From £33,3759

This is the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, the manufacturer’s pure electric version of the newly facelifted B-Class.

Rather than follow the lead of the BMW i3 and build an electric car around an all-new architecture, this EV is based on the standard production car, which has needed the minimum of amount engineering changes.

Taking inspiration from the original A- and B-Class models, the new-generation car has the option of a ‘sandwich’ version of the rear half of the car’s platform. Called the ‘Energy Space’ by Mercedes, raising the floor in the rear half of the cabin frees up underfloor space, which, in the EV, accommodates the lithium-ion battery pack. This space is also used by the natural gas-powered version of the B-Class to accommodate three gas tanks.

The upshot is that the B-Class is as effectively as spacious as the mainstream versions, which means a good 500-litre boot, generous head and legroom and the option of a fold-forward front passenger seat, which allows loads well over two metres long to be swallowed.

The electric drive system has been sourced from Tesla (interestingly, the day this production car was launched to the press was same day Daimler disposed of its four per cent stake in Tesla, which it had held since 2009).

The B-Class Electric Drive has a three-mode operation. Economy Plus – designed for constant steady-speed journeys – reduces the output of the motor to just 83bhp and top speed to 68mph. Economy reduces output to 132bhp and Sport offers the motor’s full 179bhp. However, the two Economy modes can be overridden and full power and torque accessed by the driver using the kickdown function.

If the ‘Collision Prevent Assist Plus’ system is added as an optional extra, this B-Class acquires a very neat radar-assisted recuperative braking system. Using information from the radar about the state of traffic ahead, the car can use battery-charging braking to slow itself or, when the road ahead is clear and/or downhill, switch to ‘sailing mode’ which doesn’t use any battery power.

Fully recharging the B-Class via a 16-amp home wall socket will take around nine hours if the battery is empty. Using a 400-volt three-phase electricity supply (rather more common in Asia than Europe), the car can be recharged in just three hours.

It's very impressive indeed. In terms of all-round refinement and pace, the electric B-Class is far better than its internal combustion engine sister cars. Indeed, the car’s effortless torque and near-silent progress puts it in a category of its own.

This car has the refinement that would shame some luxury models and the kind of effortless overtaking ability that would trouble some hot hatches.

What’s most disorientating is that these two sides of motoring excellence are delivered in a humble-looking baby MPV. It’s hard to work out why, but even the steering response and ride quality of the electric B-Class is markedly better than what we experienced with the all-wheel-drive B 220 d and the petrol-powered B 200.

On the wider issue of the facelift, there’s no doubt that B-Class looks much better. The somewhat melted appearance of the original version has been fixed thanks to a much more taught front bumper design and wheels that now properly fill the arches.

It’s also a handy size, well-packaged and nicely finished inside. The big, tablet-sized screen on the dashboard might look a little clunky, but is ideally placed and the graphics and presentation of Mercedes-Benz's sat-nav system is first rate. There is even two trim levels to choose from - Sport and Electric Art. The entry-level Sport models get a decent level of equipment including 17in alloys, climate control, cruise control, a reversing camera and smartphone integration, while the range-topping Electric Art merely adds the luxury of leather and velour into the interior, bigger alloys and dual-zone climate control.

There’s no doubt this is a delightful car to drive, genuinely enjoyable and satisfying. The downside, of course, is the limited range of the electric B-Class and – without a supply of industrial three-phase electricity – the lengthy recharge time.

True, being able to replenish the battery overnight would be fine for anybody whose daily mileage is less than 100 miles.

The price of this car (post government grant) is just about that of a B 220 diesel with an automatic transmission. In terms of driving pleasure it is leagues ahead.

As odd as may seem, any lover of driving ability will love the B-Class, regardless of its market position as a truly ‘green’ MPV.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive

Price £26,950 (including government grant); 0-62mph 7.9sec; Top speed 99mph; Economy 18.0kW/h per 100km; Range 124 miles; CO2 zero at tailpipe; Kerb weight 1725kg; Engine asynchronous electric motor; 28kWh lithium-ion battery; Power 179bhp; Torque 251lb ft; Gearbox single speed automatic, variable energy regeneration

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Premium hatches

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Mercedes-Benz range

Driven this week

  • Genesis G70
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Based on the Kia Stinger, Genesis' new G70 saloon shows plenty of promising signs that it could be a hit in Europe
  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    22 September 2017
    Still visceral and dramatic as ever, but does the vast number of mechanical changes and tweaks help make the Lamborghini Aventador S more engaging?
  • Renault Koleos
    Car review
    22 September 2017
    Renault’s new crossover sees the Koleos name return, attached to an SUV of a quite different stripe
  • Nissan X-Trail
    First Drive
    21 September 2017
    On our first chance to get the facelifted Nissan X-Trail on UK roads, the petrol proves a viable alternative, although for outright pulling power the 2.0 dCi is the better bet
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2d 210
    First Drive
    21 September 2017
    Most powerful diesel version of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is swift and more frugal than its closest rivals, but makes less sense than the range-topping petrol version