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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each Mercedes B-Class comes fitted with the Collision Prevention Assist Plus System, which warns you if you’re approaching the car in front too quickly and pre-loads the brakes. ESP and full airbags are standard, but the incredibly safety conscious can choose optional Lane Keeping Assist system and blind spot monitoring as well. All B-Classes have seven airbags including a knee airbag for the driver.
Mercedes performs consistently well in our Driver Power customer satisfaction surveys and it finished xxx as the Best Manufacturer in our 2014 results. The B-Class finished 128th in our Top 150 list – it was the lowest-placed Mercedes but above cars like the Audi A3 Mk2 and the VW Golf MkV.
The Mercedes B-Class is generally more spacious than its predecessor and manages to offer more headroom despite being 50mm shorter. Generous seat and steering wheel adjustment makes the driver’s seat comfy and the raised driving position offers great visibility.
The 486-litre boot eclipses the Ford C-MAX’s 471-litres. Get the Easy Vario Package and the 60/40-split rear bench slides forwards and backwards by up to 140mm to create a 666-litre luggage capacity.
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.
Each Mercedes B-Class has fuel-saving stop-start technology as standard. The B180 petrol models return 47.9mpg 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.