Puts passengers first: roomy and safe and smooth-riding
Dull for the driver, not very versatile
What is it?
This is the third-generation B-Class, and it has now had its mid-life facelift, but very little has changed. Nearly two million B-Classes have been sold since 2005. It's just that no-one seems to have noticed, which says a lot.
Mercedes of all companies should be able to make a decent fist of a people-carrier. It's all about roomy, comfy, passenger-first travel. Which is what Mercedes has been doing, in a variety of car silhouettes, for a century and more.
The B-Class shares almost all its dash interface, engines and suspensions with the A-Class. It's just taller and roomier.
Whereas this was a category with lots of rivals, it no longer is. Main opposition is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.
So MPVs are dying?
Yup, everyone's moving into crossovers, so manufacturers are giving up five-seat people carriers. VW's Golf SV has gone to the grave. The French used to sell cars like this by the hundreds of thousands, but the Scenic and Picasso are no more, though the Austral and C5 Aircross have inherited their space and versatility. Of course Mercedes itself, as well as pretty well all rivals, make a massive choice of crossovers in this size and price range.
It looks expensive.
It's a useful car but not a utilitarian one: spec levels are high, and got higher with the facelift. But then it's not a cheap car. Prices start above £35,000. People pay strong prices for their B-Classes and want high-end equipment. So it can be had with any amount of the fancy cabin technology that gets headlines in the sister A-Class.
The dash has twin 10.25-inch screens with very sharply rendered graphics. Those used to be an option but are standard since the facelift. Extra connected functions have recently been added, but they're not transformative. Since the facelift, the console controller has gone. Also new, fiddly touchpads on the steering wheel replace the old hardware switches. Good for modernity, bad for useability.
Although it's roomy, the B-Class isn't very versatile. The rear seat is just a simple bench with a split-fold backrest, except in one model where it has a sliding rear seat.
Off-trend though they might be, minivans don't have to resemble an egg. Instead the B-Class has the silhouette of an upwardly stretched hatchback, with a definite bonnet and slim sharp headlights. It's smooth too, with a drag coefficient of 0.24 in some versions.
Most of the trims are a variation of AMG Line, which brings more aggressive front and rear bumper/aprons, sill extensions and bigger wheels. Seems there is no limit to the inappropriateness of German premium sportification. Mrs Mutton meet Miss Lamb.
What propels it?
With the facelift, engine choice has been cut to just two, one for each fuel. Yup, Mercedes will still sell you a diesel MPV, which is about as unfashionable as a car can get.
That B200d has Mercedes's excellent OM654 2.0-litre diesel, with 150bhp. It comes as standard with an eight-speed twin-clutch transmission.
The B200 petrol is a 1.33-litre turbo, designed by Renault but built by Mercedes itself. It's 163bhp, but gets a small hybrid boost from a 48V motor/generator – a temporary extra 14bhp on top of the main engine's power. Its transmission is a seven-speed DCT.
The AMG division is addicted to building over-powered versions of every Mercedes model, even those that clearly don't need or can't use it. And yet even they backed away from the notion of B45 S. The notion of such a Franken-MPV will mercifully remain a dream – or nightmare.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
It's really just a tall hatch. If you need that, go ahead. But it's not very versatile; not a true MPV.
Beyond that, all the usual small Mercedes characteristics apply. By dropping the lowest-power engines, they ensured you can't now buy a slug. Performance is adequate. The handling is dull but extremely safe and predictable.
It's stable, comfortable and feels like a quality item. And you pay for that. A proper Mercedes.