The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is for those who are looking for more practicality than a family hatch and with a touch more class. It’s the first of Mercedes’ upcoming range of front-wheel-drives, including the new A-Class and BLS four-door coupe.
We’re behind the wheel of the range-topping Mercedes-Benz B200 CDI Sport with its impressively refined diesel. While the standard UK-market car we're testing comes with 18-inch alloys, we are on smaller 17-inch wheels fitted with winter tyres. Even with this set-up, the 15mm-lower sports suspension still means the B-Class fidgets over imperfections and crashes over large potholes.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class becomes more fluid over better surfaces, showing excellent body control and very little lean. The electromechanical steering is precise and direct but the lack of feel hinders the B-Class from ever feeling light on its feet.
The engine revs smoothly, pulls strongly and subtly disappears into the background at freeway pace. Our car had the slick six-speed manual gearbox fitted but surely the optional seven-speed dual-clutch auto would better suit the car’s grown-up image.
While the B200 CDI is the most expensive model in the UK range, we think it’s by far the best. The two turbo petrol variants – the 89kW B180 and 115kW B200 that are also coming to Australia – do have impressive on-paper performance but on the road they feel flat. There is also a 80kW B180 CDI diesel – not yet confirmed for our market – but when fully loaded it struggles.
The new B-Class is wider and lower than previous models, resulting in a slightly squatter stance. As expected for this segment, though, style takes a backseat to practicality. The upright grille and large three-pointed star follow Mercedes’ new face closely.
Inside you are presented with high-quality aluminium air vents and a tablet-style 5.8-inch colour screen. There are 60:40 split-fold rear seats as standard, but lash out on the optional Easy Vario pack to have the bench slide back and forth increasing boot space from 486 to 666 litres. You can also fold down the rear bench and passenger seat flat for a total of 1545 litres.
The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is released in Australia in April, with pricing already confirmed to start at $38,950 for the B180 petrol model.
The B200 CDI will be the initial diesel engine offering, with a B200 petrol model in the launch range as well.
Where the B-Class was previously effectively an extended version of the A-Class, the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class will go on sale locally in early 2013 with an all-new hatchback shape as it targets a younger demographic than its twin.