Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
We reckon the entry-level 1.3-litre petrol (badged B180) is the pick of the B Class range. Performance is adequate rather than scintillating, but even with bums on all five seats and a bootful of baggage, there’s enough oomph to get up hills without thrashing the engine. That’s a good thing because, when you do rev the engine harder, it doesn’t sound particularly pleasant.
Next up is the B200, which uses the same basic 1.3 petrol engine but has a bit more power – although the extra pace on offer isn’t worth the price premium. Meanwhile, at the top of the petrol range sits a rapid 2.0-litre B250 which is capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in a hot hatch-baiting 6.4sec, although this engine makes even less sense.
We’ve also tried the 2.0-litre diesels (badged B200d and B220d), and the former, which has 148bhp, is genuinely impressive. It produces its maximum pulling power low down in the rev range, so it feels plenty punchy enough around town and, unlike some diesels, delivers its power progressively rather than in one big rush when the turbocharger kicks in.
Of course, with an extra 40bhp, the B220d ultimately feels quite a bit nippier and is capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in 7.2sec. However, as with the more powerful petrol engines, such rapid acceleration seems a bit unnecessary in a car that isn't remotely sporty.
That’s why Mercedes has, quite rightly, prioritised ride comfort over agile cornering. In Sport or Sport Executive trim, the B Class is impressively supple over patchy surfaces and rides really smoothly on fast A-roads and motorways. And while sharp-edged potholes can send the odd shudder through the body, this is merely noticeable rather than irritating. Even AMG Line cars, which have lowered suspension, aren't remotely fractious. Overall, the B Class is more comfortable than the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and roughly on a par with the Touran.
But what about the handling, we hear you ask? Well, despite being relatively soft and supple, the B Class does a fine job of controlling its top-heavy mass through tight twists and turns. Paired with light but accurate steering and plenty of grip, it’s a surprisingly willing companion when the road gets twisty. In fact, it isn’t far behind the lower-riding A Class for cornering ability.
Wind noise is well contained on the motorway and, while there is a noticeable amount of road noise, it’s far less intrusive than in the rival 2 Series Active Tourer.
All versions of the B Class have an automatic gearbox, although the more powerful diesels have eight gears rather than seven. Regardless of which engine you go for, shifts are mostly smooth on the move – although there is some jerkiness at low speeds. The 2 Series Active Tourer has smoother automatic gearboxes.
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