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Mercedes-Benz B-Class review (2005-2008)
Model: Mercedes B200
Bodystyle: 5dr Compact MPV
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Date of Test: August 2005
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What is it?
Mercedes would like you think you are buying into a new genre of car with your new B-Class, the Compact Sports Tourer. “Generous space, exemplary comfort, excellent practicality, an exciting design and a high level of driving pleasure”, or so they say. Mercedes may be the current masters at inventing new market niches but to us the B-Class looks like that well known animal, the compact MPV, albeit a rather posh one. That means it gets five seats in a body much roomier than a traditional mid-sized family car, plus a high seating position that makes city driving so much easier. Being Mercedes, you have to pay extra to get rear seats that remove, something no other manufacturer has the cheek to demand. It’s certainly costly too, though there’s no argument that it looks pretty classy.
Where does it fit?
The B-Class is the A-Class’ s bigger brother, around £3,000 more, with the cheapest model starting at £17k. These two stand apart from the rest of the Mercedes range of saloons and coupes, and the B-Class is still a cheap way to get into a family-sized Merc – it’s certainly a more practical proposition than a C-Class, which starts at well over £20k. However compact MPVs like the impressive new Mazda 5, the Renault Scenic and Vauxhall’s latest Zafira, are thousands cheaper. And if its quality you are after, a very nice 2.0 Honda Accord is yours for the price of the 1.5 B-Class. Perhaps the biggest customer base may come from drivers of the Mercedes M-Class who are fed up with the fuel bills.
What does it do well?
Mercedes has been under the cosh for not only its quality levels but also the way the dealers handle customers. They clearly still haven’t shaken off their aloof attitude even though M-B has taken over many of the UK outlets. That said, there’s no argument that the B-Class appears very well finished inside and out, with nice use of chrome to give it a really expensive feel. It rivals the M-Class for space, and it’s all very easy to live with. Seat comfort is good, with great lateral support for gentlemen, though ladies may find they slide between the side bolsters if the leather seat option is taken. As for high levels of driving pleasure? We’ll pass on that one.
What doesn’t it do well?
This version has the 2.0-litre engine with the optional automatic transmission. The auto is of the increasingly popular constantly variable “CVT” type and you can drive it like an ordinary automatic or use the lever to select one of the seven “gears”. It all works well enough but it’s far from brilliant. It’s best in city work, where the driving experience is smooth and unobtrusive. On faster roads and motorways, however, you really need to mash the pedal right down to the floor to get the acceleration you need for overtaking. In practice, it’s far more satisfactory to use the lever manually to change to lower gears, which is ironic as you have just spent an additional £1,400 for the auto. The ride is too firm, too.
What’s it like to live with?
The high seating position gives excellent all-round visibility, a characteristic that owners of all MPVs and 4x4s seem to like. Unlike most rivals, the floor is very high, a result of the Mercedes twin-floor concept that aids safety and improves interior space. Except that those in the rear tend to sit with their legs out rather than down. Otherwise, this is a very easy car to live with.
Would we buy it?
Not with a petrol engine, for the diesels suit the weight of the B-Class much better. So equipped it would be a neat concept that should do well if it wasn’t so expensive – but then that has always been an issue with Mercedes cars. Whether the company can get away with its 1990s pricing policy today is another matter, especially when the competition has lots to offer. Our money would be spent in other directions, with the Volkswagen Golf Plus arguably offering most of the B-Class’s appeal in a much more affordable package.
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