The more practical sibling to the CCT100 Car of the Year A-Class is claimed by Mercedes-Benz to have evolved into a more chic and sporty model
On the road
On the road
The new B-Class enters something of a minority segment, with boxy and upright people carrier-style vehicles having been well and truly usurped by the SUV and crossover breed that are deemed more stylish by buyers happy to overlook the reduced practicality.
But Mercedes has persevered with its larger and more spacious sibling to the A-Class hatchback as part of a seven-strong small car offering, and the B-Class is also right at the forefront of cars offering engines that comply with RDE2 emissions regulations. Two of the diesels meet RDE2, which means they sidestep the Government’s four-band Benefit-in-Kind penalty on diesels, as is also the case on the 200d and 220d engines in the A-Class. That means a saving of more than £40 a month for higher-rate tax payers on the B200d driven here, as well as around £500 on a business’s National Insurance payments on the car over three years.
But there’s more to the new B-Class than a bit of saving on tax. The car comes in Sport or AMG Line trim levels and with a choice of four petrol and three diesel engines, with an entry 116hp B180d joining the RDE2-compliant diesels, and the petrol range running from entry 136hp B180 to the most powerful model in the line-up, the 224hp B250.
The B180d is the most efficient in the range; when fitted with the seven-speed automatic gearbox, it gets down to 103g/km, although it still sits one BIK band above the 115g/km B200d thanks to the latter’s RDE2 compliance.
All are front-wheel drive, but the B220 petrol in AMG Line trim is also available with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system for £1920 over the regular car. The B180 petrol and diesel and the B200 petrol have the choice of seven-speed auto or six-speed manual transmissions, while the rest of the range is only offered with an auto (seven speeds on all bar the two more powerful diesels, which get a new eight-speed gearbox).
The step up from Sport to AMG Line is a very modest £1495, and that adds privacy glass, the AMG bodykit, sports seats, stainless steel pedals and other visual adornments, including the 18-inch alloys that look much more attractive than the Sport’s 17-inch wheels. All cars get two-zone climate control, lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control and a rear parking camera, but the standard kit roster isn’t overly generous.
Mercedes bundles the majority of its options into packs now, which means, for example, heated seats can only be had as part of the £1395 Executive Pack, that also includes the excellent 10.3-inch media display, front and rear parking sensors and folding mirrors, while the £2259 Premium pack brings the Executive kit plus a 10.3-inch instrument cluster, keyless entry, uprated sound system and improved interior lighting. Apple CarPlay and wireless phone charging are in a £395 pack, and for a further £495 the excellent (but probably not worth the money) augmented-reality navigation tech and traffic sign recognition can be added. For £1495 there’s also the driving assist package, which brings a big chunk of safety kit, but it’s a lot of money given that few people pay for optional safety extras.
Mercedes claims that the new B-Class has been designed to be more chic and sporty, and it continues in the vein of the new A-Class’s aggressive front styling with the narrow headlamps and chrome elements to the grille on the AMG Line trim. That said, this stance doesn’t quite follow round to the less radically changed side and rear views.
On the inside, the quality and design both impress, especially with the red stitching of the sports seats on the higher trim level, which carries through to the two slightly sculpted rear seats that are comfortable for adults, but not quite as useful for fitting bulky child seats. Rear headroom is good, as might be expected given the high roofline, and legroom is adequate, considering that this is an expanded A-Class hatchback.
Indeed, the B-Class is the same length as its A-Class sister car, but is 122mm taller and 28mm wider, while there is an extra 85 litres of boot space at 445 litres. The downside is that this is still shy of the space offered by the car’s major rivals.
The infotainment system is worked via either touchscreen or touchpad, with neither being completely flawless in response. Much of the system, along with cruise control, audio and phone use, can be operated by the hefty number of buttons and touchpads on the steering wheel itself – at very least taking the car close to the limit of what can be safely operated on the move. And the fact that Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are merely optional is another example of the premium brands trying to charge for something their volume rivals are fitting as standard on cars costing half the B-Class’ price tag. Mercedes is certainly not alone in this regard, but it is disappointing to see the lack of connectivity offered as standard. At least the clever ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant system is fitted to all cars, although certain elements are free for only the first three years.
Mercedes has succeeded in instilling a surprisingly sporty character to the B-Class’s driving experience, providing a car that is sharp and pretty entertaining to drive, while not being too harsh or uncompromising. Ride and refinement are good, with the only let-downs being that the B200 engine of our test car is a touch on the noisy side above 2500 revs, and the throttle can be quite sensitive at low speed.
Higher-speed travel is also far from a chore, with impressively low levels of wind and road noise finding their way into the cabin.
As far as rivals go, front and centre is the only real core competition – the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer. It’s the only other premium small MPV-type car, and is very similar in principle, scope and size. We’ve also looked at the more upright version of the Volkswagen Golf, the SV, and a more regular crossover model in the form of Peugeot’s excellent 3008, which for the same money offers extra kit, a larger vehicle and more stylish crossover design for the same sort of cost.
The B-Class stacks up well against the BMW as its main rival, while the rather bland Golf SV is a way off on whole-life cost. The Peugeot is an interesting one, because crossovers generally have a higher residual value than more sober MPV-style vehicles, but the Peugeot outpointing any of its rivals for RV is still an impressive effort, and the 3008’s favourable emissions figures help make it the best car here from a whole-life costs point of view.
But the Mercedes badge does carry significantly more sway than the Peugeot one, however far that brand and product has come in recent times, so there will be an element of the customer base that won’t move to a non-premium brand. For those people, the B-Class is certainly more practical than an A-Class and under £1000 more expensive. It’s also a more entertaining and agile drive than might be expected and has a decent-quality interior. If a more sensible version of the new A-Class is what’s required, the B-Class ticks that box nicely.
The first Mercedes B-Class launched in 2005 as a more practical sibling to the A-Class hatchback.
Previewed by the Vision B concept car at the 2004 Paris motor show, the model (pictured) was described as an “innovative sports tourer concept” to sit beneath the larger R-Class MPV that was sold from 2006-2013.
Devised to combine the advantages of sporty saloon, estate, van and SUV models in terms of space, driving experience and higher seating position, the B-Class was in a premium niche of its own until the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer launched in 2014.
The second B-Class came in 2011 as an all-new model that shared little bar the name with its predecessor. It claimed improved materials, roomier cabin and a more dynamic appearance. It also became Mercedes’ first volume full electric car in the UK in 2014 with the B-Class Electric Drive, which was capable of 142 miles between charges, although only around 200 were reportedly sold in the UK.
Mercedes’ small car range has now expanded to include hatchback and saloon versions of the A-Class, coupe and shooting brake CLA models and the GLA and GLB SUVs as well as the B-Class.
What they said
What They Said
“The new B-Class features the latest version of our 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine which already meets the new RDE2 emissions standards. This means company car drivers will benefit from tax savings due to the removal of the four per cent BIK diesel surcharge. Private customers will also benefit from a lower road fund licence."
"Along with the financial benefits, the B-Class is even more practical. It also features the latest infotainment system, which includes a state-of-the-art touchscreen and voice-controlled virtual assistant.”
Tom Brennan, head of fleet sales, Mercedes-Benz Cars
Need to know
Three things we like...
The big screens are excellent; shame they’re a pricey option
The front stying is the area most notably improved over the old car
The rear sports seats look great, but aren’t ideal for child seats
...And one we don't
The steering wheel has plenty going on in terms of controls to get to grips with
The driving experience is sharper than might be expected from a car that looks more practical than sporty. Its throttle is a touch oversensitive but it handles nicely.
Emissions are decent, but the fact that two engines are tax-busting RDE2-compliant is a big win for company drivers.
The boot hasn’t got as much space as rivals can offer, but there’s plenty of headroom front and rear, and legroom is acceptable.
Kit levels are reasonable although Mercedes has bundled some useful items, such as front parking sensors or heated seats, into expensive options packs.
It has a sharper design than the previous B-Class at the front in particular, but not all angles are quite so striking.
Comfort and refinement 9/10
Road and wind noise are kept well under control, but there is plenty of engine noise over 2500prm.
The quality is good across most of the cabin, and the choice and variety of materials work well.
The touchscreen doesn’t have the useful haptic feedback of Audi’s systems and the touchpad sensitivity sometimes makes it a little tricky to use. The screen display is clear, especially with optional larger displays.
Whole life costs 9/10
Lower tax bills, good RV and decent emissions give the new B-Class very competitive running costs.
CCT opinion 9/10
BIK savings, running costs and driving experience all score highly.
Mercedes has successfully reinvigorated the B-Class, although it still won’t be a huge seller compared to the A-Class hatchback. Costs stack up well against rivals.