The Mercedes B-Class is the latest attempt by the highly-regarded German car maker to offer a five-seat people carrier that can be used for both business and pleasure.
Its pricing range is considerably higher than other similar-sized MPVs in the market, such as the Ford C-MAX, Citroen C4 Picasso and the SEAT Altea.
This, then, is the prestige face of the family car market. And it is a handsome face with a large front grille, sweeping creases down the flanks and a more sloped roofline. The latest B-Class is also sleeker and far less boxy looking than its predecessors.
When it comes to rivals, there’s really only one other MPV in the same size category which offers similar premium quality to the B-Class, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. This BMW, like the B-Class, is more expensive than the more mainstream MPVs like the Ford C-MAX. So does the B-Class offer enough to justify the higher price?
There are four engine units available for the Mercedes B-Class range, all of which feel smooth, refined and more than adequate for eating up the miles on the motorway.
There are two turbocharged petrol engines available for the Mercedes B-Class including 120bhp and 154bhp 1.6-litre units for the B180 and B200 models respectively.
More attractive, however, are the two diesel engines which offer plenty of grunt as well as low running costs. Included is a 1.5-litre unit with 108bhp for the B180 CDI models and a 2.2-litre diesel with 134bhp when badged B200 or 175bhp for the B220.
Each B-Class uses a slick six-speed manual gearbox as standard, except the B220 models which use a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT).
Each model in the B-Class range can do the 0-62mph sprint in less than twelve seconds, with B220 models taking just 8.3 seconds to cover the benchmark.
Ride and Handling
The car has very little body roll in corners and it feels well insulated. It’s here the build quality shines through with little to no road and wind noise intrusion.
Driving the B-Class is rarely exciting but the light and responsive steering does impress and feels perfect for city and town driving. The car has very little body roll in corners and it feels well insulated. It’s here the build quality shines through with little to no road and wind noise intrusion. There are some problems though. At faster speeds the steering lacks a little feel, particularly compared to a Ford C-MAX, but the car is poised enough to cope with motorways with ease. There’s a lot of grip through the corners but the ride is firm, especially if you go for the Sport or range-topping AMG Line trims which add bigger wheels and lower suspension.
Interior and Equipment
The B-Class is built on the same platform as the current Mercedes A-Class hatchback.
Compared to more mainstream family MPVs, the interior of the B-Class feels like a major step up in quality. The Mercedes design team have managed to achieve this without sacrificing too much space inside the new B-Class. There is plenty of leg and head room in the both the front and back for adult passengers. Drivers will also be comfortable with plenty of seat adjustment options and high-quality materials throughout. All Mercedes B-Class models come with a host of standard equipment including alloy wheels, air conditioning and a CD player with USB connectivity. This system is particularly impressive with easy-to-understand controls, a responsive touch screen and a simple layout that allows you to control all the car's technology efficiently. The equipment on our Sport model was particularly impressive with a high quality leather interior, sports pedals and an exterior tweaks including bi-xenon headlamps, Mercedes-branded brake callipers and twin sports tailpipes. The boot measures at 488 litres with the rear seats up, which is a little more than the Ford C-MAX and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. That figure is less, however, than some other MPVs such as the Citroen C4 Picasso which has 537 litres as standard.
The most frugal B-Class specification, the B180 CDI SE ECO, returns 78.5mpg combined and emits just 94g/km, which means free VED.
The asking price for B-Class models are closely matched compared to most equivalent 2 Series Active Tourer specifcations. It’s the B-Class which has the lower starting price out of these two, but even then it’s close to £4,000 more than compared to the likes of the C-MAX and C4 Picasso. All of that luxury kit and those engines certainly come at a premium. On the plus side, the B-Class has some impressively frugal engines to choose from. The majority of the range emits less than 130g/km in CO2 and falls under Band B or C for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). The most frugal B-Class specification, the B180 CDI SE ECO, returns 78.5mpg combined and emits just 94g/km, which means free VED. Other diesel powered models will cover around 60 to 70mpg and emit between 104 and 117g/km. Petrol-powered models also impress, recording combined fuel economy figures of 50.4 to 52.3mpg and CO2 outputs from just 109g/km.
The Mercedes B-Class is a practical car which boasts strong residual values which enhances its appeal further. Also appealing is the spacious and classy interior, strong equipment levels and the decent engine line-up with low running costs. Is it the best part of £4,000 better than the likes of the Ford C-Max however? Perhaps not - options and higher trim levels can get expensive and the drive itself cannot match that of its less premium rival. But the B-Class is still overall a good family car and well worth considering if you want something that’s at the top end of the family car market.