Is it a family car? Is it a hot hatch? Is it practical? We find out...
The Mercedes-Benz B250 is a hard car to classify. Technically it’s a small car, but it has the rear legroom of a limousine. It’s not quite billed as a hot hatch but is powered by a 155kW turbocharged engine. It wears the three-pointed-star badge and is packed with technology and features and yet is relatively well priced.
This latest-generation B-Class sticks to its previous design formula that proved to be most popular with older buyers, whereas the related new A-Class has switched to a more conventional hatchback look to appeal to a younger demographic.
So how would the B250, the flagship of the B-Class range, go as the primary car of a young family for a few months?
When we swapped our Subaru Outback for a red B250, we were a tad skeptical if it would cater for our needs. With a young baby, a large pram and all the rest of it, the B250 wouldn’t exactly come to mind as an ideal family car at first.
The B250’s exterior doesn’t exactly sell its practicality story well, and it takes a few weeks of living with it to realise why it makes so much sense.
Although smaller than our previous long-termers, the B250’s interior is spacious. There’s ample room for front and rear passengers, and given the height and depth of its boot we could fit our oversized pram in plus all the week’s shopping without resorting to Tetris-like skills.
The Mercedes-Benz B250 sits at the very top of the B-Class range, which means it comes with pretty much all the latest that Mercedes-Benz has to offer, for $49,500.
If you’re thinking that’s expensive, let me tell you why it’s relatively good value.
Firstly, there’s that 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that delivers 155kW of power and 350Nm of torque coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. To put those figures in perspective, the go-to hot hatch, Volkswagen’s Golf GTI ($38,990), has the same power but 70Nm less torque.
The B250 also comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in top-notch Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres riding on a lowered suspension, bi-xenon fixed headlamps and LED tail lights, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), drilled front-brakes, twin chrome exhausts and a whole lot more.
On the inside, there’s leather everywhere. The front seats are heated and offer great support for long drives. The tray tables are ideal for kids and the rear seats have the easiest Isofix child-seat installation points we’ve yet come across (though only useful once Australian regulators make them legal, which should be sometime this year).
The actual cabin design and ambience is arguably a level up from the C-Class that is now starting to age a bit, and the tablet-like screen works very well with Mercedes-Benz’s Comand system.
It also managed to repeatedly detect which one of our iPhone 5s was present in the car and connect automatically, without the need to change default phones each time. If both were present, it would resort to the default.
Bluetooth telephone sound quality is top notch; you can actually use Siri to send messages and emails while driving. It also streams audio wirelessly. The only issue here was the supplied iPod cable no longer works with Apple’s new system, so you must supply your own (this is likely to be updated very soon).
The B250 gets sports pedals, black roof liner and a heap of technology, to name but just a few things.
The main reason we would pick the B250 as our family car is, undoubtedly, the incredibly high-level of safety features included as standard. Apart from having scored the highest crash rating of any car ever tested in Europe (even better than the significantly more expensive S-Class), the number of preventative technologies makes a lengthy list.
To give you some examples – and we have omitted many – the Mercedes-Benz B250 safety system includes:
- 9 airbags (including a knee airbag)
- A system that monitors your driving habits and detects if you’re drowsy (gives a visual warning)
- A computer that constantly checks to make sure your brakes are dry and if they’re not, automatically dries them for maximum braking when needed
- Warns you if you’re too close to the car in front for the driving conditions and gives both visual and audible warnings if a collision is imminent – then helps you apply maximum braking to reduce the potential for an accident.
- Its cruise control system can follow the speed of a vehicle in front, all the way from 0-200km/h. This makes driving on the highway or start-stop traffic a breeze.
- If an accident is unavoidable, the car goes into a pre-collision mode, pulling the seat belt tight, closing the sunroof and windows, putting the seats in the best position for a potential impact.
- Warns you if you leave your lane by vibrating the steering wheel
- Tells you when a vehicle is sitting in your blind spot and warns you if you attempt to merge into it.
- Has a reversing camera with moving guidelines
- Can park itself - of course.
- Gives warning if you’re losing tyre pressure or if your brake pads are worn
Over the next few months we are going to test out its technology system, which can browse the web, or connect to Google Maps, allowing you to program a route on your PC and send it to your car over the Internet.
We will see how it stacks up as a hot-hatch by putting it through some seriously challenging roads. How efficient it is on long drives or city commutes and what it costs to own in terms of servicing and maintenance.
I feel as though I am driving in a bubble outfitted with the latest safety features a car can buy. The Mercedes B250 hatchback has the safety of a Volvo with a lot more style. I feel completely safe driving my children around in this car. The blind spot monitoring system and the forward collision detection are great for added peace of mind.
I’m still getting used to its stop-start engine (which shuts down when stopped to save fuel and restarts instantly when needed) but I feel it won’t take me long. The sensors make parking very easy and are situated both at the front and back with one of the best reversing cameras I've used.
The interior looks amazing. I love the encapsulated feel of the driver’s seat, however I am still getting used to the gearshift lever (which is positioned on the right of the steering wheel, where you’d usually find an indicator stalk on non-European cars) and can admit that I have a couple of times inadvertently knocked the car into neutral whilst trying to indicate left. I do feel that this it is more of an issue of getting used to the car and not a fault in the design.
Mastering the features of driving the B250 is only a matter of time. The interior is also extremely spacious for such a compact vehicle and comfortably fits two car seats and an eight-year-old in the back. The almost panoramic sunroofs (optional) –yes plural, because there are two - add a nice aesthetic touch. The GPS system and multimedia are also very user friendly.
The exterior looks great also. The car has a lot of personality and certainly gets looks with its attractive DRLs, monogrammed alloys and compact body shape.
I am huge on accessories and this car has completely won me over. I love the tray tables. What seems like such a small thing to others is a huge plus for mums. The integrated Bluetooth audio system is great and I can even change radio stations and instruct Siri over the in-built Microphone.
The interior is fitted with both Isofix anchors and overhead anchors for child seats. You can even order your Mercedes-Benz customised Isofix car seat. There is even padding available to convert the tray table into a padded play table. I love this attention to detail.
My only complaints are that there is no keyless entry, a must when holding a squirming toddler and shopping bags. Also there is no button to automatically close the boot, a feature that I am most grateful for at the end of a harrowing shopping trip.
4.5/5 from me.