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.