What are you driving?
This is the latest Mercedes-Benz B-Class, a spacious and comfortable compact MPV. And whilst MPVs aren't as desirable nor trendy as SUVs, they are practical vehicles, especially if you have a growing family. It competes with the likes of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and the Volkswagen Touran.
This version of the B-Class is powered by a 1.33-litre turbo petrol engine (co-developed with Renault and Nissan), which produces 136hp and 200Nm of torque. It's paired with a dual-clutch automatic transmission, so you can leave it in auto mode or shift gears manually by using the metallic paddles behind the wheel (which are lovely to use). We've already reviewed the B 200 d, so if you are considering a diesel version, have a read of that review too.
The B-Class range starts with the 'Style' trim that includes 16-inch wheels a reversing camera and more. Pricing begins at €32,745 for the petrol version and €35,300 for the diesel. The mid-range trim is 'Progressive', which builds on the equipment of the Style models adding automatic climate control, LED headlamps and 17-inch alloys. It costs from €34,969 for the petrol version and €37,500 for the diesel.
Our test car was the top of the range AMG-Line specification, which comes fully loaded with all the bells and whistles you could possible need, including 18-inch AMG alloys, sportier AMG exterior styling, brushed stainless steel pedals, sport seats and lowered suspension. The AMG-Line is priced from €37,337 for the petrol or €39,842 for the diesel.
Name its best bits
The interior is beautifully crafted and looks very modern. Those cool looking air vents, the three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel, the brushed chrome accents and the soft touch materials all combine to create a very impressive cabin. It is wonderfully comfortable too with plenty of room for passengers and all their paraphernalia thanks to the ample amounts of storage.
The boot can hold 455 litres of cargo with the seats in place. That equates to plenty of room for golf bags, buggies, shopping, luggage or dogs and, if you lay the seats flat, you can get a bike in there too. The boot is slightly smaller than that of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (468-1,510 litres), which is the nearest rival for the B-Class. However, if boot size is a priority for you, consider looking at an estate car.
The widescreen MBUX infotainment system is also eye-catching and slick and quick to use, not to mention easy, especially with the smartphone integration and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I thought having so much screen on the dash would be distracting but I didn't find that to be the case at all. It also helps that the menus are easy to navigate, and the voice control and commands work well. I didn't have to repeat myself loads of times or feel the need to tell the system to feck off, which has been the case with many other systems.
Anything that bugs you?
I'll make a quick note on the looks here: I know it's subjective, but I think the styling is a vast improvement on the old B-Class, but it's still not an attractive shape.
One other thing that bugs me is the gearbox. The accelerator pedal is slow to respond, especially in 'Economy' mode, though this does improve in 'Comfort' mode. Once you are out of the lower gears the transmission cycles through the higher ratios in an ok fashion, but downshifting is sluggish and I often found myself using the paddles for this, especially when preparing to overtake.
And why have you given it this rating?
The Mercedes B-Class is a polished and practical product that comes well-equipped with a terrific cabin and plenty of tech and safety on board. If space is a priority for you, then an MPV could be a better choice than an SUV if you can live with the less than sexy looks. However, as compact MPVs go, the Mercedes is one of the better-looking models on the market.
What do the rest of the team think?
Personally, I'd rather have an estate than the upright appearance of the B-Class and I don't think the interior offers quite enough flexibility. It's more of a tall hatchback than a versatile people carrier. Also, I really did not get on with the combination of the small petrol engine (which is coarse and loud at times) and the dual-clutch automatic gearbox (slow to respond and jerky). The diesel version is far nicer to drive.
Shane O'Donougue - Editor