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Mercedes-Benz B 250 4Matic

 

The Mercedes-Benz B 250 4Matic is made from an odd mixture of ingredients. Does everything work together in the finished package?

Base price: $71,900.

Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, 155kW/350Nm, 7-speed automated dual-clutch gearbox, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 6.8 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 6.7 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4393mm long, 1557mm high, 2699mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 488-1547 litres, fuel tank 56 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels.

We like: Space, performance, lots of luxury equipment.

We don’t like: Gearbox calibration lacks confidence, not brave enough to call itself a people mover.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Premium carmakers watch each other in an obsessive manner.

Consider Mercedes-Benz, which has had a midi-people mover in its ranks for nearly a decade in the form of the B-class (although the company calls it a ‘sports tourer’).

Since the beginning, the B-class has been a taller, more spacious alternative to the A-class and that still applies – even more so now, since they continue to share a platform but the A-class has become lower and sportier than ever before.

Now, arch rival BMW has come along with a direct rival for the B-class sports tourer: the conceptually similar 2-series Active Tourer (see, even the name is almost the same) and the one-upmanship has begun.

Since launch in 2013, Mercedes-Benz has offered the new-generation B-class in petrol and diesel front-drive configurations, with plenty of luxury equipment. That’s exactly what BMW now does with the Active Tourer, which has prompted the Three Pointed Star to look at its range and see where it can create a unique selling proposition.

The result is this, the flagship of the facelifted B-class range: the B 250 4Matic. It has the top-specification 2.0-litre petrol engine, teamed up with four-wheel drive (the B 250 was previously front-drive), lowered suspension and an upgraded list of standard equipment.

Overall, you can spot the facelifted B-class by some minor styling changes, including a reshaped bumper and two-bar grille. The new LED headlights now carry integrated daytime running lights.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The B 250 has always been strangely brisk for what is essentially a practical people and load-carrier. With the 155kW engine under the bonnet – a close relation to the AMG-enhanced powerplant used in the A 250 Sport – it sprints to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds.

Whether such a vehicle really needs all-wheel drive is a moot point, but it does give Mercedes-Benz that all-important point of difference and it does tame the B 250’s power and torque in low-traction conditions. It’d be a pretty decent ski-wagon, as well: good cruising ability and plenty of space.

The seven-speed DCT (dual clutch transmission) is of varying quality depending on which B-class engine it’s matched to. It seems to be much smoother with diesel powerplants than petrol – in the B 250 the automated clutch system sometimes slurs at low speed and struggles to get with the programme in urban driving. It’s better in sport mode (there are also comfort and economy modes), providing you want to motor a bit more aggressively. But it’s nowhere near as slick as Volkswagen’s similar DSG (direct shift gearbox).

The B 250 rides on something called lowered comfort suspension, which sounds like a contradiction in terms. But it basically means that you get the sporty look without the harder ride and so it proves, even on the 18-inch wheels that come standard with this model.

The special suspension is part of the AMG Line package that comes as standard on this model. It also includes those sharp-looking alloys, unique bumpers, a sports steering system, extra detailing inside and out, and twin pipes at the rear.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Passenger comfort and versatile cabin space are what the B-class is really all about. Interior changes for the new model include upgraded trim and a larger eight-inch information and entertainment screen.

Our B 250 also had the $1290 Seat Comfort package, which brings power-operated and heated front seats, plus a passenger-side mirror that dips when reverse is selected.

Cabin space is outstanding front and rear, thanks to a long wheelbase, tall roofline and some clever packaging. The load compartment is pretty versatile too, with a split-level boot floor that allows a flat load-through to the 60/40 split rear seats when in place, or a deeper cargo area when removed.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? In some respects the B 250 4Matic is a bit odd: the sportiest version of a car that makes no claim to be sporty at all. There’s a reason why there’s no full AMG version of the B-class, or why the lowered suspension retains a comfort setting.

Still, there’s no reason why a midi-people mover can’t be a little bit flash, or offer some extra traction when the going gets slippery. The B-class provides a decent driving experience to go with its versatility and the equipment level is impressive.

But there are plenty of other five-door options within the Mercedes-Benz range around this price point. So you’d have to really want the B 250’s higher seating point or superior space to pick it over an A-class or even the GLA 250 4Matic crossover.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Blind spot warning: Yes
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
  • Self-parking technology: Yes
  • Head-up display: No
  • Satellite navigation: Yes
  • Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Air conditioning: Dual climate
  • Heated/ventilated seats: $1290 with Comfort package/No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: $1290 with Comfort package
  • Leather upholstery: Synthetic leather
  • Power boot or tailgate: Yes
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40

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