Puts passengers first: roomy and safe and smooth-riding
Most versions are dull to drive. You pay for premium
What is it?
People carriers aren't very fashionable. On the other hand Mercedes, more than most, should be able to make a decent fist of their template. It's all about roomy, comfy, passenger-first travel.
So here's another generation of B-Class. The first two have quietly done decent business – 1.5 million of the things have been sold since 2005. It's just that no-one seems to have noticed, which says a lot.
People pay high prices for their B-Classes and want high-end equipment. So it can be had with any amount of the fancy cabin and driver-assist technology that gets headlines in the sister A-Class.
Although it's roomy, the B-Class isn't very versatile. The rear seat is just a simple bench with a split-fold backrest.
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 Cd of 0.24 in some versions.
It also comes as an AMG-line trim, with gulping air intakes (and some fake ones), prominent airflow management and big multi-spoked wheels. Mrs Mutton meet Miss Lamb.
The B200d and B220d have Mercedes's excellent OM654 2.0-litre diesel, and this is the first time we've tried it in a transverse installation, though it's coming on-stream in the A-Class at the same time. It comes as standard with a brand-new eight-speed twin-clutch transmission.
Other engines, in the B180d (1.5-litre diesel) and B180/B200 (1.33-litre petrol) we know from the A-Class, where they are a bit of a drudge to drive. Commendably clean though. They get a seven-speed twin-clutch. The suspension and platform are A-Class too.
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. Performance is very limited until you climb quite some way up the range of engines, and the handling is dull.
But it's safe, comfortable and feels like a quality item. And you pay for that. A proper Mercedes.