The latest B-Class is a practical Mercedes five-door hatch you might actually want to buy. Which is a big improvement on the undesirable original one. It’s been designed to feel more like a big Merc, rather than an underdeveloped afterthought: its platform and interior is also used by the excellent new A-Class plus future models including a small coupe and mini SUV.
Unlike the A-Class, it’s not really a looker, but is fine in silver and on the right wheels. The body side crease hints at the CLS, which is good, and it generally looks a lot less apologetic. It’s also impressively aerodynamic: in full beardy Eco trim, its drag coefficient is just 0.24. Almost implausible for such a practical-looking car.
Praise be – this is a B-Class that proves perfectly nice to drive. OK, it’s still not that keen on being pushed beyond its comfort zone, despite a centre of gravity that’s lower than before. But the comfort zone itself is now much more habitable, courtesy of a ride that proves sweet even on some of the larger wheels that come with Sport suspension. Road and wind noise are well isolated too. The all-new engine range includes direct injection turbo petrol’s and diesels, of which the diesels are preferable due to their fatter torque profiles. A six-speed manual is standard, but the optional auto is preferable. The seats of the old B-Class were set high, which made it easy to step into but didn’t do much for feeling a part of the car. They’re lower in this one, meaning it no longer feels like a small Route-master bus behind the CLS-style steering wheel. The interior has a feeling of real Mercedes-like substance, with much of the same topography as in bigger models. At last, it lives up to the promise of being a genuine junior Mercedes Benz. It’s bright, airy and roomy in the back, enhanced by sliding seats, although the boot isn’t up to much when five-up. Overall though, the packaging is very well balanced – and still future-proofed too: it’s ready to take electric and fuel-cell derivatives when they’re ready.