Life is always easier when you get a little help from your friends. In the case of our Mercedes B-Class, the multiple electronic driver aids are my best buddies whenever I’m behind the wheel.
While I’m pretty confident when driving on the road or pulling into a parking space, it’s reassuring to know that there’s a pair of electronic eyes keeping an unblinking watch over proceedings at all times.
For instance, while parking sensors have become commonplace these days, I’m still amazed at their ability to take the strain out of slotting into a space. I just wish that Mercedes hadn’t been so conservative with the set-up, as the sensors beep like crazy even with lots of space to spare. I know this because the B-Class is also fitted with the £305 optional reversing camera, which lets me manoeuvre within millimetres of walls.
The Mercedes' many safety systems do more than just help me park, though. Once I hit the motorway, the blind-spot monitoring set-up really impresses. I always make sure to take a quick look over my shoulder before changing lanes, but in poor weather conditions or heavy traffic, this very neat option is worth every penny. If the kit senses a car in your blind spot, a small illuminated triangle hidden in the door mirror flashes red and an alarm tone beeps loudly.
The blind-spot monitor is bundled as part of a £785 package with lane-keeping assistance, which sends a warning vibration up through the steering wheel if you start to drift out of your lane without indicating. Plus, as with the rest of the Mercedes range, the B-Class has an Attention Assist system. This detects driver tiredness by monitoring your steering inputs. It’ll flash ‘drowsy driving detected – please take a break’ on the dash if it thinks you’re sleepy. I accidently triggered it once while gazing at Wembley stadium from the M1.
I was wide awake and there was virtually no traffic about, but it certainly made me think about staying focused on the road.
The B200 also features Collision Prevention Assist. This monitors the traffic ahead of you using radar behind the car’s front grille, and sets off a warning alarm if it thinks you’re getting too close. I found this irritating at first, but I soon learned to leave a larger – and therefore safer – gap to the car in front.
These systems don’t come cheap, though. If you ordered all the driver-assistance extras on our car, you’d be presented with a bill for £1,095. Still, I’d say that’s worth it for the peace of mind all this clever kit brings.
Sadly, the Mercedes’ time with Auto Express is now up. I’ve really enjoyed my six months with a car that’s proven a versatile, comfortable and desirable family runaround. The cabin is well laid out and the sliding seats add extra practicality. It’s just a shame the B-Class isn’t more efficient; true, it spends most of its time crawling through London’s gridlocked streets, but I’d expect better than 29.2mpg.
Another gripe is the unusual column-mounted gearchange, which I never got to grips with, often mistaking it for the wiper stalk. Still, this minor niggle was the most serious issue I encountered in my time with the B-Class, so I’m really going to miss this car.
“The B-Class’ sliding rear seat is a practical addition, but it should really be a standard feature – not a £515 optional extra.”
Dean Gibson, Deputy road test editor
“I went to a few Mercedes dealers with the intention of buying a new B-Class, but they weren’t at all helpful. So I’ve now got a Volkswagen Tiguan.”
Chris, via www.autoexpress.co.uk