The second generation Mercedes B-Class is more handsome, bigger inside and better to drive than its predecessor. However, the ride is firm and the automatic gearbox is indecisive and slow to shift.
Expert rating: 3.6
• Refined engines
• Build quality
• Up to 64mpg possible
• Firm ride
• Ordinary interior
• Slow auto box
1. Exterior: 3/5
The B-Class is a striking and upmarket-looking vehicle, and looks surprisingly sporty for an MPV. Mercedes has sculpted the B-Class into the most aerodynamic shape in its class - it's five centimetres lower than the old model, without a reduction in interior space.
2. Interior: 3/5
There's a simple elegance and understatement in the cabin styling. The air vents are highlights, and the eyes are drawn straight to the multi-media, which looks like an afterthought and not unlike an iPad, which could have security implications. A number of trims are available, with the wood best avoided as it looks particularly plasticky.
3. Practicality: 4/5
The new B-Class is more practical than the old car, but lacks the flexibility of rivals. There is more space though, the steering position is more upright, and the driver sits high up, making it very comfortable. The optional EASY-VARIO-PLUS system allows the rear seats to slide by 140mm, increasing boot space from 486 to 666 litres, and offers a foldable front passenger seat to increase space further. Space in the rear is good for two, but tight for three. Despite this, the B-Class has class-leading rear legroom.
4. Ride and handling: 4/5
The way the B-Class drives is massively improved over the old model. It feels agile through bends where it remains very stable. The power steering offers lots of feedback, and it's refined, with only a small degree of wind and tyre noise. The trade-off is an over-firm ride on Comfort and Sport suspension settings, and the ride gets progressively more fidgety as the wheel size increases.
5. Performance: 3/5
A new range of exceptionally refined engines and gearboxes is available and all offer ample power. Diesels will account for the majority of sales; the B180 CDI and B200 CDI are both 1.8-litre units. The B180 CDI develops 109bhp and 184lb/ft of pulling power so it's capable of reaching 62mph in around 11 seconds and a top speed of 118mph. The B200 CDI produces 136bhp and 221lb/ft for a 9.5 seconds 0-62mph time and a 130mph maximum. Both engines are refined unless pushed hard. The petrols are both 1.6-litre units - the B180 produces 112bhp for a 10.4 second 0-62, while the 156bhp B200 cuts this time to 8.6 seconds - and top speeds are identical to the diesels. The all-new seven speed automatic is slow to shift gears and ponders before making a kickdown to allow overtaking - much better is the new six-speed manual.