How much precision, stability and handling panache a family hatchback-cum-MPV like the B-Class needs is debatable, but any owners that do decide to explore its dynamic potential beyond steady-state cruising and trundling suburban excursions won’t be unduly disappointed.

Even supported by the most basic suspension Mercedes offers – passive springs and dampers with a torsion beam rear axle – the eco-centric Michelin Green X tyres grip well, and considering the raised centre of gravity, there’s less body roll than you might expect. Moreover, any movements are for the most part elegantly controlled, although the independent rear suspension that comes with AMG Line trim would improve matters further.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Low-geared steering becomes awkward through tight hairpins, where armfuls of lock are required to get the car into and out off the corner

Admittedly, with 3.2 turns between the lockstops, this chassis has plenty of time to set itself for any direction changes, and although the set-up is accurate enough, there’s a frustrating lethargy to steering inputs. Frustrating enough to pour cold water on a bout of spirited driving? Inevitably yes, and such a numbing dearth of road feel is downright unpleasant if you enjoy driving – although even if it is a joyless experience, the basic B-Class will carry good pace along most roads, and it will do so with poise and security.

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But for a certain sort of driver – indeed, the one for whom this new B-Class is intended – the slow steering and general sense of mechanical detachment becomes one of the B180 Sport’s strongest attributes. Its low gearing makes this car among the least nervous motorway cruisers, even though this is an exceptionally light set-up. And it is because the set-up is so light that the B-Class simultaneously remains effortless to guide along tighter urban routes. Along with the raised driving position, there are few, if any, cars of comparable size that are easier to put up a claustrophobic NCP car park.

Overall, the B-Class plays well to its audience, and although the heavier steering of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer gives greater confidence, that might not be a trade your typical MPV owner will find worthwhile.

On the famous Hill Route at Millbrook Proving Ground, the B-Class ultimately conforms to type, although in the process it demonstrates more than enough capability for its given role in life. It takes committed cornering to expose the large degree of body roll you’d expect a car this tall to adopt more readily, and such composure allows the tyres to grip keenly through even the slower, tighter bends.

Eventually, it is vertical movements that become wayward, although the point at which this happens is far beyond what might be experienced on the road. Of greater note is the respectable balance this chassis summons, which allows it to be driven with surprising speed.

This engine lacks guts on the circuit’s several inclines, however, and this lack of firepower is felt that much more because of its strained – and slightly thrashy – tones at higher revs.

Comfort and isolation

Beyond matters of practicality and cost, the area in which this B-Class must succeed is in its ability to provide day-to-day comfort and isolation for what are most likely to be four-member families.

And it does. The B180 Sport could probably afford to trade a larger portion of its body control for a ride that's even more compliant, although by and large it excels in this regard, doing enough to get the better of any direct rivals. It is difficult to know just how much the relatively small, 17in wheels contribute to the car’s supple good manners, but the difference they make could well be significant.

On motorways, the B-Class summons the kind of pliancy that low-profile tyres have robbed from many modern MPVs and SUVs, and with cabin noise recorded at just 67dB at a steady 70mph cruise, the ambience is commensurately serene. Larger vertical movements are almost always conspicuously well cushioned, and this chassis rides rougher surfaces well – if with more of an acoustic drone than we’d like.

The B180 Sport’s low-speed ride also has much to recommend it, although it isn’t quite as dismissive of sharper inputs, such as those elicited by potholes, as it might be. An example fitted with adaptive dampers – and operating in their most relaxed setting – might do better, but this is only a small blemish on an otherwise convincing performance.

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