How much precision, stability and handling panache a family hatchback-cum-MPV like the B-Class needs is debatable, but any owners that do decide to explore its dynamic potential beyond steady-state cruising and trundling suburban excursions won’t be unduly disappointed.
Even supported by the most basic suspension Mercedes offers – passive springs and dampers with a torsion beam rear axle – the eco-centric Michelin Green X tyres grip well, and considering the raised centre of gravity, there’s less body roll than you might expect. Moreover, any movements are for the most part elegantly controlled, although the independent rear suspension that comes with AMG Line trim would improve matters further.
Admittedly, with 3.2 turns between the lockstops, this chassis has plenty of time to set itself for any direction changes, and although the set-up is accurate enough, there’s a frustrating lethargy to steering inputs. Frustrating enough to pour cold water on a bout of spirited driving? Inevitably yes, and such a numbing dearth of road feel is downright unpleasant if you enjoy driving – although even if it is a joyless experience, the basic B-Class will carry good pace along most roads, and it will do so with poise and security.
But for a certain sort of driver – indeed, the one for whom this new B-Class is intended – the slow steering and general sense of mechanical detachment becomes one of the B180 Sport’s strongest attributes. Its low gearing makes this car among the least nervous motorway cruisers, even though this is an exceptionally light set-up. And it is because the set-up is so light that the B-Class simultaneously remains effortless to guide along tighter urban routes. Along with the raised driving position, there are few, if any, cars of comparable size that are easier to put up a claustrophobic NCP car park.
Overall, the B-Class plays well to its audience, and although the heavier steering of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer gives greater confidence, that might not be a trade your typical MPV owner will find worthwhile.
On the famous Hill Route at Millbrook Proving Ground, the B-Class ultimately conforms to type, although in the process it demonstrates more than enough capability for its given role in life. It takes committed cornering to expose the large degree of body roll you’d expect a car this tall to adopt more readily, and such composure allows the tyres to grip keenly through even the slower, tighter bends.