From £20,530
Entry-level Mercedes-Benz B-class is well worth consideration, although it isn't as practical or cheap as some rivals

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Change is coming to Mercedes’ small-car range, and this new B-Class is the first taste of it.

Richard Bremner Autocar
5 October 2011

What is it?

This model is the point of entry into the new Mercedes-Benz B-class line-up. Although it is only a few hundred pounds more than its equivalent in the outgoing line-up, the absence of a B 160 version, which currently comes in just under £20,000, makes the new range slightly less affordable.

You do, however, get a car that’s all new from bumper-to-bumper and these days, that’s unusual. Mercedes is claiming sharper handling, a more supple ride, cleaner and quicker engines, excellent aerodynamics and a class first with standard-fit radar-based collision warning systems. Also improved is the interior finish, something that’s immediately obvious from the moment you open a door.

The base engine is an all-new direct injection turbocharged 1.6 litre petrol putting out 120bhp and a competitive combined consumption of 47.9mpg, which translates to 138g/km. It comes hooked to the six-speed manual transmission tested here, but is also available with a seven-speed dual clutch automated manual.

What’s it like?

Smoother sums this new B Class – smoother revving, smoother riding and more smoothly finished. The engine sounds sweet, even managing a little rort as you rev it, although there’s little need to stretch it to the danger paint because its torque peak occurs at an early 1250rpm.

Impressively, this is sustained through to 4000rpm and the result is relatively brisk progress, aided by a clean-shifting transmission. It handles much more efficiently too, understeer resisted effectively enough, grip strong and the electrically assisted steering decently weighted. The dash-mounted electric handbrake works in the wrong sense, however.

The ride on the 17in wheeled car is pretty supple too, the smaller tyres pliant enough to absorb the sharp bumps that the 18in rim models struggle with. Decently judged springing and damping produce a better than average ride that complements the B’s new-found (and much needed) sophistication of interior materials and finishes.

True the hard-feel lower dash seems a little bit cheap, and so does the monotone driver information display in the instrument pack (Ford does this far more classily in the Focus) but the glitzy airvents look great and so do some of the seats trims and décor elements.

Also more luxurious is the amount to of space front and rear, back-benchers enjoying exceptional foot-room if the optionally sliding rear seat is pushed back. Given this level of convenience it’s a surprise to find that a fifth occupant must perch uncomfortably on the raised cushion in the centre of this seat, and that the boot is a little smaller than it was before. The scope for reconfiguring the B Class’s rear is pretty limited compared with rival models such as the Zafira and C-Max too.

Should I buy one?

If you want a decently finished, unassuming load carrier that’s comfortable, efficient, peppy and well-kitted with safety equipment, then this B Class is well worth a thought.

That’s as long as you don’t need to carry five, the otherwise versatile and commodious B giving a fifth occupant a pretty raw deal. Which is one reason why you should pay equal attention to the Ford C-Max, which is at least as useful, as well finished, better to drive and distinctly cheaper.

Mercedes B 180 BlueEfficiency SE

Price as tested: £21,290; Top speed: 118mph; 0-62mph: 10.4sec; Economy: 47.9mpg; Co2: 138g/km; Kerbweight: 1395kg; Engine type: in-line petrol four, turbocharger, 1595cc; Power: 120bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 148lb ft from 1250-4000rpm; Gearbox: six-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
13

11 October 2011

It frustrates me that Mercedes are calling this a 180. It's not just them who talk garbage about their engine sizes. BMW, Renault, Audi, Volvo, Fiat, Mazda, Honda, Alfa and many others are in on the act as well.

11 October 2011

You say that the Cmax is cheaper. As a recent article of yours pointed out, the total cost of 3 year ownership should include depreciation.

So my question to you is, how much cheaper is a Cmax if you take into accountg aforementioend depreciation?.

I would be very happy to drive around in a Cmax with our two small children, but i know my wife would almost certainly much prefer a Merc. I think women are much worse badge snobs than men (In general, ahem!)

11 October 2011

I hated the old B Class but this both looks and sounds quite nice, will add it too our diverse next new car list along with the F20 1 Series, MKIII Leon and Jeep Compass!!!

First MPV I have actually quite liked glad to see there are some good petrol choices around these day's not just in the B class but 1 series as well. As great as a derv is it still lacks the enjoyment of a good petrol.

11 October 2011

I can see this selling well, a good price but an exceptional badge on the front will make this desirable for many.

11 October 2011

Be nice to see the shots of the actual spec, I can't see the one in the photos being much less than 30 k

11 October 2011

[quote Autocar]you should pay equal attention to the Ford C-Max, which is at least as useful, as well finished, better to drive and distinctly cheaper.[/quote]

[quote merson]

You say that the Cmax is cheaper. As a recent article of yours pointed out, the total cost of 3 year ownership should include depreciation.

So my question to you is, how much cheaper is a Cmax if you take into accountg aforementioend depreciation?.

[/quote]

Indeed, depreciation is an important factor. The B160 is also more economical than the 1.6 C-Max by around 5mpg on the combined cycle and also has a-bit more torque [and seems to be distributed well over the rev range], which is quite important for a car of this type.

I'm also unsure about the "as well finished part"...I haven't been in neither the C-Max nor the B-Class, but from the pictures at least the Merc's interior seems to be plusher and certainly much better looking, IMO.

 

- Follow your own star -

DKW

11 October 2011

120 bhp from a new 1.6 turbo? From the 'Father of the car industry'? Downmarket Alfa are getting 296 bhp from a 1.8. Feed your engineers some meat Mercedes. (http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle/AllCars/259396/)

12 October 2011

Sadly a disappointingly dull design and why only a four-seater then it can have no real aspirations as a people carrier.

12 October 2011

Like it's predecessor I am really not sure who this car is going to sell to, in the UK at least? It's not a people carrier, despite Mercedes claims and it's not as desirable as a cheap C-Class.

It's a shame a company such as Mercedes have wasted such a great opportunity, no matter how smooth this car drives.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

12 October 2011

[quote Fidji]It frustrates me that Mercedes are calling this a 180. It's not just them who talk garbage about their engine sizes. BMW, Renault, Audi, Volvo, Fiat, Mazda, Honda, Alfa and many others are in on the act as well.[/quote]
Personally I don't have any real objection to this scheme: all it means is that the engine is "equivalent to a standard engine of such a size", which is a lot easier to explain to 99% of customers how different engine maps/boost levels mean an engine of a given size can have substantially different outputs.

BMW 2.0l diesel is best example of this:
122bhp (116d)
143bhp (118d)
184bhp (120d)
204bhp (123d)

With the exception of the 123d being twin-turbo, the other engines are physically all-but identical and so have no intrinsic characteristics to differentiate them by!

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