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Driven: Mercedes-Benz B200

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Well before the days of the Audis and BMWs, a Mercedes was, and still is in a lot of places, the ultimate symbol of luxury. But lately, its German comrades have become more than a thorn in its backside. So Mercedes is planning to hit back with something rather small. Premium hatchbacks aren’t exactly new to Indians. Over the years, we’ve learnt to pay increasingly more for small cars. And Mercedes hopes a small three-pointed star will kick start another revolution. We drive their latest B-Class albeit with left hand-drive right here in India. The Indian version will come with a few minor differences apart from having the steering wheel on the right side.

First things first, the B-Class is quite the looker. Mercedes calls it the compact sports tourer. But there isn’t much compact about it. The B-Class is a large hatchback and only slightly smaller than the C-Class. We love the looks, it might have a bit of an MPV stance, but lines are well executed and the car is quite pleasing to the eye. Don’t drool on those 18-inch wheels, the Indian version will have smaller rims thanks to our well-maintained roads. We’ve driven the B200 – the base petrol with a six-speed manual transmission. Mercedes will bring in the petrol first and diesel should follow some time later. The 1.6-litre four-pot produces 156bhp and 250Nm of torque. Not bad for a car this size. There’s also a seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox, but whether that makes it to India remains to be seen.

Anyway, the engine is quite refined for most parts and only makes its presence felt as you get to the redline. Okay, the sound levels are slightly higher than the C-Class but it isn’t intrusive enough to ruin your experience. The light action clutch and sweet shifting six-speed manual gearbox do make up for it.

The power delivery is quite linear and there isn’t any surge but just constant if slightly subdued acceleration. Mercedes claims the B200 will hit 100kph in 8.6 seconds and it will go on to hit a claimed top-speed of 190kph.  And before you ask, the B-Class is a front-wheel drive. No, Mercedes hasn’t lost it. But with 150-odd bhp, a rear-wheel drive setup wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway. The B200 turns in well, the light steering provides decent feedback and it really feels like you’re driving a slightly softer C-class. Ride quality on smooth roads can’t be faulted and in our short time, we really can’t say how well it’ll handle potholes.

But if you’re used to the C-Class, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. Be advised, we drove the import B200 which means it hasn’t been Indianised yet. So it’s running low ride height and on run-flat tyres. And before you start cribbing, the Indian B200 will come with regular tyres and Merc says they will put in a spare as well. Thank you.

On the inside, it’s a refreshing change. It’s a typical Mercedes. We simply love the SLS-style vents. Whoever thought of that, full marks! The dashboard finished in silver and black looks excellent and goes well with the car’s character. Mercedes, please don’t ruin this with beige on the Indian car. But what really impressed us was the space. All passengers have great legroom and it can pass off as a genuine five-seater. Boot space at 468-litres is also massive for a hatchback and easily swallows the weekend or immigration luggage.

The B-Class is indeed promising. Pricing and marketing of this car will determine if  Mercedes can make people pay more for a small car (and it isn’t really small). Our car came with a regular aircon (no fancy, dual-zone climate control) and no power seats either. But it had everything else – a panoramic sunroof, COMAND system and parking sensors apart from the regulars.

Despite the family car angle, the B-Class may not be a volume product. But it will complement that C-Class in your garage rather well.

The numbers
1595cc, 4-cyl petrol, FWD, 156bhp, 250Nm, 6M, 1395kg, 0-100kph 8.6s, Max speed 190kph

The verdict
The B-Class is now going to be your entry into the world of the three-pointed star. It works better at complementing your C-Class.


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