Garry Fabian reviews the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
Mercedes’ quest to fill every niche possible continues.
Do you like the A-Class but wish it were a bit bigger? Then here’s the car for you!
Using A-Class underpinnings but a larger, more upstanding body, Mercedes has yielded S-Class rear legroom in a car shorter than a Ford Focus.
Equipment levels are decent too – only base and SE trims here, unlike the A-Class’ array.
When you get behind the wheel and drive it, you soon discover it to be a very able car.
It takes all that’s good about the A-Class – high seats and sporty driving position, good ergonomics, nimble handling and much-improved stability – and adds a longer wheelbase to improve the ride.
The engines are the same, so avoid the petrol version’ and go for the far-better diesels; B-Class sees the introduction of the 200 Turbo, a unit that’s pleasing but a bit gruff, and just offers that split second hesitation when you first start off… Revving it is not a pleasant experience.
A B 180 CDI should be your bare minimum.
It’s built around an all-new front-wheel drive platform that is also used on the new A-Class and three other brand new models.
The interior layout is versatile and spacious, as well as maintaining Mercedes’ reputation for high-quality.
There’s a choice of a diesel and two petrol engines – all featuring start-stop and impressive fuel economy – plus a new seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox which is excellent and available across the range.
A new electric power steering system means the wheel is extremely light to turn and easy to use in town, but lacks a little feel on faster country roads.
Rear passengers are spoilt for space – there’s more legroom than in a Mercedes S-Class.
All the seats are comfortable, while the satellite navigation and other main functions are easily controlled through a rotating dial and the Apple- iPad-style central screen.
Wind and road noise is well suppressed when you’re cruising on the motorway and the suspension soaks up small bumps and larger undulations well.
The Sport model, which comes with 18-inch wheels (SE models get 16-inch wheels as standard) and lowered suspension, tends to jiggle around on uneven surfaces.
Mercedes has always had an excellent reputation for reliability and although the B-Class is too new for there to be any reported problems, any large-scale mechanical failures are unlikely.
Although the petrol and diesel engines, and the automatic gearbox are brand new, they are derived from existing, proven technology.
For example the 1.8-litre diesel engine is a modified version of the 2.1-litre diesel engine that’s already used in the C-Class and E-Class.
The interior is extremely versatile.
The rear bench, which is split into two sections, slides forwards and backwards by 140mm, increasing the boot space from 486-litres to 666-litres.
The rear seats fold forwards and a variable-height boot can be lifted up to create a flat loading area.
The front passenger seat also folds forwards, freeing up even more space for bulky items.
Despite the new B-Class being almost 50mm lower than its predecessor, passenger headroom has been increased by mounting the seats lower.
But of course with a Tri-star badge on the front, the standard equipment list is generous.
All models get air conditioning and an automatic parking function as standard, while satellite navigation, a panoramic sunroof and leather seats are among the optional extras.
Prices have risen slightly compared to the last-generation model, but the value of the extra features more than cancels that out.
NUTS & BOLTS
Engine: 1.8lt four-cylinder, producing 100 kW and 300 Nm.
Transmission: seven-speed auto
Economy 4.7 lt/100km