What is it like on the inside?
You sit taller than in a hatch – 90mm above the A-Class height – and the position is a bit upright and perched. It's not at all uncomfortable but it is another thing eroding your enthusiasm for piling on the g-loads.
On the other hand that high eye-point and deep glass are great for visibility and it feels like an airy place to sit. The height also makes it easy to get in and out.
Probably the only other Mercedes where rear-seat passengers are so influential in the purchase is the Maybach. The B-Class is for people who don't want a big car but do have a tall family. Grandchildren perhaps. There's loads of rear legroom and foot space under the high-set front seats.
But there’s something odd with the rear seats. The base model has a sliding bench, useful for changing the proportion of legroom to boot space. But on the AMG Line models that disappears, to be replaced by a fixed cushion and 40:20:40 split backrest. Either way, it feels very roomy if upright in the back, because there's lots of headroom and you can tuck your feet under the front seats. The boot's not exactly huge – just 420 litres.
Anyway, even with the sliding rear seat, the B-Class can't hold a candle to a Peugeot 5008's flexibility for packing in all sizes and kinds of people and stuff. The French car will even take seven people.
Every version gets two high-res 10.25-inch screens with connected navigation. That also includes Mercedes cloud-based voice activation. It's supposed to understand natural language, and learn your behaviour, suggesting navigation destinations or radio stations according to your regular habits. It doesn't work very well for us at Top Gear, but then we don't have regular habits. We swap cars among test drivers, and anyway it's our job to try to fool and upset cars so we find out how they cope.
You can choose between multiple layouts of the screens, including the HUD on the version so equipped, all configured by steering-wheel touchpads. Unfortunately the touchpads are too nervous, so a couple of accidental swipes can completely rearrange the whole layout. Yet when you want to swipe the pads, they're often sticky and unresponsive, so you swipe again and get a double input. Maddening.
The B-Class used to have an infotainment controller on its console, but that disappeared with the facelift. At least the hardware climate-control switches have survived.