Mercedes recently revealed official photos of its upcoming B-class hatchback ahead of its debut at next month's Frankfurt Motor Show. Featuring updated styling inside and out, new engines and a host of new features, the updated B-class will likely become Mercedes' least-expensive model sold in the United States.

While the front-wheel drive B-class is smaller than any Mercedes currently offered stateside, its official images clearly reveal a visual connection to the rest of the automaker's models. The hatchback features Mercedes' signature grille, as well as contour lines on either side, which recall current Mercedes models like the E-class and CLS.

On the inside, the B-class also features several signature Mercedes touches from the automaker's COMAND infotainment system to its straightforward, luxurious interior with power seating controls on either front door panel. B-class models equipped with an automatic transmission also include the automaker's unique column-mounted shift lever.

Under the hood, European versions of the B-class will be offered with a host of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. Should the hatchback come stateside, it's likely Mercedes will only offer a direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder producing 156 horsepower. The automaker will also only offer an automatic transmission in the US, though six-speed manual variants will be available in Europe.

Already on sale in Canada, the B-class is one of two small, front-wheel drive hatchbacks offered by Mercedes. While the smaller Mercedes A-class is unlikely to make its way to North America, many industry observers expect the 2012 B-class to finally hit US shores as Mercedes pursues younger buyers. Previous plans to bring the B-class stateside were scrapped due to a poor exchange rate between the US dollar and the Euro.

Although the automaker has not yet confirmed rumors about the B-class's US introduction, we expect to know more when the hatchback arrives at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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