We road test the classy compact people carrier that is the Mercedes-Benz B-Class…
OK, it’s not in the same league of revelations as ‘I’ve never seen Star Wars’, but – up and until recently – I have never driven a Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
Originally introduced as a small MPV in 2005, the current third-generation version was launched in 2019, and it’s just been treated to a mid-life facelift.
More of an update than facelift, visually it’s very light touch. Mild styling changes include new LEDs front and rear, a revised front grille and bumper, plus a reworked rear diffuser.
Inside, the new B-Class has been treated to the latest dual-screen MBUX infotainment system with a digital driver’s display and central touchscreen (both 10.25-inch).
It also gets the improved “Hey Mercedes” voice control, so drivers can keep their hands on the new flat-bottom steering wheel. And, apparently over time, it can even predict personal habits thanks to artificial intelligence. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard.
The MBUX system is slick and updates the interior, while the removal of the rotary controller in the centre console adds to the more modern, minimalist look.
Traditionalists will be pleased to see that Mercedes has kept the three round turbine-look air vents below the centre touchscreen. Others might think they are massive and look dated alongside the cutting-edge infotainment system.
All the petrol engines in the line-up now feature 48V mild-hybrid technology. Mercedes says the system ensures a quieter start than conventional starter motors and allows ‘sailing’ with the combustion engine switched off during steady cruising.
Overall, there’s a choice of two four-cylinder engines – the B200 (petrol) and B200d (diesel).
That B200d is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel which develops 148bhp. It comes as standard with an eight-speed dual-clutch (DCT) automatic transmission.
With a top speed of 136mph, it can accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds, return up to 55.4mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 133g/km.
I tested the B200 which features a 1.3-litre petrol turbo with 160bhp (though it gets a small hybrid boost, adding a temporary extra 14bhp). It has a seven-speed DCT and power is also through the front wheels.
It’s slightly faster to 62mph (8.2 seconds) and quicker overall (139mph), while fuel economy is up to 46.3mpg and CO2 emissions are 136g/km.
Priced from £35,100, there are five trim levels – Sport Executive, AMG Line Executive, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus, along with the limited Exclusive Launch Edition.
Driver assistance and safety technology has been updated on the new B-Class. Essentials such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, automatic headlights, speed sign recognition and cruise control are all standard across the range.
Apart from the updates, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class is much the same as before, which is no bad thing.
There’s ample leg and headroom for five people, while the seats are comfortable. Overall, the build quality is impressive and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces up front.
It’s great for families too, offering 440 litres of boot space (575 litres loaded to the roof). Fold the rear seats down and you get an impressive 1,540 litres.
On the road, the B-Class offers good visibility, thanks to the raised driving position and large glass area.
The punchy B200 petrol engine is generally up to the job and refined for the most part, only becoming vocal when pushed hard.
There’s a choice of driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual), but Comfort is just fine and best suits the practical character of the car.
With light steering, it’s especially easy to drive in town, but it also cruises well on the motorway. For a relatively tall car, it’s surprisingly competent on more challenging roads too, but then that misses the point of the B-Class, which is more about carrying people in comfort.
As for rivals, the B-Class’s most obvious one is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, which is also offered as a plug-in hybrid.
Verdict: The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class may not be the coolest car on the road, but it’s a classy and sensible family choice offering comfort, safety, practicality, good build quality and top badge appeal.