While the primary aim is cost-saving, it’s also given Mercedes-Benz the opportunity to start afresh and this platform does give the B-class impressive rigidity and a sense of solid engineering.
Base price: $64,900
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four, 155kW/350Nm, 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, front-drive, Combined economy 6.5 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4359mm long, 1537mm high, kerb weight 1505kg, luggage capacity 486/1545 litres, fuel tank 50 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Distinctive styling, smooth performance, space.
We don’t like: Steering and handling lack maturity, high price.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Once upon a time, Mercedes-Benz’s A and B-class ranges were simply different-sized versions of the same thing: tall pseudo-people movers with clever packaging.
These days, the two lines have very different characters even though they’re still based on a common platform: the A-class is the low-slung sporty hatchback, the B-class the tall-boy wagon with all the space.
But that doesn’t mean the B-class has to be completely staid. There’s room at the top of the range for a version that raises the pulse: the B 250 boasts a turbo engine with hot-hatch performance and a substantially more serious sense of sporting style than your average B-class.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
While the styling proportions of the new B-class might remind you of the previous car, this latest model has done away with the bespoke ‘sandwich’ platform of the old A/B in favour of conventional construction.
While the primary aim is cost-saving, it’s also given Mercedes-Benz the opportunity to start afresh and this platform does give the B-class impressive rigidity and a sense of solid engineering. It’s safe, too: B-class holds the highest crash-test score ever recorded by the Australian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP).
The turbo engine is strong and the Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) works smoothly in both city and country driving – I would argue it provides a better compromise between the two than Volkswagen’s Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).
The B 250 does feel fast, but it’s never frantic. What does take some of the shine off the driving experience is the lowered suspension and larger wheel-size that come with the B 250. No denying it looks the part thus-equipped, but being tied down so tight does exacerbate some of the B-class’s less appealing dynamic traits: oddly weighted steering and suspension that seems tuned more for fast progress than finesse. Perhaps the standard B-class steering works better than the Direct Steer system fitted to the B 250 after all.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
Absolutely; this is the B-class’s real strength. The car is 50mm lower than the previous car but you sit more upright, giving more of a ‘command’ driving position. Cabin space is superior to almost anything else in the class (it even compares favourably to larger Mercedes-Benz models for rear-seat legroom) and the luggage area is large and versatile.
The cabin is beautifully finished and entirely appropriate for a car wearing the Three-Pointed Star.
This is an expensive car, yes, and has the potential to be even more so with the range of option packages offered by Mercedes-Benz. The B 250 gets the Sport Package (which includes Direct Steer and lowered suspension) and Night Package (big wheels, darkened exterior detailing) as standard, but you could also add any one of four other packages costing from $3190 to the car.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
The B-class does not quite have the polish of a Volkswagen Golf or indeed the sporting appeal of its smaller A-class sibling. What is does have is that idiosyncratic style, a great deal of space by segment standards (particularly in the rear) and the allure of the Three-Pointed Star on the bonnet.
The B-class concept works much better further down the range, but if your desire is for the model’s many virtues to be wrapped up in a package with the performance to surprise and tenacious (if not elegant) handling, then this is the car.
It doesn’t stack up in a purely rational sense, but it has such an unexpected combination of talents that it’s strangely appealing all the same.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Head-up display: No
Keyless entry/start: No/no
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: No
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes