Mercedes-Benz is unequivocal about its new B-Class: “No model change in the history of Mercedes-Benz has ever seen so many new developments introduced in one fell swoop,” said group research director Dr Thomas Weber in the press statement for its launch.
In overhauling the A-Class-based B, they’ve come up with something less bus-like and more sporting, yet dramatically more fuel efficient at the same time.
The new B-Class lineup comes in two specs with a choice of three engines. The two petrol models use different versions of the same 1.6-litre four. The base 90kW C 180 hits its 200Nm torque peak at a super-low 1250rpm, and keeps it on the boil right up to 4000rpm.
Starting at $38,950 plus ORCs, along with power windows and climate control, it comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, fabric upholstery, sensor-operated headlamps and wipers and a touchscreen-operated six-CD audio with MP3/WMA/AAC compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity and iPod, AUX and USB ports.
The $43,950 C 200 gets a wheel upgrade to 17-inch alloys, very convincing ‘man-made leather’ upholstery, electrochromatic rear-view mirror, interior and exterior trim upgrades and electrically folding exterior mirrors. Most of the extra money goes into extra wattage: peak power goes up to 115kW, torque up to 250Nm available across the same 1250-4000rpm band.
The 1.8-litre C 200 CDI, also $43,950, offers a diesel drivetrain with similar kit to the C 200. Putting out 100kW, it delivers 300Nm between 1600 and 3000rpm. All get Benz’s 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission.
Fuel consumption is down on the outgoing model by as much as 21 per cent. The B 200 CDI diesel model now uses just 4.7L/100 km (122g/km CO2) in the combined cycle.
Petrol variants see improvements in performance while consumption drops to 6.1L/100km combined for both (141g/km CO2) -- up to 12 per cent better than their predecessors.
Attention to aerodynamic detail pays off in a drag coefficient of 0.26, putting it in Prius and E-Class territory -- as slippery as a mainstream passenger vehicle gets.
In keeping with the current habit of bundling options -- and the old German habit of offering options enough to double the price of the car -- six equipment packages are available (Vision, COMAND, Sports, Night, Exclusive and Driving Assistance package). They vary in price from early to late $2Ks. This sees a fully optioned B-Class come in at beneath $60K.
The company is emphasising the B’s new-found sporting credentials, citing several elements in the overhaul central to its character. A lower centre of gravity, a new four-link rear axle and a rewrite on the safety electronics all contribute to better handling, while the electro-mechanical steering has been redesigned for better feel and higher energy efficiency.
An optional sports suspension package boosts handling further by dropping the centre of gravity a further 20mm and adding sports dampers and sharper steering.
Even though the car sits palpably lower than the previous B at the ceiling, headroom has improved. Ergonomics have improved throughout, with seating now more upright, also giving the B what Benz calls ‘a segment-leading degree of legroom (976 mm)’.
Along with nine airbags, a raft of new safety and convenience systems now come standard, including radar-based collision prevention, a driver attention assist package that detects possible driver fatigue, active parking assist, hill start assist and Benz’s Linguatronic voice control.
he platform’s modular design (Benz calls it ‘energy space’) readies the car to accommodate alternative drivetrains, such as hybrid and EV systems.
2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class pricing:
- B 180 BlueEfficiency $38,950 (MRLP)
- B 200 BlueEfficiency $43,950 (MRLP)
- B 200 CDI BlueEfficiency $43,950 (MRLP)