Rivals in the premium hatchback segment should be more than a little disturbed by the arrival of the all-new Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The new baby ‘Benz brings a much better styling job, extra kit/technology (including standard collision-warning radar), improved powertrains - and of course Mercedes-Benz quality – but still very handy prices, starting from $38,950.
And while the B-Class is a hatchback, its significance should not be underestimated. The new B-Blass debuts Mercedes-Benz’ all-new small car chassis architecture which in coming years will also underpin the all-new A-Class (due in Australia early next year), a four-door coupe, a compact SUV and an as-yet-undisclosed all-new derivative.
Clearly there’s a lot riding on these cars – Mercedes-Benz predicts compact car segment sales growth of 78 per cent in the next decade as buyers globally switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Overview
Gone is the high-roof look, the all-new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is 5.0 centermeters lower than its predecessor, there’s more interior space and the two petrol/one diesel engine lineup is up to 21 per cent better in fuel consumption.
The new B-Class also debuts in this segment, Mercedes’ ground-breaking PRE-SAFE system which after detecting a possible impact, tensions all seat belts, closes windows and sunroof and relocates the front passenger seat to an optimal location.
The full range is:
B 180 BlueEFFICIENCY $38,950
B 200 BlueEFFICIENCY $43,950
B 200 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY $43,950
The B 200 models gain 17-inch, seven twin-spoke alloy wheels, interior leather and black ash wood trim amongst their extras.
In addition there are six, sharply-priced (you’ll pay no more than $2,990) option packages (and you can mix/match features from various packs). Our pick is the ‘Sports’ pack (styling enhancements, lowered suspension, sportier wheels etc) while the others are ‘Night’, ‘Vision’, ‘Command’, “Exclusive’ and ‘Drive Assistance’.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Engine
Power comes from an all turbocharged four-cylinder engine range (two 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.8-litre diesel) – they’re all from the ‘BlueEFFICIENCY’ lineup. All drive the front wheels via the new 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.
The petrol engines debut Mercedes’ new M270 family and feature the third-generation direct injection system.
Entry-level Mercedes-Benz B 180 employs 90kW of power at 5000rpm and peak torque of 200Nm between 1250-4000rpm. The other petrol (B 200) is good for 115kW at 5300rpm and 250Nm between 1250 and 4000rpm and both return combined cycle fuel economy of 6.1l/100kms and exhaust C02 emissions of 141g/km.
The 1.8-litre turbo-diesel in the B 200 CDI is from the OM651 engine family (as used in the C-Class and S-Class). It also features the third generation common rail direct injection and is good for 100kW between 3600-4400rpm and 300Nm between 1600-3000rpm. Fuel consumption averages 4.7l/100kms and exhaust C02 emissions score 122g/km.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class The Interior
All-change inside for the all-new Mercedes-Benz B-Class with a raft of quality inclusions which stamp the compact hatchback as a ‘Benz’. And the changes make the new B-Class a bit more ‘mainstream’ - for example, as well as the lower roof height, the seat height is 71mm lower.
Interior space is up – now amongst the most spacious in this class with front headroom of 1047mm, rear seat legroom of 976mm and luggage space (rear seat in place) of 488-litres. For those improvements we can thank a more upright seating position (a request from B-Class buyers) and the lowered floor.
There’s the usual top-notch Mercedes-Benz driving position punctuated by the new-design three-spoke steering wheel, centre TFT colour screen (147mm or 178mm) and the typical high-quality ‘Benz instruments. Mercedes enthusiasts will also notice the modern, new-design air vents, curved dashboard and instrument binnacle – all a somewhat radical new look for the German giant.
During our day in the all-new B-Class we sampled several different models with contemporary colour hues inside and outside so go-on – be bold! – don’t order one in the traditional silver paint/black interior…for example we loved the camel-coloured leather with contrasting trim.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Exterior & Styling
And it’s a similar story outside where Mercedes-Benz has retained some cues to the previous generation B-Class models but wrought substantial changes of course highlighted by that overall lowering of the roofline.
As a result, the all-new Mercedes-Benz B-Class adopts the athletic/sporty look which is the current ‘Benz style – in this case reinforced by the wide-looking grille, prominent wheel arches and side feature lines.
Naturally aerodynamics got special attention. With a drag Cd of 0.26, the all-new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is one of the world’s most aerodynamic premium hatchbacks – and for that you can thank the detailed sculpturing around the front wheels and cleverly-shaped underbody.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class On The Road
Mercedes-Benz sent us off for a day in the various roads north-west of Melbourne up to Broadford and Seymour – a nice mixture of freeway, climbs, descents and rural twists and curves. We tried both petrol and diesel and a variety of models with different packs.
And it’s a tough choice – for sure the 300Nm of the 1.8-litre turbo-diesel is a positive, but don’t underestimate petrol power and clever transmission ratios. Of course this is a Mercedes-Benz so refinement levels with both engines are as good as they get.
The all-new B-Class adopts Mercedes’ latest four-link rear suspension and, combined with the lowered centre of gravity courtesy of the new platform, ride and handling is significantly better than the predecessor. Of course the ‘Sports’ pack with 20mm lower ride height, sports dampers and direct steer will be definitely preferred by enthusiast drivers.
Sure the B-Class is no C63 AMG, but over the twists and dives on the way to Broadford we were impressed by the quality front-end dynamics (nice compromise between compression and rebound for the dampers, positive steering response and good balance). And a series of high-speed bumps in one section did not unduly unsettle things even at high speed.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Challenges
However some sections of the road were poorly maintained and this rough bitumen did account for our only minor points deduction – a bit of unusual tyre noise.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class The Competition
Crossover or beefed-up hatchback? Like Nissan’s Dualis, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class does both admirably. But Mercedes was quick to point-out most Volkswagen Golfs sell north of $35K so it’s a wide cross-section doing battle here.
In that context the Lexus CT200h looms large. A bit dearer (starting price $39,990), the Lexus is of course a hybrid and loaded with technology, but the all-new B-Class is a looker in the Mercedes-Benz way and the interior is the usual ‘Benz beauty.
Audi A3 is a great drive, but is likely overshadowed by the Mercedes-Benz B-Class for interior space/practicality.
BMW’s X1 is more SUV than hatch but its $43,500 delivers a lot of car.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Verdict
Mercedes-Benz Australia boss Horst Von Sanden calls it ‘Price/Value Strategy’…we’ll just say the all-new B-Class delivers a lot of car for your coin. Taking into account the extra kit, the latest B-Class represents improved buying over its predecessor in excess of $5,000.
This is the B-Class we’ve always wanted - contemporary in looks and a style which stands-out, but without the previous generation’s ‘quirkiness’. And ‘Benz has cleverly combined enhanced user-friendliness inside with the brand’s hallmark quality and technology.