Review

Mercedes-Benz B-Class hatchback (2018) review

The B-Class is a small, premium family car that aims to offer extra practicality over the A-Class hatchback upon which it’s based. It’s a rival to the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Volkswagen Golf SV.

Words by: First published: 27th November 2018
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The B-Class is a small family car that builds on the A-Class hatchback by adding more space and practicality. It’s a premium product, as befits the Mercedes badge, and features lots of cutting edge technology for both safety and convenience. It’s not likely to be particularly cheap, but it nevertheless offers a worthy alternative to the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.

Pros

  • Impressive array of technology available
  • Plenty of space inside
  • New diesel engine impresses

Cons

  • Many of the available features are options
  • Not as sporty as the marketing would have you believe
  • Some cheap interior materials

Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz B Class?

How good does it look? 4/5

The B-Class has never been known as a looker, majoring as it does on space and practicality rather than sleek lines, but there’s a good argument that this latest version improves on that. It’s bigger than the previous generation car, and sleeker too, after designers were given a brief to make it look less like a mini-van than previous versions. Exact UK specification is yet to be announced, but we expect that cars will be available with both halogen and LED headlights and a range of alloy wheels between 16 and 19 inches in size.

What's the interior like? 4/5

The B-Class is built on the same mechanical underpinnings as the latest A-Class, so it’s no surprise to find the interior is very similar to its hatchback cousin. It’s a stylish, classy environment with turbine-like vents and a widescreen digital display that houses both the infotainment features and the driving information, in place of traditional instruments. The size of the screens will depend on which version of the B-Class you buy. All cars come as standard with the latest MBUX infotainment system, which includes an impressive voice control system. Simply say “Hey Mercedes” and you can control plenty of features without faffing around with buttons or the touchscreen. It’s one of the better systems on the market.

Build quality is largely good, but there are a few areas that feel a bit cheap, such as the stalks that operate the wipers and indicators on the left, and the gear selection on the right. The seats are positioned quite high, which apparently was the position favoured by customers of the previous B-Class.

How practical is it? 5/5

This is the B-Class’ strong suit, and a priority for the designers. There are plenty of cupholders, cubbies and door pockets dotted around the cabin to keep stuff in. The rear has plenty of space for three adults, although legroom will be slightly compromised for the person in the middle. The boot has a capacity of 455 litres, which is slightly less than the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. But, like in the BMW, each of the three rear seats can move forward and back independently, which makes for a more flexible load space. Slide all the seats forward in the Merc and the cargo space increases to 705 litres. Fold them down and you get 1540 litres, which is slightly more than the BMW. The height of the boot floor can be changed to make a flat surface if you need it.

What's it like to drive? 3/5

So far, we’ve only had a chance to try the optional adaptive suspension, which can vary its stiffness according to the driving mode you select via a dial on the centre console. In Comfort mode it absorbs all but the harshest bumps, although we found that on undulating sections of road, the body of the car will rise and fall as if it were a boat on a choppy ocean. That could have the kids feeling a little bit ill.

Although there’s a definite focus on comfort and practicality, Mercedes describes the B-Class as a 'sports tourer', which suggests a certain level of involvement behind the wheel. It certainly doesn’t disgrace itself, and the steering is well weighted, but while there’s an initial, taut feeling when cornering, the car leans over more than you’d hope through the corners should you try to push on a bit. It’s definitely better in Sport mode than Comfort, but it’s not particularly engaging.

How powerful is it? 4/5

The B-Class comes with five engine choices at launch, although we expect more to follow. On the petrol side, the B180 comes with 1.3-litre turbocharged engine with 136 horsepower, while the B200 comes with 163 horsepower. We’ve tried the latter, and while it’s got punch higher up in the rev range, it can lack a bit of urgency lower down, and is a bit noisy. More impressive is the diesel engine, a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit with either 150 horsepower in the B200d, or 190 horsepower in the B220d. We’ve tried the former, and for the vast majority of people it’ll be plenty, with more grunt low down in the rev range than the petrol. There will also be the B180d, which comes with a 116-horsepower engine. All of the engines are attached to seven-speed automatic gearboxes, apart from the two more powerful diesels, which get eight speeds. We’ve found them to be quick and smooth based on our experience so far.

How much will it cost me? 3/5

It’s hard to comment on costs right now, as the UK pricing hasn’t been announced at the time of writing. We’d expect purchase prices to be comparable to the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and more expensive than Volkswagen’s Golf SV, but we’ll go into more depth on running costs once we know them. In terms of fuel economy, the official figures show around 51mpg for the two petrol engines, while the B180d promises around the 57mpg mark. The more the power, the worse the fuel economy, with the B200d suggesting around 56mpg, and the B220d around 53mpg.

How reliable is it? 3/5

Mercedes doesn’t have a brilliant reputation for reliability, despite its premium status, although there are signs it’s improving. Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, which ranks the manufacturers according to post-warranty issues, puts Mercedes in the bottom half of the table, while JD Power’s 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study – which looks at newer vehicles – places the company mid-table, with a score slightly better than the industry average. This also marks a slight improvement over Mercedes’ position in the 2017 study. Should anything go wrong with your B-Class, Mercedes offers a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

How safe is it? 5/5

The new B-Class hadn’t been crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP at the time of writing, but the A-Class – which it’s based on – scored a maximum five stars, and we’d be very surprised if the B-Class doesn’t do the same. Active Brake Assist is standard, an automatic emergency braking system that will intervene if you don’t react to an impending accident with another vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist. All cars also come with driver and passenger airbags, as well as a knee airbag for the driver and more airbags at the side and above the windows. Rear side airbags are available as an option. Two Isofix child seat mounting points are included on the outer rear seats.

Mercedes has a wealth of safety technology from its flagship S-Class available in the B-Class, although much of it is optional rather than standard. These systems include Active Steering Assist which helps you keep in your lane, a traffic sign recognition system and blind spot detection system that warns of cars in your blindspot.

How much equipment do I get? 5/5

The B-Class’ brochure is loaded with cutting-edge equipment, although we expect that quite a lot of it will be optional. At the time of writing, the exact UK specification had yet to be revealed, but we do know there’ll be a Driving Assistance Package that includes Distronic adaptive cruise control, which – combined with active steering assist – gives the car limited autonomous driving capabilities to make life easier on the motorway. Other options will include augmented reality features on the satellite navigation, which will overlay signs on live video footage from the car, to make it easier to spot a turning.

Why buy? 4/5

Because you want a compact, premium family car that majors on practicality and technology. The B-Class has the potential to get quite expensive if you load it up with all the available technology, and it has a decent rival in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (which is also available as a slightly longer seven-seater, called the Gran Tourer). But the Merc is newer and jazzier, which may well tempt some people away from the BMW.

Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz B Class?