First drive: new Mercedes-Benz B-Class tested in Spain
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The Mercedes-Benz B-Class is almost the lost soul in the German marque’s extensive range of models.
The compact tourer is rarely in the spotlight, despite it being in the intensely competitive compact vehicle market.
Visually, the current model hardly stands out but it offers a degree of compact luxury combined with practicality. It appeals mostly to an older age group, who particularly appreciate the high driving position and the ease of entering and leaving the vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz has now responded to growing demand for a smarter-looking model by launching the third-generation B-Class, to go on sale here around the middle of next year.
As well as looking sharper, the new B-Class has the latest driver assistance and safety technology, including the much-lauded MBUX multi-media system that has proven popular on the A-Class hatchbacks.
The new B-Class is sharper looking than the current model, is more aerodynamically efficient, and the interior has undergone a significant upgrade.
Pricing will be confirmed closer to the local launch.
Mercedes-Benz New Zealand general manager Ben Giffin said the B-Class combined luxury with practicality and the new generation could now add technology to its repertoire.
“Featuring the MBUX infotainment system launched in the A-Class, plus a new fuel efficient powertrain, we believe this new B-Class will provide a genuine lifestyle alternative to our customers,” he said.
We drove two of the new B Class models at an international launch in Majorca, Spain, last week, and they offer a smooth, high-riding, and comfortable drive.
In New Zealand we will be getting the 1.3-litre petrol-engined model, although several new diesel models are being offered in Europe, where the B-Class has traditionally been more popular than here, especially with taxi operators.
The new models are roomier, with 33mm more elbow room in the front seats, thanks to reconfigured door mechanisms and redesigned door panels.
Visibility has been improved by moving the B-pillar 40mm further back, and improving the design of the dashboard. The new models have the same large glass multi-function screen used in the A-Class models.
This is the third-generation of the B-Class. Since its introduction in 1997 the company has sold more than 1.5 million B-Class vehicles throughout the world, although it is not a huge volume seller for the brand in this country. There were 88 B-Class models registered during 2017 and 37 during the period to the end of September this year.
The model upgrade is part of Mercedes Benz’s determination to improve and expand its range of compact vehicles, which started with the new A-Class hatchback earlier this year.
Demand for the new compact range ( A-Class, B-Class, and GLA models) has been so great that Mercedes-Benz has entered an unusual joint venture arrangement to boost production in Finland, as well as at its largest manufacturing plant in Germany, to meet worldwide demand.
The company’s head of compact vehicle product management, Dirk Kielhorn, said customers had demanded a more dynamic appearance for the B-Class.
Speaking at the launch of the new model in Majorca, he said the longer wheelbase and short overhangs had improved the appearance of the B-Class.
It was also more practical than the existing model, with a height-adjustable floor in the rear compartment, and the rear seats could be easily removed if even more space was required.
The B 200 model we drove last week is powered by a four-cylinder in-line 1332cc engine, that puts out 120kW of power and 250Nm of torque. It is the same engine that powers the company’s A 200 hatchback model. The model also shares the same seven-speed dual clutch transmission.
Although the B-Class is available in Europe with cleaner new diesel engines, only the petrol models are likely to be available here.
The steering is accurate and all models come with three suspension settings.
The new model is also safer, with new driving assistance systems providing one of the highest levels of active safety in the segment, with functions that have previously been available only on the brand’s S Class models. It has improved camera and radar systems to anticipate the traffic up to 500m ahead while using map and navigation data for assistance functions.
The technology means the car adjusts speed and placement when approaching bends, junctions or roundabouts, without disturbing the driving experience.
The B-Class also has active emergency stop assist and active lane change assist systems which also operate more effectively than in previous incarnations.
Other features include comfort seats (including an optional massage function), LED headlights, keyless start and hands-free access, electric tailgate, satellite navigation and nine airbags.