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.