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.