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New Mercedes B-Class 2023 review

The premium Mercedes B-Class MPV benefits from updates that move it further upmarket

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The upgrade in technology means that the B-Class is the equal of the A-Class from behind the wheel, but it offers a more practical overall package. However, it still lacks the kerbside appeal of its premium-hatch cousin, let alone Merc’s own GLA and GLB SUVs, which are just as versatile. So the B-Class is likely to remain a niche choice until production finally comes to an end.

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The clock is ticking on the Mercedes B-Class, with the company confirming that its premium five-seat MPV won’t be replaced once production of the current generation ends. However, that hasn’t prevented Mercedes from boosting the car’s appeal with this mid-life update.

Much like the updated A-Class, the B-Class benefits from a subtle exterior facelift that now includes adaptive LED headlights on all versions, but the big changes are reserved for the interior.

Recycled materials have been incorporated into the cabin’s construction, but you’d be hard pressed to tell where they’ve been used, because the B-Class remains a premium product that features plenty of soft-touch materials and Merc’s upmarket metal switchgear. There are hard plastics for the lower door trims, but overall this is a pleasant place to spend time.

In fact, if you’ve spent time at the wheel of an A-Class, then the B-Class will be very familiar, because the layout is all but identical. The only real clue that you’re driving the MPV is the taller roofline and bigger glass area. The round of updates mean that the B-Class also benefits from the latest twin 10.25-inch displays, which offer crystal-clear, high-resolution graphics and plenty of functionality.

While most of these are reserved for the central touchscreen, the B-Class retains its bank of air-con controls below the trio of central air vents. There is a climate screen within the display itself, but it’s nice to have a set of shortcut switches that let you make adjustments on the fly quickly and easily. These rocker switches and buttons have the upmarket feel that we’ve become familiar with from Mercedes’s products, too.

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One area where the B-Class remains largely unchanged is in its practicality. The five-seat cabin is spacious, and despite the overly dark cabin materials – including a black roof lining – it still feels roomy inside. However, if you choose the petrol model, there’s less boot space than in the diesel version. That’s because the petrol engine now comes with mild-hybrid assistance, and the system’s location in the boot cuts 25 litres from its carrying capacity. With 420 litres on offer, overall space isn’t huge, but there’s a level load lip, the back seats fold almost flat and a powered tailgate comes as standard on all models.

There aren’t as many engine choices in the B-Class as there are in the A-Class, with only two options available. A 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is used in the B 220 d, while the model driven here, the B 200 petrol, features a 1.3-litre turbocharged unit making 161bhp and 270Nm of torque. There’s an extra 13bhp on offer courtesy of that mild-hybrid system, and in operation this electrical assistance fills in the power band when accelerating, so there’s a pretty consistent response even from low revs.

The seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox offers smooth shifts – helped, of course, by the hybrid tech – while there’s plenty of power on tap from the petrol engine. It can get a little raucous at higher revs, but that’s only likely to be an issue when having to accelerate to motorway speeds with a full complement of passengers on board.

Of more concern is the B-Class’s unsettled ride. While AMG Line trim introduces a sportier look to this MPV, it also adds a stiffer suspension set-up, which seems to be at odds with this car’s practical leanings. Softer settings would be rather more welcome in a car that otherwise prioritises comfort over anything else.

With the latest safety kit on board, the B-Class offers excellent security. All cars feature two sets of Isofix child-seat mounts in the back, while the on-board systems can recognise if a seat has been fitted, so as to optimise the safety systems. There are seven airbags, including a driver’s knee bag, although only the higher-spec AMG Line Premium and Premium Plus models feature blind-spot detection.

As with the A-Class, the B-Class is offered in Sport and AMG Line trims, but in this instance we think that the lower-spec Sport model is likely to be a better option. Yes, you miss out on some luxuries such as the part-microfibre/part man-made leather sports seats and three-way split-folding rear bench, but the smaller 17-inch wheels will boost ride comfort.

There’s also a saving of £2,300 on the list price, although stronger residuals for the AMG Line models will likely close the gap significantly when buying on finance.

Model:Mercedes B 200 AMG Line Executive
Price:£37,425
Engine:1.3-litre 4cyl mild-hybrid
Power/torque:161bhp/270Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed twin-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:8.4 seconds
Top speed:139mph
Economy:46.3mpg
CO2:140g/km
On sale:Now
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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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