by Brad Leach - 29/04/13
Mercedes-Benz calls the B-Class a ‘Compact Sports Tourer’, we’ll call it one of the best premium hatchback money can buy just like it's little A-Class brother. Mix Mercedes-Benz quality and style with family-friendly space and practicality, add-in remarkable value-for-money and the B-Class flexes its muscles in a market segment which is expanding globally.
This is the second generation B-Class and such is the growth in this segment that Mercedes-Benz pulled-out all stops in its development, labeling the premium hatchback as the start of a new compact class era in Munich. “No model change in the history of Mercedes-Benz has ever seen so many new developments introduced in one fell swoop,” enthused Mercedes’ research and development chief Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber when he introduced the latest B-Class. “Future B-Class customers will benefit from this quantum leap in terms of exemplary low fuel consumption and C02 emissions combined with driving pleasure, plenty of space and the highest standard of safety that has even been available in this class.”
Bottom line is environmental and society pressures mean family buyers especially are embracing premium hatchbacks because they deliver space and practicality with the required luxury and ‘green’ credentials. ‘Benz has identified this trend and wants in.
Not to put-down the previous generation B-Class, the fact is the all-new model is not only superior in every way, it’s much more ‘Mercedes-Benz’…luxury, style, driving dynamics and design-smarts as we’d expect from the German giant. But this is Mercedes-Benz 2012 style and that means value-for-money like we’ve never seen before.
The B-Class is part premium hatchback, part crossover with its tall stance, raised seating position and enhanced interior space. Entry to the Mercedes-Benz B-Class range is the B180 BlueEFFICIENCY priced at $38,950 and Car Showroom tested the mid-range B 200 BlueEFFICIENCY which is stickered at $43,950 (BlueEFFICIENCY is the umbrella term ‘Benz uses for vehicles fitted with its raft of fuel-saving technologies – for example all B-Class models come standard with auto start/stop).
Measuring 4359mm in length, 1557mm in height and 1786mm in width, the compact B-Class is perfect for space-restricted urban dwellers and despite its compact size, oozes Mercedes-Benz quality and style wherever you look.
And, ‘Benz being ‘Benz, the all-new B-Class brings to market some advanced safety features which are firsts for this segment. For example all B-Class models come standard with COLLISION PREVETION ASSIST, Mercedes’ radar-based collision warning system with Adaptive Brake Assist – to prevent ‘rear-enders’, the most common form of road crash.
The all-new B-Class debuts Mercedes’ new generation of four-cylinder petrol engines designated M270 – in this case a 1.6-litre version. This means ‘Benz brings to this segment fuel-saving direct fuel injection (the B-Class system based on the BlueDIRECT V6 and V8 engines which arrived last year).
Our Mercedes-Benz B 200 was good for 115kW of power at 5300rpm and peak torque of 250Nm from a low 1250rpm. Drive is to the front wheels via Mercedes’ new 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission – the only seven-speeder in this league.
Fuel consumption is rated at 6.1l/100kms (combined cycled) and exhaust C02 emissions score 141g/km.
Inside the B-Class is where traditional Mercedes enthusiasts will notice a change of seismic proportions – the new German compact king is all modern…but in the traditional ‘Benz way.
Most noticeable and the three stylish, large circular air-vents on the centre console (positioned to maximize efficiency) and the dashboard itself is a totally new three-dimensional design available in a choice of three variants. Above the vents is the colour 14.7cm TFT screen (six-disc, six-speaker audio system) and everything is trimmed in a stylish combination of metallic, black-ash wood trim and piano black.
Four analogue instruments are housed in a curved binnacle while the three-spoke steering wheel (height/reach adjustable) and supportive seats in Artico leather with contrasting stitching add a sporty touch.
And here’s where the design-smarts of Mercedes-Benz come into play – the overall picture inside the B-Class is dominated by abundant space. Even with the rear seat in-place, the B-Class provides a very impressive 488-litres of luggage space (the seat split-folds 60/40 for load-carrying versatility). And those in the back will be surprised by the amount of legroom this so-called small car provides.
A tad surprising for a Mercedes-Benz, the B-Class does not come standard with the safety of a reversing camera - it’s a $590 option.
Satellite navigation (the usual excellent ‘Benz system) is also an option ($2,990) and brings with it a larger 17.8cm colour screen.
At 1557mm in height, the second generation Mercedes-Benz B-Class is actually 5cms lower than its predecessor and you sit 71mm closer to the road. Nevertheless the latest B-Class continues the trend of its predecessor in being a member of the current crop of tall-body crossovers which are massively popular in Europe.
Of course aerodynamics got special attention and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class boasts a drag cD of 0.26 – that would be the best in class.
The overall look is reminiscent of the previous B-Class but totally new and, we think, much more stylish and contemporary.
At the front there’s the hallmark Mercedes-Benz grille but a much wider version than before which emphasizes the B-Class’ width. The aerodynamic bonnet profile blends upwards to the A-pillars.
The roof is again rear-sloping but this time features a swage line and flows into a substantial rear-hatch spoiler. Nice wheel arch flares and side skirts lend sportiness to the total B-Class package.
At the rear, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class features a large rear window, low-opening tailgate and modern tail-lights.
Nice seven-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels complete a superb look.
The all-new B-Class runs a sophisticated McPherson strut front end with a four-link rear and adopts fuel-saving electromechanical power steering. Ride is typical ‘European-firm’ and naturally steering precision and chassis balance is top-notch.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop the B 200 was right at home with that finely honed chassis matched with good response from the turbo 1.6-litre and seven-speed auto.
Back in the city, ‘Benz’ baby was equally slick. A bit of rain and predictable traffic congestion had us appreciating the noise isolation and refinement of the B200 and once at the office the handy 11-metre turning circle made light work of our CBD car park.
Tackling our poor secondary roads/course chip bitumen route did produce some tyre roar and front suspension noise in bad bumps.
We’re family guys here at car Showroom and for us the Mercedes-Benz B-Class is the premium compact. For sure the excellent new styling inside and out brought the B-Class back into the picture.
And the hallmark Mercedes quality and driving dynamics…well we expected those attributes.
But the clinchers were the spacious and cleverly designed interior plus real value-for-money.
Premium compacts are a growing segment worldwide so you’re spoilt for choice.
The Lexus CT200h is a Car Showroom favourite for its clever blending of hybrid technology in a premium hatchback. The compact Lexus starts at $39,990 (Prestige) but to match the Mercedes-Benz B 200 you’re realistically looking at the ‘Luxury’ variant which is tagged at $48,990.
BMW offers the X1 compact SUV in two-wheel-drive priced from $43,900 to $52,180. Sure the X1 is an SUV and the ‘Benz B-Class is more ‘crossover’ but the Beemer is in the consideration set. For family buyers the clever and spacious interior of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class would probably tip the scales in its favour.
Volkswagen Tiguan’s range-topper the 155TSI ($42,990) gets a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine and all-wheel-drive but maybe too SUV for most B-Class aspirants and the luggage space is small.
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