What's the used Mercedes B-Class hatchback like?
The first generation of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class was a solidly built front-wheel-drive MPV that even its keenest supporters had to admit was to most intents and purposes no more than an enlarged version of the smaller A-Class. It was a competent enough car but it soon seemed to fall off most people’s radar.
This second generation version was deliberately designed to be a little more conventional in appearance and a bit better-mannered dynamically than the first one, and to be a more coherent fit in this compact premium sector. It was lower, leaner and sported a more athletic look, despite which it remained as practical and spacious inside as the buyers of a B-Class MPV would expect.
Engine options included 121bhp and 154bhp 1.6-litre petrols, in the B180 and B200, a 107bhp 1.5-litre diesel in the B180d, a 134bhp 2.1-litre diesel in the B200d and a range-topping 175bhp 2.1-litre diesel called the B220d. A six-speed manual gearbox was standard fare, but a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic was also offered. With this automatic transmission specified the B180d’s displacement grows to 1.8 litres, but its power output remained effectively unchanged.
There were three trim levels to choose from, with the entry-level SE model coming fitted with 16in alloy wheels, comfort suspension, cruise control and a reversing camera, while inside users will find an infotainment system equipped with a 7.0in screen, USB ports and smartphone integration, air conditioning and an adjustable boot floor. Upgrade to the Sport trim and you could expect to find 17in alloy wheels, auto windscreen wipers, a bigger infotainment screen and the addition of climate control, while the range-topping AMG Line models got an aggressive bodykit, brake discs at the front and rear, lowered suspension and leather upholstery. There was also an electric B-Class, which came with more environmentally friendly equipment.
On the road, both the 180 and 180d versions have more than adequate power, and brisk progress can be made. Meanwhile, the B200d is a most agreeable thing, having a useful amount of extra shove for not a great reduction in fuel economy, while the B220d positively flies down the road. Unfortunately, it has to be said that all the diesel-engined variants make quite a racket, with a constant and unfriendly grumbling noise that is too noticeable both around town and at higher speeds. By contrast, the ultra-rare electric version is whisper-quiet, and fairly quick off the mark in traffic.
Rather unusually, the B-Class steers with a quickness and a keenness more akin to a sports car than a family runabout, but thereafter its handling is pretty unexceptional. On the standard chassis, and with the smaller 16in or 17in wheels, it initially seems to ride well, but it soon gets caught out by bumps and road imperfections. On Sport-trimmed cars the ride is very disappointing, with poor rebound damping that means the car can easily lose composure on even quite smooth-looking roads.
Inside, the driving position is more upright than you’d find in most hatchbacks, and space inside the car is generous – like the driving position, something of a middle ground between a hatchback and an MPV. There’s plenty of room for heads and knees wherever you’re sitting, and particularly good provision for feet in the second row.
Mercedes’ materials quality for the B-Class is equally impressive. Regardless of whether you find a car with cloth trim or the optional leather, you'll find the trim flanked by substantial, soft-touch interior plastics that look and feel effortlessly superior to the class standard.