Is this a hot hatch or a family car? Could it be possible that it\'s both?
It’s been two months since we’ve had the Mercedes-Benz B250 as our prime family car, enough time to know whether or not it’s indeed a worthwhile investment.
In our last update we pointed out the enormous safety features of the B250, in this update we will address the engine and drivetrain and fuel economy.
Although it may not appear as your typical traditional family car, the rather tall shape of the B-Class and its oversized boot makes it an ideal car for a family of four, including prams and all that comes with it. It also has simple and easy to use ISOFIX anchor points for child seats. Nonetheless, with two adults in the front, two kids in the back and all the luggage, a family car needs to have a bit of grunt.
For the Mercedes-Benz B250, the German company has enrolled its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, the same found in the A250 hot-hatch. With 155kW of power and 350Nm of torque, the B250 is by no means slow. In fact, with a 0-100km/h time of just 6.5 seconds, it’s pretty darn quick.
With all its might transferred to the front wheels, our original concern with the B250 having so much grunt was 'torque steer' (where the front-wheels can’t cope with steering and delivering torque at the same time). This is a common problem with front-wheel drive vehicles that have lots of go. In the Merc’s case, there’s certainly noticeable torquesteer if you attempt to accelerate hard out of a corner, but it’s not over the top.
In everyday driving, it’s actually hard to tell which end the engine’s power is being sent, which is a good sign of the car’s weight and balance. The concern is that because the B250 has the figures to qualify as a decent performance car, you might be tempted to drive it as such, and in that regard, it’s not as good as its smaller sibling, the Mercedes-Benz A250.
That aside, with four on board the B250 easily gets up to speed and can perform a quick overtaking manoeuvre on the highway without the slightest stress. The 7G-DCT automatic transmission, otherwise known as a seven-speed dual clutch auto, is well matched to the engine and does a good job of extracting the best from the turbocharged engine.
As the first application of such a gearbox in any Mercedes-Benz model, the 7G-DCT is an automated three-shaft manual transmission that combines two sub-transmissions, each with their own clutch (hence the dual clutch). If that all sounds too complicated, you just have to remember that by having two clutches (one which applies to odd gears and one that applies to even gears), changing gears is super quick and very smooth. The beauty of it is, it simply feels like a very good automatic transmission, though it’s far more advanced than that.
There are three separate modes you can pick from: Economy, Sport and Manual. In economy mode the B250 can be a tad dull. It tends to shift up quicker and focus on saving fuel which has a down side of slower acceleration for the same input compared to Sport or manual. It also tends to keep a closer eye on the air-conditioning system to make sure the compressor is only active when needed.
The ECO start/stop function – which turns the engine off when the car stops and instantly back on when the brake pedal is released or the steering wheel is moved – also goes a long way to help its fuel economy figure of 6.5L/100km. To put that number in perspective, the significantly less powerful and smaller brand-new Toyota Corolla uses 7L/100km. So there’s something to be said about a German-made 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with a seven-speed DCT.
In real world testing we’ve managed to get a fuel economy average of around 7.5L/100km, which is rather commendable as our B250 has spent the majority of its 4000km life in suburbia, with little time on the highway.
When the time comes to have some fun, you simply put the B250 into sport mode or take manual control of the gearbox via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Though you really don’t need the paddles, as sport mode is good enough, you can certainly change gears yourself, if you must.
In sport mode the B250 is more alive and willing. It tends to hold gears longer and the accelerator pedal feels more responsive. It does, of course, affect fuel economy if you begin to drive to redline before each gear change but even doing so – and we have - you’re unlikely to push the figure too far past 10L/100km.
Ride quality is pretty decent for what Mercedes-Benz calls its Sports Tourer. Like many small to medium European cars, it can be a little hard on low quality roads but if you live in a decent part of metropolitan Australia, you won’t feel a thing. We had no issues keeping our 1.5 year old happily sleeping in the back even over average quality roads. The limited road and tyre sound intrusion also helps.
The steering wheel is small but thick, so it feels nice to grip and has all the trip computer, audio and telephone controls logically located for sightless operation. As for its actual steering performance, it’s very sensitive and provides more than enough feedback (a little too much under torque-steer) for its purpose but some many think it a tad too light.
Overall, the Mercedes-Benz B250’s engine and transmission setup are well and truly above expectations for a family-friend car of its nature. It’s not dynamic and settled enough to be a hot-hatch (that’s what the A250 is for) but for what it is, it’s certainly a joy to drive.