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 engine range. Its 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. The B200 uses a more powerful version of the same 1.3-litre engine, but the extra pace it offers isn’t worth the price premium.
It’s even harder to justify the 2.0-litre B250; it’s capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in a hot hatch-baiting 6.4sec, but if you really want a fast B-Class, the B250e plug-in hybrid makes more sense. Like the A180 and A200, it, too, has a 1.3-litre petrol engine, but one that’s augmented by an electric motor that provides a healthy slug of extra pulling power. It’s very nearly as quick as the regular B250, but also offers an official all-electric range of up to 44 miles and, as we’ll explain later, the potential to save you money.
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 feels quite a bit nippier – it can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.2sec. However, as with the most 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 Volkswagen 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.
Every B-Class has an automatic gearbox, the petrol engines having seven gears while the plug-in hybrid and two most powerful diesels have eight. Both versions generally shift smoothly on the move, but there can be some jerkiness at low speeds. The 2 Series Active Tourer has smoother automatic gearboxes.
It takes a certain knack to drive the B250e plug-in hybrid smoothly; in hybrid or electric mode it can surge away from a standstill rather more abruptly than expected. Smooth braking to a standstill can be tricky, too; the regenerative braking system (this recovers energy that would ordinarily be wasted, and converts it to recharge the battery) has the effect of making the brake pedal inconsistent in feel.
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