Mercedes-Benz injects some much needed character into the new B-Class, with the middle child of the brand’s compact car family now offering plenty of appeal
Photos: Derryn Wong & Ben Chia
The original B-Class was a bit of a weird fuddy-duddy, with its uninspiring styling and awkward stance making it popular among the slightly older demographic, in contrast with the younger audience that its A-Class sibling attracts. But evidently, it seems that the B-Class was ahead of its time, given that such tall compact crossovers are all the rage these days, and that fellow German rivals BMW and Volkswagen have since introduced their own versions of the concept.
This latest model is the third generation of the B-Class, and while it broadly retains the same idea of a small-sized tall car, it does look somewhat more dynamic and contemporary than before. Mercedes-Benz admits that the B-Class is a ‘minivan’, but threw down a challenge to its designers for this latest version: make it look different and exciting.
The result is a car that actually looks remarkably similar to its A-Class sibling, with more than one person, including our resident young millennial Jon Lim, having made the mistake of misidentifying the car. Its lowered roof line, long and low bonnet, and dramatic sweeping lines across the sides contributes towards a giving it a sportier and more youthful stance. As the kids these days would say, it certainly does look “on fleek” (whatever that means).
It’s the same story inside too, with the B-Class now getting an interior that essentially mimics the A-Class once again, and actually wouldn’t look out of place in a far more expensive car. You get the two 10.25-inch displays that presents you your requisite information in crystal clear high-definition. And then there’s the 64-colour switchable ambient lighting, which can essentially transform your B-Class into a mobile nightclub, if you have the soundtrack to match.
And again, like the A-Class, the B-Class comes equipped with MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), which incorporates the brand’s voice recognition system for the infotainment system. For the most part, it is one of the better systems currently available, but we reckon BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant, which is available on the 3 Series and will soon be rolled out on the 1 Series, is a touch more ‘clever’ in the way it recognises natural speech and executes commands.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the new B-Class however is the way it drives. Whereas the outgoing version felt dull and clumsy, this latest version feels positively sparkling. There’s a peppy verve to the car’s character, always game to take on the next corner, It feels almost hot hatch-like in its handling manners in fact, with its light steering and well-controlled body roll proving to be a surprising delight in a car like this.
In B 200 guise, the 1.3-litre turbo four-pot offers a handy 163hp and 250Nm of torque. It’s not fast by any means, but it certainly feels energetic, with an eagerness to please. It does make a bit of a din, but that really only just adds to this car’s enigmatic character.
The test car came with the optional AMG Line package, which includes lowered (by 15mm) suspension. The ride quality is actually pretty well damped at low speeds, although it starts to become a bit crashy when you go faster. It’s not quite a deal breaker though, but do give it a try before you fork out the seven or so thousand dollars for it over the standard Progressive trim.
That will cost you $168,888 inclusive of COE, while the AMG Line package will set you back another $7,100. For that money you get the lowered suspension, AMG-style alloy wheels and styling kit, and some carbon fibre trim for the interior. But whichever spec you choose, you’ll get a car that is modern, classy and comes with a dollop of fun to boot.
Mercedes-Benz B 200 AMG Line
Engine 1,332cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 163hp at 5500rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1620-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 8.2 seconds
Top Speed 223km/h
Fuel Efficiency 5.7L/100km
VES Band / CO2 B / 131g/km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Price S$175,988 with COE
Verdict: A complete revamp gives the B-Class a dose of fun and modernity, turning it from ugly duckling into sparkling swan