First Drive: Mercedes-Benz B Class is as boxy as ever

Hatchback makeover adds driving technology but reworked styling remains boxy

Make: Mercedes-Benz

Model: B-Class

Year: 2018

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: November 23, 2018

Wed, Nov 28, 2018, 06:00

   

Sometimes car executives just can’t take heed of the message from Eliza in Frozen and let it go.

The Mercedes-Benz B Class has been given a complete makeover for its third-generation outing and now features a lot of new driving technologies and safety systems. It still seems like they’re flogging a dead horse here.

The problem with the B-Class until now has been its dull, boxy looks and Mercedes-Benz says its focus groups, made up of existing customers, stated their number-one desire was for more dynamic styling. On this front, unfortunately, Mercedes seems to have missed the mark. It’s as boxy as before.

Then again, even if it was the greatest people carrier ever built, it would be ignored by the majority of motoring buyers. These cars are about as fashionable as a fax machines these days.

In a world gone SUV crazy the B Class looks a little odd and functional with only the equally utilitarian BMW 2 Series Active Tourer for competition. Given the option between these characterless cars and crossovers, you can start to see why consumers are making the move.

Mercedes says in Ireland the car’s core following would be made up of older buyers who appreciate the ease of access and hatchback functionality.

Built on the same underpinnings as the new A Class, this iteration is all about functionality, gaining interior space thanks to a higher roof, clever packaging and a sliding rear bench.

Multimedia interface

Inside the changes are more dramatic and impressive, with the new dash layout representing the cutting edge of interior design at Mercedes-Benz. It goes further than the A Class with a new take on its impressive dash layout and its multimedia interface.

There is also a high-tech centre console and touch pad, a head-up display, plus a bling multifunction steering wheel from the A Class (initially fitted on the S Class).

Most MPV drivers just want to get their human cargo from A to B but the tech on the new B Class gives the car a little more character. For example, the augmented reality navigation system uses live camera views with superimposed direction arrows to give real-time driving directions on the centre screen. Lane departure warning and emergency city stop are standard, while from the options list, the B Class is the first compact model to feature so-called “energising comfort control”. Part of an overall wellness programme app, it includes features whereby the front seats automatically adjust to the occupant’s body shape to deliver optimal seating posture.

The cabin itself seats five occupants, or four adults comfortably. The rear seats split 40:20:40. The rear floor has a raised transmission tunnel making the centre seat suitable only for a smaller child. The optional electronic opening boot (button-, key- or leg-kick-operated) fitted on our test cars revealed a decent amount of cargo space ranging from 455-705 litres (rear seat position dependent) that is enough for the weekly shop. Under the adjustable height floor is a tyre inflation or mobility kit. Seats down and there is 1,540 litres of cargo space.

Engine options

Diesel power is still the primary choice among Irish buyers of the premium brand, according to Fiona Fennell, marketing executive at Mercedes in Ireland. Initially the range will comprise B180 and B200 petrol models and B180d, B200d and B220d diesels.

For low-mileage users petrol power makes most sense. Both petrol variants use a 1.3 litre engine pushing out either 136hp and 200nm or 163hp and 250nm. Petrol emissions are low ranging from 124-129g/km CO2.

The B180d diesel uses a 1.46 litre engine with 116hp and 260nm. Our main test vehicle was the 200d with 150hp and 320nm of torque. This 2-litre four-cylinder did a perfectly adequate job of hauling the car about. The higher-powered 220d develops more power – 190hp and 400nm – but in back-to-back testing we preferred the 200d as it seemed to better suit the driving characteristics of the B Class. A seven-speed DCT (dual clutch) and new eight-speed G-DCT (200d and 220d) make up the transmission options.

Once you can take your eyes away from the staggering amount of technology available on the dashboard’s wide-screen digital displays, the B Class is a very easy car to use.

It arrives in Ireland next February with prices starting in the low €30,000s. We don’t expect a sales rush. Later this year the GLB, a B-Class-based SUV, will be launched and there is no doubt it will be a far more appealing proposition.

Lowdown: Mercedes-Benz B 200d

Price: from low €30,000s

Power: 150hp

Torque: 320nm

0-100kp/h: 8.3 seconds

Top speed: 219kp/h

Claimed fuel economy: 4.2l/100km (67.25mpg)

CO2 emissions: 119-112

Motor tax: €200

Verdict: behind the unexciting exterior lurks a very easy-to-use mid-sized people carrier.

Our rating: three stars