The MPV segment seems to have been reignited by a bunch of big name German brands showing interest in a market we thought dead. Mercedes-Benz and its B-Class has been a stalwart in the MPV segment, but has now been joined by perennial rival BMW and its Active Tourer, and Volkswagen who recently launched the SV in South Africa. This facelifted B-Class is said to have an improved cabin, a better range of engines and obviously a refreshed design. We spent a week with the top of the range B250 AMG Line to see if Merc remain at the top of the segment.
Revived MPV SegmentAs mentioned above the MPV segment has seen a resurgence and the Germans have come out swinging. The B-Class allows the driver to sit a little bit higher than a sedan, have a load of headroom that makes the car feel airy and large and then still be able to load loads of things in the back including children.
As far as space goes, the B-Class can hold 486-Litres worth of things in the back but can be increased slightly by sliding the rear seats forward – at the expense of rear legroom. The rear seats fold flat to evolve the rear loading space into cavernous space for surfboards or mountain bikes. Mostly though you get great sedan-like driving qualities with the practicality of an SUV at the back with somewhere in the middle’s driving position.
250 AMG Necessary?In a short answer, probably no. The 2-Litre turbo motor is great in the C-Class where it can waft along and still remain subtly quick. In the B-Class though, the 155 kW and 220 Nm tends to make the drive a bit frantic. Paired with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox the B-Class can be quite slow to react to inputs. There’s a delay from standstill once you press the throttle that can be frustrating and often leads you to mash the throttle down further than you want. Once moving though it goes really well with more than enough power to get excited about as its 6.8 second 0-100kph sprint states.
InteriorI like what Mercedes-Benz has done with its A and B-Class interiors as they feel modern yet luxurious. The three vents that sit at the top of the dashboard have become a symbol of Merc's new models and keenness to capture a younger market. For this facelifted model the multimedia screen measures eight-inches and can be fitted with Garmin navigation built in as an optional extra. The screen has also done away with touch sensitivity and is now controlled via the rotary knob on the centre console. Being the top spec model and AMG line you get some suave leather seats and thanks to the dual-clutch box, paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
The B-Class continues to introduce new safety features from its more expensive models and as standard there’s: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction and stability control and attention assist (drowsiness detector). Collision prevention assist has also been added and will partially brake the B-Class if it detects you are about to have a rear-end collision.
Ride and HandlingAs you can see from the pictures above, the B-Class has some quite attractive options added thanks to the AMG Line fitted to the B250. The front spoiler is added, as are the side ones with chrome strips on them. The main attraction at the rear is the dual tailpipes. The B250 is also lowered slightly and given sports direct steering that increases the steering speed depending of the angle of the wheel. The idea behind it is a more responsive and dynamic feel with this steering system. The 18-inch wheels affect the ride comfort making rippled roads unpleasant and areas of roadworks a harrowing experience. They do look good though, but I would stick with 17s and a bit more tyre sidewall for added road comfort.
Once out of the city the B-Class flexes its muscles in B250 guise, it’s quick and with the lowered suspension quite fun to hustle around corners. It loads up nicely with very little roll and the steering is pin-point accurate. I’m not sure your passengers will enjoy it, but maybe once you’ve dropped them off you can negotiate a mountain pass or windy road on the way home. Who knew that an MPV had hot-hatchback tendencies?
VerdictThe B-Class is a very accomplished premium MPV thanks to its inoffensive looks, spaciousness and comes loaded with good safety systems. In B250 guise though it doesn’t make as much sense, as I would certainly go for a B200 or B220 diesel. You're sacrificing the speed, but improving the ride comfort substantially. There are plenty of options to choose from so you can tailor make your B-Class to your needs. As far as its competitors go, the BMW Active Tourer focuses more on performance dynamics in all models while the VW Golf SV aims more at the budget conscious, practical buyer not concerned with the premium badge a Merc offers.
We put the B-Class vs Active Tourer against each other in an informative video. Check it out!
B-Class PricingOpening the account of the B-Class is the B200 that costs R389 736. This is the B250 AMG Line model which we had on test and that starts at R476 160 before options.
Second OpinionThe Mercedes-Benz B250 blends performance and practicality in one smart looking package. Not only is that engine potent and smooth, the car's practicality and interior space makes it a winner for families. If only the ride wasn't so firm and crashy over uneven tar... My advice is to spec one without the overly sporty low-profile AMG wheels.-David Taylor
We Like: Practicality, Space, handling and looks
We don’t Like: Dual clutch can be slow to react and firm ride on 18-inch wheels
Also consider: BMW Active Tourer, VW Golf SV, Citroen C4 Picasso
See a comparison between the B-Class, Active Tourer and C4 here