The latest B-Class is a practical Mercedes five-door hatch you might actually want to buy. Which is a big improvement on the undesirable original one. It’s been designed to feel more like a big Merc, rather than an underdeveloped afterthought: its platform and interior is also used by the excellent new A-Class plus future models including a small coupe and mini SUV.
Unlike the A-Class, it’s not really a looker, but is fine in silver and on the right wheels. The body side crease hints at the CLS, which is good, and it generally looks a lot less apologetic. It’s also impressively aerodynamic: in full beardy Eco trim, its drag coefficient is just 0.24. Almost implausible for such a practical-looking car.
EXTERIOR AND LOOKS
The test car came with a sports package that includes low-profile tyres on 18-inch rims and a lowered, sports suspension. The launch car comes with what Merc calls a comfort suspension, which offers higher ground clearance, softer suspension settings and more practical 16-inch wheels on the base petrol variant, while the B 180 Sport gets 17-inch wheels.
The sports kit no doubt adds to the ground-hugging looks of the B-class, but look past the eye candy and you’ll see what looks like a shrunken R-class. There’s that low bonnet, steeply raked windshield and high roofline, and despite the unusual shape, it won’t take long for even untrained eyes to tell it’s a Benz. Every current Merc styling cue is present – the oversized grille with the huge three-pointed star in the centre, the clamshell bonnet and the bumper with its integrated LED lamps all point to Stuttgart.
Viewed in profile, your eyes are drawn to the sharp upswept kink that runs along the flanks and the unusually long space between the front and rear axles – yes, the wheelbase is a massive 2699mm. The rear is pure Merc too – it’s the most uncomplicated part of the design. Also impressive is the extremely slippery shape – the B-class’ drag coefficient is a low 0.26.
Under the skin, the new B-class (W246) retains its predecessor’s – the W245’s – front-wheel-drive architecture, but ditches the old car’s complex and expensive ‘sandwich structure’ chassis for a more conventional monocoque. The advantages of the less complicated setup (aside from a cut in manufacturing costs) are a liberation of interior space and lower seats that are easier to slide into. Not that the B-class is very tall – with its 1557mm height, it fits in somewhere between a soft-roader and a saloon. The suspension is independent all round, with a MacPherson strut, wishbone setup up front and a four-link, wishbone setup at the rear. Brakes are discs all around and the steering is an electrically assisted rack-and-pinion system. The spare wheel is an inflatable space-saver and the B-class comes with an electric tyre inflator. All in all, the B180 weighs a hefty 1425kg.
INTERIOR AND CABIN
Inside the cabin, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz B250e offers decent headroom for anyone who isn’t taller than average. There’s also adult-sized legroom in the backseat, which is not something a lot of compact EVs can claim. The seats are a little too firm for us, and this might ultimately make you glad this car has only 80-some miles of cruising range per charge.
The noticeably hushed passenger cabin features the stylish good looks you’d expect from a Mercedes. Nevertheless, the abundance of hard plastics is disappointing, though this can be remedied by opting for the available leather upholstery and genuine wood trim. The screen for COMAND system that is perched atop the dash looks like a last-minute “where can we put this?” addition rather than something carefully integrated into the existing design.
One strong suit is the size of the cargo hold, with a generous 21.6 cubic feet of room behind the rear seats. Fold down the rear seatbacks, and the available space more than doubles to a very healthy 51.4 cubic feet
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
The engine in the B180 is from an all-new engine family (engine code: M270). It’s an all-aluminium 1.6-litre turbocharged, direct-injection petrol engine that sits transversely over the front axle. The direct-injection system runs a pressure of 200bar and uses piezo injectors that handle upto five injections per cycle. The engine weighs just 137kg and part of this weight saving is down to the hollow crankshaft.
The B-class always starts in Eco mode, and that means the seven-speed auto upshifts early and the quick-acting stop-start system is eager to cut in every time you come to a stop at a red light.
To get the best out of the engine, you need to switch Eco mode off, put the transmission in manual mode and use the well-finished paddles behind the steering wheel. Do so and it will hit 100kph in 10.2sec and will go on to a top speed of 192kph – very impressive figures for a car that weighs over 1.4 tonnes and makes a modest 121bhp.
Around town, the engine is smooth and adequately responsive. The specs say the peak torque of 20.39kgm kicks in at 1250rpm, but the real grunt is only when the engine is spinning closer to 3000rpm. In fact, the mid-range is particularly punchy and the engine pulls strongly all the way to 5000rpm. Rev it past this and it does get a tad vocal, and it isn’t particularly enthusiastic near its 6300rpm redline. You sometimes wish it had a little more low-rev grunt – the transmission doesn’t downshift readily and you have to occasionally force it to do so by hitting the kickdown switch.
This being a Merc, the seven-speed, twin-clutch gearbox doesn’t have the jerkiness usually associated with this kind of transmission. Set the gearbox in Economy mode and it will shift up smoothly and early in the rev range, and will mostly disobey commands from the paddle-shifters. In Sport and Manual modes you get more control through the paddles and it’s fairly responsive and quick acting. The B-class is a pretty good cruiser too and, again, there’s always sufficient grunt for highway duties. Overtaking is quite easy thanks to the strong mid-range and this makes the B 180 feel even quicker than it actually is.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The same goes for ride and handling, which aren’t really sporty but firm enough to remain flat around quick corners. The good thing is that the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class retains the older models’ increased ground clearance and suspension setup revised for India. And adding to the comfort, the B200 CDI runs on higher profile 16-inch wheels, which also improves the ride quality to a certain extent. But since the setup still is on the firmer side, some severe bumps tend to thud through the cabin and it even feels bouncy over bad patches of road.
Mercedes Benz B Class has an integral safety system that is designed to avoid accidents and provide ideal protection for the driver and passenger on the road. It has a drowsiness detection system that observes the movement of the driver on the steering wheel and monitors its details to detect signs of loss of concentration on the road, especially in the night time. In case of a high collision impact, the security system triggers special airbags in two different stages. The front airbags for the driver and passenger are first triggered accompanied by the side airbags for front and rear passengers and knee airbags for the front driver and passenger to avoid collision of the knee joint with the dashboard.
The new B-Class is set to be in Mercedes’ showrooms from March 11. There is more equipment on offer now, it looks better and has a refined powerful and frugal engine. Aside from a couple of things like more storage spaces and addition of cool looking alloys, the B-Class has everything that a thinking luxury car buyer wants from a car. But this was always the case with B-Class buyers and the facelift only manages to offer them more value for their money than before.