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With its sharp looks, high-tech cabin and improved drive, there's much to like about the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

05 Jul 2019



"Oh hey, is that the new A-Class?"

That's a question I was asked at least five times in my three days driving this car. The new A-Class is a highly appealing car - it looks good, packs plentiful amenities, drives quite nicely and, of course, it's a Benz. The fact that it's the most affordable Merc you can buy makes it that much more of an enticing proposition.

Except, of course, I ain't driving the A-Class. 

Visually, the new B-Class (bottom) bears a striking resemblance to the A-Class hatchback (top)

Say whaaat?? 

Yep, the car you see here is actually the brand new Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The nomenclature is fairly intuitive and straightforward - it sits between the A-Class and C-Class.

Except, of course, this wasn't strictly the case before. The previous generation B-Class was a chunky and pudgy MPV that, frankly, stuck out like a sore thumb within the Mercedes lineup. It didn't look very nice, wasn't very nice to drive, and just didn't look or feel like a 'proper' Mercedes.

The fact that many people might mistake the new B-Class for an A-Class speaks volumes of its radical transformation, especially on the visual front. Even I was momentarily confused the first time I saw the car.

The sleek new exterior design is a significant improvement from its predecessor's pudgy looks

So what exactly is the new B-Class then? Is it still an MPV? Well, sort of? Mercedes calls it's a Sports Tourer, though if anyone can actually explain to me what that means, I'm all ears.

In person, it definitely feels more big hatchback than MPV. Part of this is really just the way it looks. It has a long 2,729mm wheelbase with short overhangs, a lowered roof line, and a front end that's straight off the A-Class (low and long bonnet fronted by the same front grille, flanked on either side by air intakes with the same detailing).

So it's just a fat A-Class? 

Is that such a bad thing? The interior is again remarkably reminiscent of its littlest brother, which shouldn't come as a surprise since the press release literally has this sentence - 'What goes for A also goes for B'.

The cabin feels premium, high-tech and comfortable

The upgrades are significant. With the two high-resolution 10.25-inch displays, 64-colour ambient lighting and air vents inspired by the world of aviation, the cabin of the new B-Class definitely feels modern and futuristic.

There's also a new steering wheel with Touch Control buttons, which allows you to easily navigate both screens. MBUX is also available, allowing you to operate the infotainment system using voice commands.

The test car, equipped with the AMG Line package, also gets ARTICO leather/DINAMICA microfibre upholstery and light smatterings of carbon fibre.

The two 10.25-inch high-definition screens elevate the sense of luxury in the cabin

How does it drive, then?

Not too badly at all, to be honest. The 1.4-litre engine is gutsy, but noisy. It's a bit rough under hard acceleration, but once you get up to speed, it cruises along at 90km/h perfectly well.

It handles decently enough - body roll is well managed, the car is more agile than I expected, and it honestly just feels like a slightly bigger and heavier A-Class.

However, the steering is rather odd. It is light at low speeds, allowing you to easily turn the wheel to navigate tight bends, but gets heavier at high speeds for added cruising stability.

Touch Control buttons on the new steering wheel let you easily navigate menus without taking your hands off the wheel

It's certainly a useful feature, but it feels weird, partly because the difference between the two settings are so stark in the B-Class. Once you cross around the 60-65km/h threshold, the steering firms up in a manner that almost feels like one of those lane keep driver assistance systems. It's definitely inorganic and lacks progressiveness, so that will take some getting adjusted to.

The ride is also on the harsh side in this AMG Line spec, partly because the suspension is lowered by 10mm. Give this lowered suspension a miss and this becomes a sensible, practical family car.

The 455-litre boot will comfortably see to all your hauling needs

So, should I buy a B-Class?

So how does one distinguish between this B-Class and the ever-popular A-Class? It isn't that easy. As tested, this AMG Line model costs $175,988. A similarly specced A200 will cost you $168,888.

Since its introduction, the A-Class has been the go-to choice for buyers looking for an entry into the premium world of Mercedes. The new B-Class is definitely a fine choice for those who need the extra space. It delivers a premium experience, a solid drive, and a practical package.

The 1.4-litre engine serves up 161bhp and 250Nm of torque

Just don't buy this particular one. Yes, the seats and interior trimming, as part of the AMG Line package, is quite shiok to the touch and adds a little pizazz, but the worsened ride quality alone is enough reason to give it a miss.

MPVs have a bad rep for being bland, boring and uninspired vehicles. Calling the B-Class an MPV is honestly selling it short. Thankfully, the significantly improved styling and packaging means that the B-Class is no longer the ugly duckling in Mercedes family.

The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is significantly improved from its predecessor, and now truly looks and feels like a proper Mercedes

The new B-Class is miles better than the model it replaces, and now it truly look and feel like a proper Mercedes. It's a car that you can buy, without having to worry about the image it projects.

The standard B200 Progressive model will be the buyer's choice, we reckon. Nothing wrong with that at all, especially if most people are going to be mistaking your car for an A-Class. 
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