What is it?
The most expensive version of Mercedes’ new B-class, the first examples of which have just landed in the UK, before the order books officially open next month. This test in the Mercedes B 200 CDi Sport gives us not only our first shot in a B-class on UK roads, but also our first test of the car in Sport specification, which brings with it shorter, higher-rate springs, uprated dampers and a quicker steering rack.
For a £1300 premium over ‘SE’ trim, ‘Sport’ also buys you a reversing camera, tinted windows, sports seats, 18in wheels with Goodyear runflat tyres, bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights.
What’s it like?
An easy car to get in a muddle over – that’s for sure. The obvious competitor set to rate it against would be made up of five-seat people-movers like the VW Golf Plus, Ford C-Max and Renault Scenic. But when you clap eyes on this new B-class, you’ll realize it’s a more complicated prospect than that.
Mercedes calls the B-class a compact sports tourer, which isn’t a great deal of help. It’s more like a crossover hatchback. Measuring 4359mm in length and 1557mm tall, it’s actually less than 100mm taller, and a solitary millimeter longer, than a Ford Focus. And its closest notional rival is without doubt the Audi A3 Sportback.
There are clear MPV conventions inside the cabin. Mercedes has dispensed with the expensive old B-class’ ‘sandwich platform’, choosing instead a more ordinary underbody arrangement for the new car that has liberated low-level cabin space. So you sit fairly snug in the B-class, almost as low as you would in a normal five-door, but in a fairly upright, bent-legged, MPV-like driving position. There’s plenty of surplus headroom.
Rear passengers enjoy a little more space and comfort than they would in a normal five-door hatchback, with particularly impressive footroom available under the front seats. Provision for a fifth occupant is poor, though. There’s no seven-seat option, and even on flagship versions Mercedes will charge you extra for sliding second-row seats, a ski hatch and a folding front passenger seatback, all parts of its £515 Easy-Vario-Plus option.