Call this part two. Although Mercedes-Benz has already launched the B-Class locally, it has only now released the petrol-engined models. The latest B-Class is the first model to utilise the new platform on which the upcoming A-Class will also be based, as well as Mercedes-Benz’s first hot hatch, the A45 AMG.
This platform is the basis of a strong drive from this Stuttgart-based manufacturer to offer an extended range of compact cars in the future. Several more derivatives, apart from the A and B-Class hatches, will be built on this platform.
What’s on offer?
Both petrol models, the B180 and B200, use the same 1,6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. In the B180 it produces 90 kW/200 N.m, and in the B200 115 kW/250 N.m, but even so, Mercedes-Benz claims identical fuel consumption figures for both, at 5,9 L/100 km.
As with the turbodiesel model, cruise control (note, not DISTRONIC PLUS, which is a R10 000 option), a multifunction-steering wheel, media interface and an ECO stop/start system come standard. In terms of active safety, the B-Class comes with seven airbags and Mercedes-Benz’s well known Pre-Safe system. Customers can add additional safety items though, such as rear side airbags (R1 500) while the lane tracking package (R7 500) is made up of blind spot assist and a lane keeping assist.
On the road
First up for a drive was the entry-level B180, equipped with the “optional” R10 000 7G-DCT automatic transmission. I emphasise “optional”, because around 95 per cent of customers of the new B-Class pick this transmission, so it is highly unlikely that you will ever see a manual version on the road.
On the back roads of KwaZulu-Natal – littered with animals and sugar cane – this B-Class was well insulated from exterior noise, and it behaved better through corners than you might expect for such a family-oriented car. Although this car ran on 225/45 R17 tyres (a no cost option) it did came with the optional sports package (R10 000). The latter, to name two, offers a 15 mm reduction in ride height and sports suspension. As we discovered in our road test of the B180 CDI, this really spoils the ride quality.
I took this issue up with Reandren Thulkanam, Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s product manager. He quickly pointed out that most of their customers pick the sports package or even the night package (which includes the sports package, along with a few more goodies). This is actually the case with the C-Class as well. Apparently South Africans are not worried about ride quality. They put a greater emphasis on a car that looks good.
With the ride quality issue dealt with, the focus fell on the new 90 kW/200 N.m engine. It really is best suited to a very relaxed kind of driver. Although we mainly drove on country roads, there were times when the engine lacked a little punch, especially during overtaking manoeuvres, but it was the 115 kW/250 N.m version that fixed this inconvenience. From the word go the engine actually felt like it had a bit more to offer than the 25 kW and 50 N.m gains over the base model. Note, the increase in output is due to the ECU and changes to the turbo.
The transmission shifted seamlessly and when you use the small paddles attached to the back of the steering wheel, the changes are executed in a way that you would expect from this type of car – not lighting quick, but more leisurely.
The cabin is without a doubt one of the B-Class’s highlights. Tick the sports package options box and the section of the dashboard that runs horizontally around the air vents will be covered with an attractive silver honeycomb grille pattern. The stand alone Apple-esque infotainment screen makes this feel like the most premium car in its segment. Also offered is an optional panoramic sliding sunroof (R10 000). The black roof lining, which comes standard with the sports package, lends a welcome contrast to the cream leather seats.
If you want a B-Class that offers the best ride take the 16- or 17-inch wheels without the sports package. Yes, the 16-inch wheels might not look the best, but you will have a higher level of comfort. The entry-level petrol engine will be fine for heavy-traffic drives and in town, but as soon as you are driving on the open road, the gutsier version should be your choice. The B-Class is now a luxurious and versatile option, and this is only the beginning of Mercedes-Benz’s new compact car attack.
Model: Mercedes-Benz B180 BE 7G-DCT (B200 BE 7G-DCT)
Engine: 1,6-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 90 kW at 5 000 r/min (115 kW at 5 300 r/min)
Torque: 200 N.m from 1 250 r/min (250 N.m from 1 250r/min)
0-100 km/h: 10,4 seconds (8,6 seconds)
Fuel consumption: 5,9 L/100 km
CO2: 137 g/km
Top speed: 190 km/h (220 km/h)
Price: R309 600 (R329 600)
Maintenance plan: 6 years/120 000 km