Mercedes-Benz B Class Hatchback (2011 - ) review
The Mercedes B-Class competes with MPVs at the posher end of the scale, cars like the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and the Volkswagen Golf SV.The Auto Trader expert verdict: 2.9 The Mercedes B-Class has a desirable badge and decent cabin quality on its side, which for some MPV buyers, will be a welcome change. However, it doesn’t have as much space or practicality as its best MPV rivals, and it’s also a lot more expensive to buy and no better to drive. For this reason, we find the B-Class a little difficult to recommend.
- Lots of space in the back
- Impressive roster of safety kit
- Range of efficient engines
- Engines aren’t as strong on performance as they are on efficiency
- Not as clever or as versatile as the best MPVs
- Expensive to buy
At a glance
You might expect Mercedes to bring a dash of style to any section of the market it enters, but even compared with other MPVs, the B-Class doesn’t deliver anything that’ll set it apart from its rivals. There’s the three-pointed star set into the two-slatted grille, but apart from that, the styling is pretty derivative and lacking any real imagination. All versions of the car have alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles and mirrors with LED indicator repeaters, and contrary to the name, Sport models look exactly the same except for bigger alloys, and a beefier rear bumper with visible twin exhausts. Range-topping AMG Line cars come with even bigger wheels and a unique bodykit that make the car look a bit sportier.
The B-Class has a high driving position that MPV buyers will love, and there’s loads of adjustment to help you get comfortable. With big windows all-round, you also get a good view out, and with some dense, squishy-feeling materials on top of the dashboard, interior quality is rather better than you’ll find in many rival MPVs. However, the cabin doesn’t feel as posh as those of other Mercedes models, with some harder, cheaper-looking plastics lower down. The way some of the controls (such as the wipers and electronic parking brake) work could be more intuitive, too, and the same goes for the infotainment system.
How the B-Class performs in this area very much depends on whether you see the car as a large family hatchback, or as an MPV; if it’s the former, you won’t be disappointed, but if it’s the latter, you might well be. The rear seats have generous headroom and kneeroom to let tall adults get comfy, and because the rear bench slides backwards and forwards, you can sacrifice some legroom for extra boot volume if you so wish. However, the cabin is too narrow for three people to travel comfortably in the back, and because it doesn’t have three individual rear seats, it’s not as versatile as the best MPVs. The rear seats do split 60/40, but they don’t lie totally flat when you fold them down. The boot is a reasonable size, but many rivals do a lot better in this important area. That said, the boot is good, square shape, there’s no load lip to negotiate and there’s a neat false boot floor that cantilevers up and down easily without you having to do any lifting.
Ride and handling
A family car like this needs to provide a comfortable ride above all else, and on that score, it’s mixed news with the B-Class. It’s good at soaking up the effects of rough, rippled surfaces, especially at low speeds, but ask it to deal with bigger bumps or potholes, and it can easily get caught out, sending a fair old clonk into the cabin. The handling isn’t exactly class-leading, either. The suspension is on the soft side, so you feel the body swaying and lolloping through bends, and because the steering is so light and slow, it’s not the sharpest car you’ll ever drive. The AMG Sport version has a suspension that’s lowered for crisper responses, but we haven’t yet had the opportunity to drive it. The most powerful diesel engine is also available in conjunction with four-wheel drive, and while it gives some useful extra traction, we’d save the extra money it’ll cost you to buy and run.
Five engines are available for the B-Class, two petrol and three diesel. Both the B180 and B200 have turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol units with either 120bhp or 154bhp, but we haven’t had a chance to try them yet. The same goes for the B180 CDI diesel, with its 108bhp 1.5, and the B200 CDI with its 134bhp 2.1. However, we have had a shot in the B220 CDI with its 175bhp version of the 2.1-litre engine. It’s a brawny, muscular engine with a good spread of power, but if it’s paired with the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox like it was in our test car, performance gets severely strangled. It’s reluctant to react when pulling away and it’s slow to swap cogs on the move. And, like it is in other Mercedes models, the 220CDI engine could be rather too noisy for your liking.
Buying a B-Class might be pretty affordable by Mercedes standards, but this is still an expensive car, and compared with other compact MPVs, it’s outlandishly pricey. That said, the desirable badge does mean it’ll retain its value better than many of those rivals. Most of the engines are pretty good on efficiency, returning very competitive figures for fuel economy and CO2 emissions, with the B180 CDI being the star of the show on that score. And, if you already fancy the prospect of adding the twin-clutch gearbox, the good news is that it’ll make your car even more efficient.
Look at Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and the news for B-Class buyers doesn’t look all that great. The car has a less-than-impressive score for mechanical reliability, with electrical and transmission issues accounting for many of the problems. And, as a brand, Mercedes is languishing pretty low in the manufacturer rankings. The owner reviews on this website paint a fairly mixed picture of the car’s reliability, too.
The B-Class gets plenty of safety kit provided as standard, including a stability control system, seven airbags, tyre-pressure monitoring and a system that detects signs of fatigue in the driver, and warns them accordingly. The car has achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, but the tests were carried out a few years ago, and we can’t be sure that it’d achieve the same score under the latest, more stringent testing regime.
SE trim is the entry-level choice, and it comes with four powered windows, air-conditioning, remote locking and seats upholstered in a (very convincing) man-made leather substitute. You also get a tablet-style infotainment system that includes a Bluetooth phone connection and a reversing camera. Sport trim adds ambient interior lighting and rain-sensing wipers, and aside from the styling revisions you get with AMG Line trim, you also get a lowered suspension and a host of interior styling upgrades. It’s perhaps a little surprising, and rather stingy, that no version comes with simple things like cruise control or a DAB radio as standard; you have to pay extra for these bits.