The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Mercedes B-Class is one of those invisible cars that’s really quite good. Practical, spacious, well-built and reliable, the B-Class is easy – but costly – to own.
Reasons to buy:
- Strong image
- Very safe
- Incredibly spacious
How good does it look?
There’s no mistaking this as a Mercedes, with that classic grille that features the instantly identifiable three-pointed star. Because the B-Class is relatively unknown, it’s more likely that this will be mistaken for the smaller A-Class, but the nose of this car is less sleek and the sides are more heavily sculpted. The rising waistline adds some dynamism to the looks, but in reality you could hardly call the B-Class a looker. However the design is neat enough even if it’s not really all that inspiring.
What's the interior like?
While the interior design of the B-Class is as sober as you’d expect from Mercedes, the quality of the materials and components used is also up to the standard you’d expect of Germany’s most premium mainstream car maker. Although it’s fundamentally all rather sombre, there are chrome and brushed alloy highlights to lift things, while everything feels and looks very well constructed, even if there’s little in the way of design flair. Where the B-Class scores well though is with comfort, as the seats are reasonably supportive but there’s ample adjustment, especially for the driver’s seat. It also helps that the steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake too.
How practical is it?
For such a small car, the B-Class is inconceivably large inside. Even with the rear seats in place the boot can accommodate 544 litres, but with those seats folded the luggage bay expands to a massive 2,245 litres. That’s getting on for the capacity of some full-size MPVs, and even Mercedes’ own E-Class estate can fit in just 1,950 litres, and that’s two classes up. If you need even more space it’s possible to pay extra for removable seats, but unlike a proper MPV, there aren’t many different configurations for the rear seats.
What's it like to drive?
This is the most disappointing aspect of the B-Class, as the car doesn’t feel reassuring in press-on driving. The elevated seating position only accentuates the body roll so if you tackle a corner in a remotely spirited way, it feels as though the car is quickly going to run out of grip. It’s not as though the ride is especially comfortable to compensate, as things get rather fidgety on scarred surfaces. Buy a B-Class with sports suspension plus bigger wheels, and things are even worse.
How powerful is it?
There’s a pair of petrol engines available in the B-Class, plus one diesel which is offered with a choice of two power outputs. The entry-level petrol variant is the 94bhp B160 that gives a 108mph top speed and 0-62mph in 13.2 seconds. The 114bhp B180 raises the top speed to 114mph and cuts the 0-62mph time to 11.3 seconds, but best of the lot is the B200CDI diesel with its 124mph and 9.6 seconds. If you prefer diesel but you don’t need that level of performance, there’s also a detuned 2-litre available, the B180CDI, which can manage 114mph along with 11.3 seconds from 0-62mph.
How much will it cost me?
The petrol engines are available with BlueEfficiency technology or without. Unusually, cars with it are significantly cheaper to buy, just as powerful yet they’re also more economical and hence have lower CO2 emissions. It’s because these cars have a manual gearbox whereas cars without come with an automatic transmission. The BlueEfficiency technology includes stop/start, low-rolling resistance tyres, aerodynamic improvements and lightweight materials. Cleanest petrol option is the B180 BlueEfficiency with its 146g/km of CO2 and 44.8mpg average, but the B180CDI beats this with 136g/km and 54.3mpg. The range-topping B200CDI carries no fuel consumption penalty, but CO2 emissions climb to 139g/km.
How reliable is it?
Mercedes engineers its cars to a high standard and as a result they tend not to let owners down. If problems do occur, dealers are generally very good at resolving things swiftly, although there is the odd horror story of low-mileage B-Classes suffering from costly problems. Such occurrences seem to be very rare though.
How safe is it?
Mercedes has long been a pioneer of new safety technologies, and its cars have always been among the safest on sale. A five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating is only to be expected, thanks to a very strong structure and lots of standard safety kit. This includes anti-lock brakes, traction control, ESP (electronic stability programme), tyre pressure monitoring and brake assist. If a collision should occur, the car’s occupants are protected by front and side airbags in the first row and curtain airbags in both rows.
How much equipment do I get?
The B-Class is available with two levels of trim – SE or Sport. Both come with much the same standard equipment, but the Sport gets sportier trim such as 18-inch alloy wheels and exterior detailing that spices things up a bit. All B-Classes come with air conditioning, six-speaker CD/tuner, electrically adjustable and heated mirrors, electric front windows and remote central locking. Options include xenon headlights, leather trim, a glass roof and electrically adjustable seats.
It costs little more than an equivalent Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus, yet it carries a Mercedes badge. That doesn’t mean it’s automatically a better car, but if a strong image is important to you, you could do worse than take a closer look at the B-Class.