Wednesday 12th December 2018
Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page

 



First drive: Mercedes-Benz B-Class. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz B-Class
Now that we all want an SUV, where does the Mercedes B-Class find its customers?

 



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Mercedes-Benz reviews

First drive: Mercedes-Benz B-Class

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Sharing a chassis and a (gorgeous) interior with the A-Class, the new B-Class's extra space and practicality should make it a no-brainer buy, right? Well, maybe not. Is there still room for a compact MPV in a market that's gone SUV-crazy?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz B 200 d AMG-Line
Pricing: B-Class starts at circa 25,000
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-seat, five-door MPV
CO2 emissions: 119g/km (VED Band 111-130: 165 in year one)
Combined economy: 52.2mpg
Top speed: 135mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Power: 150hp at 3,400-4,400rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,400-3,200rpm
Boot space: 445-1,530 litres

What's this?

It's the third generation of Mercedes B-Class and, as before, it shares a chassis with the recently-launched A-Class. The difference here is that this is now the NGCC (New Generation Compact Class) chassis, a platform from which Mercedes is going to spin off a whole, huge, family of models. That means two things - one; the B-Class has a better chance of having a dynamically engaging chassis than before, and two; it's also going to have a lot more internal rivalry from across the showroom floor.

We'll get back to that in a minute, but for a start Mercedes seems to have succeeded in its stated intention to put 'a little more sports into our Sports Tourer.' As with any MPV, it's difficult to escape the inevitable egg-shape that comes with having a high roof and a short bonnet, but the B-Class manages to avoid the worst of it, and actually looks smart. That's helped no end by the AMG-Line styling pack.

Inside is the B-Class's trump card - its cabin. Basically, it's the same as that found in the new A-Class, but wearing lift shoes, and it hasn't suffered in the translation. The long, slim, widescreen setup for both the instruments and infotainment (which Mercedes calls its 'MBUX' system) still looks dramatic, and it's far better and more interesting to use than most rival digital dashboards. You can customise the displays to a much greater extent and there are some interesting little additions this time around.

The first of those is the 'Hey Mercedes' voice-controlled digital assistant. Just like Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa, all you have to do is say 'Hey Mercedes' and a disembodied voice starts talking to you from within the dash, asking how 'she' can help you. As with all such systems, the results can be a bit hit-and-miss, depending on what you're asking 'her' to do, but 'she's' certainly helpful when it comes to inputting satnav destinations, and can even open the sunroof if you ask 'her' to. 'She' even has a sense of humour. Just for a giggle at one point, we asked 'Hey Mercedes, who's your daddy?' The bone-dry response came back as "Karl Benz..."

Rather more useful is the new augmented reality satnav display, which, when you're approaching a difficult junction, can call up a live feed from the front-facing parking camera, and overlay big blue arrows pointing you at exactly the right turn to take. It's really helpful on unfamiliar roads, although it does mean looking down at the display for a second to get the information.

The rest of the B-Class's cabin is broadly successful. There's plenty of space, and far more rear head- and legroom than you'll find in the A-Class. The seats are good, too. At first glance, the boot doesn't seem all that big, and it's on-paper 445 litres doesn't seem all that brilliant. But it is square and flat-floored and starting later next year there will be the option of a sliding rear seat, which can move forwards by up to 14cm, and that boosts boot volume to more than 700 litres.

The problems start to come when you look at the broader market. Mercedes said that, because of customer feedback, it wanted to keep the B-Class small and compact, so there's no extended seven-seat option. Equally, that NGCC chassis is going to spin off some very interesting new variants, which might potentially tempt B-Class buyers away, including a second generation of the CLA Shooting Brake sports estate, and a new GLB small SUV, which will ape the style of the iconic G-Wagen. Who does that leave left to buy the B-Class? Mercedes tacitly admits that it's, essentially, aimed at older buyers who want the convenience of extra space and higher seats, but aren't so pushed about fashion.

How does it drive?

The B-Class gets two important new items. It's the first time that Merc's excellent 2.0-litre diesel engine has been used in a front-wheel-drive car (we've already driven it in the rear-drive C-Class and E-Class) and, for the higher power engines, it now comes with a new eight-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox. You can, of course, have a manual B-Class, but we'd suggest that it's better to have the auto. Not only does the gearbox do an excellent job of smoothly shifting gears, and generally at just the right time, but the fact that the shifter moves to the steering column means that you get more storage space in the centre console.

The 200 d 2.0-litre diesel comes with 150hp and 320Nm of torque. Now, that's a tiny bit disappointing. The power output is fine, but there are 1.6-litre and even 1.5-litre rivals that can give you 320Nm of torque, so the B-Class never feels quite as brisk as you'd hope a 2.0-litre car would do. That said, it's fine - performance is smooth and refined (much more so than the more powerful 220 d version we also tried) and economy should be very good indeed.

You can use the Dynamic Select mode to fiddle with the way the B-Class drives, choosing from Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport + modes, but to be honest there's not much point. While it handles very tidily, and even feels relatively enthusiastic at first, the fact is that the B-Class simply rolls and understeers when you start asking serious questions of the chassis. Now, it's worth saying that the roll is controlled, and never lurching, and that the understeer is relatively gentle, but as you'd expect from the sensible egg-shaped body, there's not much in the way of driver reward here.

There is quite a lot in the way of driver, and passenger, comfort though. With the caveat that the roads of the island of Mallorca (to which Mercedes brought us to test the B-Class) are super-ultra-ironed-smooth, the B-Class seems to ride with exceptional softness. Three suspension versions will be offered - Comfort, Sport (which Mercedes calls 'lowered comfort suspension' and which is 15mm lower than standard) and Adaptive (which uses switchable dampers), but you're probably best off just sticking with comfort and revelling in the lack of back pain. It's far, far more comfortable than the last A-Class we drove, and in that sense could be enough to make the B-Class a more compelling purchase than its (slightly) smaller brother.

Safety is, as ever with Mercedes, comprehensive. Autonomous braking and lane departure warning are standard, but if you're prepared to pay extra, you can have all manner of safety gizmos. There's steering that actively helps you to swerve out of the way of danger and we really like the blind spot warning system, which continues to work when you've parked up, and which can flash and sound a warning if you're about to open your door into the face of an oncoming cyclist or car. There's also an active pre-collision system that sounds alarms if it thinks you're about to hit something, and yanks the seatbelts in tight.

Verdict

The new Mercedes B-Class surprised us a little. We had gone out expecting it to be a dreary, dull, family MPV and while it kinda is that, a bit, it's also rather better looking and better to drive than we had initially expected. The lack of a seven-seat version may hurt sales, as may the incoming rivalry from the Mercedes GLB compact SUV, but for now the B-Class can be filed under 'exceeded our expectations.'

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 27 Nov 2018









  www.mercedes-benz.co.uk    - Mercedes-Benz road tests
- Mercedes-Benz videos
- Mercedes-Benz news
- B-Class images

2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2019 Mercedes-Benz B 200 d. Image by Mercedes-Benz.








 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2018 ©