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.
So you might quibble over the generosity of this car’s standard specification (cruise control’s an extra, too). And yet the B-class’ cabin creates an impression of tangible richness, quality and value-for-money anyway, comprised of tactile and substantial plastics, chunky and expensive-feeling new switchgear, smooth leathers on the primary controls, and metallic trim flourishes like the air vents and interior doorhandles, which are attractive on the eye and cool to the touch.
At last, one of Daimler’s transverse-engined breed has the kind of interior to make it at least feel like a fully-paid-up, invulnerable Mercedes-Benz. This B-class may be no more impervious to use and the passage of time than the last, but it certainly strikes a much clearer and more convincing impression of quality from the get-go.
Cosseting refinement would probably be next on your wishlist for the perfect baby Benz. If it is, don’t buy a B-class Sport. While other versions may be better in this department, our test car was neither quiet-running nor particularly smooth-riding. Its low-profile runflat tyres crashed quite noisily over broken surfaces, and although its ‘amplitude-selective’ dampers brought better compliance over longer-wave crests and through compressions, the B 200 CDi Sport was disappointingly short on basic rolling comfort for any premium-brand family five-door – modern or otherwise.