Mercedes B-Class review
The Mercedes B-Class is a premium compact MPV that majors in quality and comfort as well as space
Until recently, if you wanted a premium MPV, your options were fairly limited – and as a result the Mercedes B-Class had the market wrapped up. However, with the arrival of BMW's 2 Series Active Tourer, things have become altogether more challenging for the compact Merc people carrier.
Since the current generation B-Class appeared in 2011, the German giant has shifted 350,000 models worldwide. But to keep up with the evolving market, Merc injected some new life into it's upmarket MPV in late 2014 – with a major update concerning fresh looks, new technology and new engines.
Under the bonnet Mercedes has updated the powertrains meaning there is the choice of two petrols – a 1.5-litre B180 and a 2.0-litre B200 – and four diesels. The most efficient of which is the B180 ECO with a 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel that delivers 78.5mpg and emits 94g/km of CO2.
Also as part of the mid-life refresh, the B-Class now comes in three trims as apposed to the two previously offered. SE and Sport are now joined by the racy-looking AMG Line version. All models are well-equipped and the higher up the range you go, the more dynamic the B-Class looks.
Mercedes could even add a hotter B 45 AMG model to the range too powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – but these rumours haven’t been confirmed by the company.
Our choice: B200 CDI SE
Engines, performance and drive
The B-Class’ lower centre of gravity and supple four-link suspension set-up creates a comfier, more dynamic ride than you’ll find on most MPVs.
The suspension stiffens on the Mercedes B-Class AMG Line model and, although there’s plenty of grip, the bigger wheels and low springs make driving over rough surfaces slightly more uncomfortable compared with SE and Sport versions which come with ‘Comfort Suspension’ as standard.
AMG Line trim models are also equipped with a Direct Steer set-up, which improves responsiveness and feedback. But, ultimately, it’s at odds with the purpose of the car. It is an MPV after all. Still, there are few complaints about the safe and predictable handling. The electronically assisted steering is a little light, but it’s direct and progressive, while body movement is well controlled.
A range of petrols and diesels are available. The smooth 1.5-litre petrol comes in 120bhp form but is sluggish at low revs. Above that sits the B200 petrol engine, which offers fully variable torque distribution and optimum traction on all road surfaces.
The B180 CDI or B200 CDI diesel engines are our picks. Available with outputs of 107bhp or 134bhp respectively, these offer more torque and better throttle response than their petrol counterparts. Six-speed manuals come standard but the optional seven-speed automatics are seamless and a joy to drive. The range-topping B220 CDI is smooth and quick bit you pay for the privilege.
The Mercedes B-Class is also available in ECO form with various efficiency-boosting tweaks. The B180 CDI ECO model comes with an aerodynamic grille, underbody paneling, lower suspension and longer ratios for the six-speed manual ‘box.
There’s also a four-wheel drive model too. Badged B220 CDI 4MATIC it uses the same 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine as the B220 CDI but has the added grip of all-wheel-drive.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Each Mercedes B-Class has fuel-saving stop-start technology as standard. The B180 petrol models return 50.4mpg and emit 129g/km of CO2.
Predictably, the diesels are the most efficient. The B220 CDI emits from 109g/km but more efficient is the B200 CDI that does 64.2mpg and emits from 104g/km of CO2. The B180 CDI ECO SE is the most economical diesel, emitting an impressive 94g/km and doing 74.3mpg.
As with all premium models, the Mercedes B-Class has a higher list price than its rivals but this is offset somewhat by strong residuals of 48.4 per cent. Expect parts and servicing to cost above average as well.
Interior, design and technology
It’s obvious that the new Mercedes B-Class is more attractive on the eye than the first-generation model. A lower, wider stance grants it more presence on the road and a huge three-pointed star compliments the domineering two-bar grille.
Entry-level SE models get 16-inch alloys, while Sport versions get 17-inch alloys, extra chrome detailing and twin exhaust pipes. The new AMG Line tops the range and adds a AMG body styling for the front and rear bumpers, 18-inch wheels and sits lower due to sportier suspension.
Inside, Mercedes SLS-style metal air vents decorate the sweeping dashboard and an eight-inch (corner-to-corner) colour display mounted above the centre console opens access to various multimedia functions. Air-con, a reversing camera, a three-spoke leather steering wheel and Collision Prevention Assist Plus are fitted on entry-level SE models. Sport adds single-colour ambient lighting and rain sensing windscreen wipers. Meanwhile AMG Line cars add Artico/Dinamic upholstery (man made leather and Alcantara) with contrast stitching and a more sporty-styled steering wheel.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The main criticism upon its 2012 arrival was that the B-Class lacked the practicality and space of the class leaders. Given that its facelift is only mild, it’s no surprise that the Merc still trails its rivals. On the plus side, a sliding and reclining 60:40 split/fold rear bench is now standard, and with the seats pushed back the car matches the VW Golf SV for legroom.
The trade-off for this roominess is a relatively cramped 488-litre load space. Still, there’s a split-level boot floor that can be raised to create a totally flat luggage area with the seats folded flat, plus it lifts to reveal a handy collapsible plastic crate for holding shopping in place. With the rear seats folded, the Mercedes B-Class’s 1545-litre load bay is beaten by the Ford C-MAX’s 1,723-litre space. The Easy Vario Package also comes with a centre rear armrest, ski hatch and false boot floor.
Elsewhere in the cabin you’ll find a large, two-tier, air-conditioned glovebox, vast door bins and several cup-holders. Better still, DCT automatic models get a steering column-mounted shifter, which frees up space on the transmission tunnel for some lidded cubbies.
However, it’s hard to escape the fact that there are few other versatile touches.
Reliability and Safety
Mercedes has an enviable reputation for building solid and dependable cars, and this is backed up by the brand’s excellent ninth-place finish in our 2014 Driver Power satisfaction survey. The facelifted B-Class is based heavily on its predecessor, so most of the mechanical components will be tried and tested, while the new infotainment system has already been seen on the C-Class saloon.
The B-Class is packed with safety kit, too. All versions get seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking and a driver-fatigue monitor, while the £1,495 Driving Assistant pack adds blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. For £1,555, the Premium upgrade includes ultra-bright LED headlamps and a self-parking system.
As you’d expect, the B-Class is a very safe car. It scored a full five-star Euro NCAP rating back in 2011, with 97 per cent for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent for safety assist.