From £20,5306
The B-Class recently had a facelift, bolstering its appeal against rivals from Volkswagen and BMW. We've driven the top-spec B 220 CDI AMG Line in the UK to find out how it measures up
19 February 2015

What is it?

For the past decade the Mercedes B-Class has had the small, premium MPV market pretty much wrapped up, with just the Golf Plus mounting any sort of challenge.

However, at the end of 2014 the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer joined the fray. So Mercedes gave the B-Class a facelift. This included a range of improved engines, restyled bumpers, improved cabin quality and new features.

Now it has introduced the AMG Line trim, which sits above the SE and Sport models and comes with the most powerful diesel option. So how does it fare against rival top-spec models such as the BMW 220d Active Tourer M Sport?

What's it like?

The new front and rear bumpers offer the biggest change, along with details such as a new grille and LED daytime running lamps, which are now integrated into the headlights.

The AMG Line’s bumpers are deeper and more muscular than on other B-Classes, and the sporty look is rounded off with sill extensions and 18in alloy wheels.

Mercedes’ badging strategy can be a little confusing at times, with models like the B 180 CDI using a 1.5-litre engine. However, the B 220 CDI is exactly as described, using a 2.2-litre diesel rated at 175bhp, with 258lb ft of torque.

That’s slightly up on the previous model, but emissions have been reduced to 111g/km of CO2 and fuel consumption improves to a combined average of 67.3mpg. There’s no manual option with this engine, so all B 220s come with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

It’s a drivetrain that provides a decent amount of pace to match the AMG Line’s sporty pretensions. Acceleration from rest to 62mph takes 8.3sec and, in theory, it will keep on going to a very un-MPV-like 139mph. Much of the engine’s potential is available from 1400rpm, so overtaking doesn't require a lot of planning.

Disappointingly, performance isn’t matched by refinement. The engine is noisy when pushed and unrefined while idling. Pull up at a set of traffic lights and you will feel a pronounced shudder as the engine’s stop-start system kicks-in, which is then repeated on start-up.

Switch off the stop-start and you'll hear the engine droning away and you'll feel a vibration through the controls.

The transmission doesn’t help smooth things out either. Off the line there’s a noticeable delay in pick-up after pressing the accelerator, as the automated clutch sorts itself out. This lag means it’s all too easy to have the throttle open too wide, so that when the torque does eventually kick-in, the car launches unexpectedly.

The guess work involved makes town driving a far more jerky business than it should be. However, once you're up to speed the engine's noise lessens and the transmission settles, making the B-Class a good cruiser.

As part of the facelift, all B-Classes have a lower centre of gravity and are fitted with a four-link rear suspension set-up, designed to aid stability and improve the ride. AMG Line models go a stage further, with 20mm taken out ride height at the front and 15mm at the rear.

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These revisions help it to change direction more quickly than lesser versions, and it doesn’t suffer from too much lean in bends, but the stiffer set-up takes its toll on the ride. It’s noticeably bouncy at times, and you can feel the dampers struggling to control the rebound as the wheels crest vicious bumps. You can also hear it working away underneath you, which ordinarily isn’t something you’d associate with a Mercedes product.

The AMG Line has a variable ratio power steering rack and the Sports Direct-Steer system. There's no feedback through the wheel, but assistance is suitably light at parking speeds and then loads up heavily as you pick-up speed and apply more lock. 

While dynamically the B-Class has its challenges, things improve when you focus your attention to its practicality. In the front there’s masses of leg and head room and a comfortable, upright driving position. It could only be improved by an inch or two more reach for the steering wheel and more lateral support from the seats. The ergonomics are sound and the materials used throughout the cabin match the quality you’d associate with the Mercedes brand.

In the back the headroom remains ample, although taller adults will find their knees pressed into the front seats. Rear passengers also get picnic trays that fold out from the back of the front seats.

The 486-litre boot can’t match the Golf SV’s for size, but you can increase this by sliding the rear seats forward a few inches. However, this is at the expense of rear legroom, which becomes fit for small children only.

To convert the whole of the rear into a cargo bay you only need fold the rear backrests via a tug of a cord, while you can raise the boot’s floor to create a completely flat surface.

The AMG Line comes with an 8in screen controlled with a rotary dial mounted on the centre console. This makes it easier to use on the move than many touchscreen systems, but it’s still not blessed with the functionality of BMW’s iDrive.

Manmade-leather upholstery and Bluetooth are standard, as are safety features such as collision prevention assistance, reversing camera and a new driver fatigue indicator.

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Should I buy one?

Considered in isolation, the B-Class's poor drivetrain and choppy ride make it hard to justify. Factor in the competition from BMW and VW, and the B-Class falls further behind.

The Golf SV is considerably cheaper, similarly equipped and more practical. Meanwhile the 2 Series Active Tourer feels more up to date, it’s quicker and although similarly priced, comes with a much better eight-speed auto and genuine leather seats.

Consider, too, that both are more enjoyable to drive and more refined, and despite its commendable practicality and high-quality interior, you’d need to be a diehard fan of the brand to opt for the Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz B 220 CDI AMG Line 7G-DCT

Price £28,420; Engine 4 cyls in-line, 2143cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 175bhp at 3600-3800rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1400-3400rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch auto; Kerb weight 1505kg; Top speed 139mph; 0-60mph 8.3sec Economy 67.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 111g/km, 18%

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Comments
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Bristolbluemanc 23 February 2015

Merc B Class

You need to drive it to see whether you agree with the tester here. I've test driven a number of C-Class diesels with start-stop and have not experienced what this reviewer finds (it does remind me, however, of the experience I had with a Guiletta). I must admit that I also experienced the delay in pick up when test driving a GLA but that had a less powerful engine. As usual this engine is called crude and noisy. When one examines the sound levels as measured in reviews against the BMW and Audi one sees there's really very little in it. I drive a 2010 C-Class 220 CDI and no one has ever complained about the noise. Indeed, most of my passengers are very impressed with the car. So I'd advise having a test drive yourself. If it were me I'd steer clear of the AMG version, however.
Grunt 20 February 2015

B-class. Apparently an

B-class. Apparently an appropriate name...
lamcote 20 February 2015

Prices

Not sure where you get your price data from but the BMW Active Tourer 220d M Sport you mention is over £2,000 more than this B Class. Is that really "similarly priced"?
John Howell 20 February 2015

Prices...

The BMW 220d Active Tourer M Sport (not the X Drive version) is £28,655 OTR, according to the January 2015 price list.

lamcote 21 February 2015

Prices

That is for the manual version, the 8 speed automatic specifically referred to in the article is £30,555!!
lamcote 21 February 2015

Prices

(PS That is according to BMW's own website)
lamcote 21 February 2015

Prices

PPS the automatic BMW with gearshift paddles (which the Mercedes gets as standard) is even more expensive!

Presumably you used the price list that BMW sends you with just the lowest priced versions on it?

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