Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - B-Class - hatch range
Ride quality, CVT transmission, lower emissions, rear seat room, flat load floor, interior comfort, overall solid feel
Room for improvement
Engine noise, lack of performance and response, dead steering
20 Oct 2008
WHILE the long-running A-class city car has been the sales success for Mercedes-Benz in Europe, the bigger B-class quickly became a better seller in Australia after it was introduced here in 2005.
Called the Sports Tourer by Mercedes, the B-class has more often been referred to here as a bread van because of its SUV-like styling.
On the media launch, we drove the B180 CDI, which is misleadingly powered by a 2.0-litre common-rail fuel injection turbo-diesel engine that produces 80kW of power and 250Nm of torque – the same as the recently-launched A180 CDI – combined with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) also shared with the smaller car.
The interior is typical Benz quality and is differentiated only by some minor trim changes in the mid-life facelifted model and the seating position remains high, which you particularly notice stepping out of the car.
Being built on the same sandwich-construction platform as the A-class and sharing major mechanical components like the steering and suspension, we were not surprisingly disappointed with the dead and heavy steering, as we were with the A-class.
However, the larger B-class seemed to have slightly less road noise, though that is hard to compare without doing a back-to-back over the same roads.
Of course, the extra mass of the B180 CDI (which is 90kg heavier than the A180 CDI) results in a further loss in performance, especially from rest, with the 0-100km/h sprint taking a full second longer at 11.8 seconds.
Fuel consumption and emissions are similarly off – by about 10 per cent to 5.8L/100km and 151g/km respectively – compared with the identically-engined A-class.
However, the extra weight and also the 210mm-longer wheelbase actually benefit the B-class in terms of ride and handling, as well as the overall feel of the car based on our media launch drive over country roads of varied quality.
The B180 sat nicely on the road, without the bouncy ride of the A180, and felt altogether more pleasing (despite the dead electromechanical steering). It is even less susceptible to crosswinds than the lighter A-class.
And we were again impressed by the performance of the CVT transmission in both auto and ‘manual’ modes, not to mention the fact that we personally love the sideways manual shifting that Benz employs while others stick with forwards-and-backwards shifting.
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