Comfort paired with a luxurious and spacious interior are why the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is no longer on the five-seat MPV backburner
Mercedes-Benz has been making multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) for quite some time – 12 years to be exact, which is when the R-Class six-seat luxury MPV and the B-Class five-seat small MPV both debuted to the world.
Neither made huge contributions to the brand’s global sales figures, for the B-Class, that was its utilitarian nature paired off with a complete and utter lack of excitement.
We last did a test drive of the facelifted B 200 back in 2015 and came away impressed by its roominess, build quality and usefulness, but less impressed by its humdrum nature, and about being exciting as pudding to drive.
The new third-gen W247 B-Class seen here doesn’t mess with the formula, but it does adopt many of the design and interior elements that’s helped the recently-launched A-Class generate such big interest in Singapore.
As a small MPV (aka minivan) it won’t set your soul on fire with the desire to own it immediately, but it simply looks like it should – a larger version of the A-Class, the car with which it shares drivetrain and (enlarged) platform.
The more sporty AMG Line trim (white car pictured here) does catch the eye with its blacked-out wheels and bodykit, rather than fading into total obscurity like the previous B-Class did, no matter the decoration.
The other trim variant, Progressive, is the one we drove, also has a sort of elegance and dash of taut design that doesn’t shout ‘look at me’ but is worth quiet appreciation.
The car’s powered by the new 1.33-litre turbocharged inline 4, as seen first in the A-Class, and in two gasoline variants announced – the B 180 (136hp, 200Nm) and B 200 driven here with 163hp and 250Nm. Singapore can expect to see both of them in mid-2019.
It’s torquey and able, but also smooth, the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (interestingly the diesel models have an eight-speed dual-clutch unit) is near imperceptible in its work – as before it apes the typical Mercedes automatic in this fashion.
A sea change doesn’t turn the B-Class into a hairpin-eating monster, which is neither expected nor fitting, instead the car gains a poise and tranquility it never possessed before.
There is a some tyre noise, but little wind noise, and there’s a big improvement in ride quality, as even in Sport mode the car makes road lumps cease to be a bother.
Our car came equipped with two-mode adaptive suspension, which is controlled though Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system, though you can also change the steering and drivetrain characteristics as well.
Its responses are gradual and measured, and come the tight hairpins of Mallorca’s hills, there is noticeable understeer. The average driver could probably do with a hint more responsiveness, but on the other hand, the B-Class has the admirable quality of being totally painless to drive over long distances and in all sorts of traffic.
The lovely cabin itself a big bearing on that. Again borrowing much from its A-Class brother, there’s not just space and usefulness, but also flair and polish in a very modern high-tech vein.
Ever move your seat a little to avoid pins and needles? There’s a system for that now: The seat ergonomics do minute self-adjustments in order to minimise joint pain or numbness on long drives.
You can now option the Energizing Comfort system (as tested by us in Singapore on the S-Class S 450 L and for the first time on a small Merc), though the takeup rate of that, like other advanced systems (semi-autonomous driving, parking, advanced safety and more) is debatable in less expensive Mercs like the B-Class – we’ll have to wait for a local test drive to judge their dollar worth, though it’s certainly nice to have the car do more of the driving in traffic.
The MBUX infotainment setup takes centrestage, since you can’t miss the dual 10.25-inch HD screens that form the instruments and main display.
It’s pleasing to use, though like almost all modern infotainment system there’s a definite learning curve since you can not only do everything from play music to navigate, you can also link up your smartphone, create and customise profiles for each and every driver.
In case you didn’t notice the air vents light up. Totally superfluous, but also cool.
There’s also the unmissable light-up air vents, which sound superfluous on paper, but really do look quite neat, especially at night, and lend the feeling of driving something totally 21st century.
While the car’s become longer and wider, with a significant 30mm stretch in its wheelbase, the interior room is almost the same, on paper, and cargo space (455-litres) is less, but keep in mind the B-Class was already larger than competitors named below.
That’s good, as the segment has gotten a lot more crowded since the B-Class first appeared, besides the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, there’s also the Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan (recently facelifted in Singapore), as more people come around to the idea of a five-seat MPV.
An injection of the modern Mercedes mojo has made the B-Class less of a B and more of an A, not just literally, but also in its grade.
Mercedes-Benz B 200 Progressive
|Engine||1,332cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||163hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1620rpm|
|Top Speed||8.2 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||TBA / 127g/km|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|