Merc’s B-Class compact MPV rules its own niche
New model is a larger, more family-oriented take on the Mercedes A-Class
The MPV is dead; long live the B-Class. Or so Mercedes-Benz hopes.
There was a time when growing families flocked to multipurpose vehicles like the Renault Scenic, Citroën Picasso and Toyota Verso, but that market segment essentially died when SUVs rose up to woo buyers in recent years. BMW dabbled in the compact MPV segment for a short time with its 2 Series Active Tourer, but discontinued it in SA due to poor sales.
But not the B-Class. Mercedes-Benz has decided to persist in this quiet little market niche, and recently launched the third generation of what it calls its compact sports tourer.
Merc’s catchphrase for the car is “more sports for the tourer”, and it is an apt description as the car is looking decidedly less frumpy than its predecessors. On the outside it has been given more styling flair, though it still has a higher roof than an average hatchback, and now also sports Merc’s sexy new generation cabin styling with turbine-style air vents, ambient lighting and digitised cockpit.
Mercedes says the car is more practical and more chic than ever, and under its more stylish new robes the car has grown in size. The B-Class shares its underpinnings with the A-Class but is longer and has a higher roof to fulfill more of a family role. You sit 90mm higher than in an A-Class, too, to give it more of an SUV-style feel when driving.
Buyers in this segment are looking for good space and the B-Class delivers with its roomy rear seat, where there’s headroom and legroom aplenty.
Depending on version, from mid-2019 it will be possible to slide the rear seats forward by 14cm and to move the backrest into a more upright position to vary the capacity of the luggage compartment behind the rear seats between 455 and 705 litres.
With the rear seat folded there’s 1,540l behind the front seats. There’s no spare wheel in the boot, just a puncture repair kit.
An Easy-Pack tailgate is optionally available. It can be conveniently opened or closed automatically at the press of a button, or by a foot movement in combination with optional hands-free access.
The Artico (man-made leather) seats had an attractive dual-tone design in the test car which gave the interior some added pizazz.
The standard fare includes a basic MBUX infotainment system, which can be optionally upgraded with extended features. One of these is voice control, which is pretty good at recognising natural spoken speech such as “I’m cold” or “change the radio station”.
I have mixed feelings about the 1.3l turbo engine. The good part is that it makes impressive power for its size and delivers feisty performance, as highlighted by its 223km/h top speed and 0-100km/h sprint in 8.2 seconds.
It’s perhaps too feisty, however, due to an overeager throttle action that makes the car leap forward rather dramatically, resulting in a car that’s jerky to drive around town. A more progressive throttle would make for a smoother, more relaxed experience.
It’s also a thirsty little engine, with our test car slurping 9.0l per 100km compared to the 5.6l claimed by the factory.
The B200 is a neat little handler, scooting through fast bends with nimble self-assurance.
The steering is quite light, which is great for navigating the urban jungle but doesn’t necessarily deliver the most rewarding feedback in the corners — though the latter isn’t a top requirement in your average mommy mobile.
Hi-tech driving aids from the S-Class have made their way into the new B-Class. For the first time the car is able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations, and also on board are Active Emergency Stop Assist and Active Lane Change Assist.
It’s hard to classify the B-Class, which is an appealing little family vehicle with no direct rivals. Call it a high-roofed hatchback, or compact sports tourer, or MPV, it’s a lone survivor in a class that has been rendered all but obsolete by the rise of SUVs and crossovers.
Think of it as a more roomy and practical version of the A-Class, which is SA’s reigning car of the year.
WE LIKE: Styling, performance, technology
WE DISLIKE: High fuel consumption, overeager throttle
VERDICT: Smart and spacious family MPV
Design * * * *
Performance * * * *
Economy * *
Safety * * * * *
Value For Money * * * *
Overall * * * *
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Seven-speed automatic
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: 223km/h
0-100km/h: 8.2 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 5.6l/100km (claimed); 9.0l/100km (as tested)
ABS brakes, stability control, seven airbags, Distronic Plus automatic cruise control, MBUX multimedia system, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, keyless-go, hands-free access, electric tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, tyre pressure monitoring, climate control, multi-function steering wheel, active park assist, Artico seat trim
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R11,289 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months, no deposit