize the cargo area.

An optional two-section rear door can be selected instead of the standard tailgate. This permits both sections of the door to be locked in a 90-degree position. Loading large, heavy items is made easier thanks to a nifty feature that allows the doors to be pivoted up to 180 degrees.

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Further practicality is afforded by the standard folding rear bench, which provides a near-flat loading area. It may not be as big as the Metris Passenger Van, but this compact newcomer seems promising. Despite the humble underpinnings - it's based on the Renault Kangoo - Mercedes has made sure the T-Class feels more premium. Inside, you'll find an attractive design with upmarket touches.

As standard, the T-Class receives the MBUX infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen, smartphone integration, air-conditioning, push-button start, and a multifunction steering wheel, among other things. The Style and Progressive lines receive ambient lighting. The dashboard doesn't appear to share the soft-touch plastics seen in other Benz models, but there are some plush finishes to make up for this.

The center armrest, for example, is trimmed in Artico leather (man-made hide) while the door cards gain Neotex, adopted from the electric EQ models. The dashboard is uplifted by gloss black trimmings. A more luxurious feeling can be added to the cabin depending on the selected equipment line.

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Both the Style and Progressive lines boast comprehensive standard features. Style models receive black Artico/microfiber seat upholstery. Chrome highlights bring a touch of class to the cabin and work nicely with the black trim elements. Progressive models are even posher, with Neotex trim found on the instrument panel; matte silver trim supplants the black trim found on the Style while the rear sliding doors gain electric windows.

As for the exterior, Mercedes has done its best to bestow the T-Class with upmarket styling elements. The front end borrows heavily from the B-Class (also not available in the States) but, despite that, it's not the aesthetic masterpiece one would expect, especially considering the starting price of just under 30,000 euros (approx. $31,800). Still, most people aren't too bothered about style on a practical-minded vehicle.

Style models receive 16-inch wheels and privacy glass, but the Progressive line builds on this with a chrome strip on the tailgate, unique wheels, and LED headlights.

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Those looking for massive power outputs will be disappointed. Mercedes has gone down the sensible route, launching the T-Class with a selection of sensible and efficient engines. One gas and one diesel engine (each available in two states of tune) will be made available. The T160d produces 95 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque, while the T180d manages to muster 116 hp and slightly more torque, at 199 lb-ft.

The gas models don't fare much better. The lower output T160 has a mere 102 hp/147 lb-ft while the T180 receives a more usable 131 hp/177 lb-ft. The latter is the quickest, taking a leisurely 11.6 seconds to hit 62 mph. Then again, the T-Class isn't about performance. On the WLTP cycle, Mercedes claims combined gas mileage as low as 35.6 mpg. All models are equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, although a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also available. Joining the brand's ever-growing EQ range at a later date is an all-electric EQT, which will certainly prove popular in Europe.

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Crash protection is a priority in a family vehicle such as this and, to that end, Mercedes-Benz has filled the T-Class to the brim with safety features. As standard, the compact van receives Active Brake Assist with a cross-traffic function, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, and a fatigue warning system. Active Parking Assist and a reverse camera are available as an optional extra, along with several other safety-focused technologies. Seven airbags (including a front-mounted center airbag) should keep everyone safe.

A nice-to-have is the automatic child seat recognition for the front seat. Additionally, a booster seat can be installed on the center seat of the second row. It's highly unlikely that the T-Class will make it stateside and that's a shame. The newcomer has all the makings of a truly great family car, with plenty of clever safety equipment, lots of interior space, and a small footprint. Mercedes notes the T-Class is currently still in development, so expect it to go on sale later this year.

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