Mercedes-Benz Describes the B-class as a Compact Sports Tourer, but what it is, is a seriously spacious hatchback with all the quality and appeal of a full-size Mercede-Benz. It is, for all practical purposes, in a class of its own, but the trouble is, for its size. It won’t be cheap. Merc plans to launch it in the latter half of August, and it will slot in below the C-class and, you guessed it, above the A-class with which it shares its basic architecture, so expect it to be priced at around Rs 24-26 lakh.
Before you read on, you must know that the B-class you see here is very different from the car that will be launched in India. This car is left-hand drive, has a six-speed manual gearbox and comes with a sporty body kit that adds those gorgeous but impractical 18-inch rims and run-flat tyres. The car is here as part of Mer’s pre-launch promotion of the B-class and while our drive was short, it allowed a reasonably good insight into what to expect from the Indian-spec car.
The first thing that grabs you is the design – there are a number of styling flourishes intended to create visual width – the large grille, well-defined nose, low bonnet and high roofline do give it some identity, but it’s the upswept flank crease that really catches your eye.
The B-class is larger than it looks in pictures. As you can see, it is considerably taller than a C-class and the wheelbase is noticeably long. This is the first transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive Merc on sale in India. Look under the bonnet and you’ll see the engine sits ahead of the front axle line, thereby liberating vital space for the cabin.
The driving position is upright and something of a middle ground between hatchback and MPV norms. But it’s easy enough to get comfortable and, though this car didn’t have them, we’re pretty sure Merc will offer powered seats on Indian versions.
Space inside the car is generous – there’s ample room for heads and knees wherever you’re sitting, and rear legroom is particularly good. However, the seat base is a bit too short and thigh support is not great. The boot is usefully big though.
Other highlights lie with the sheer quality of the interiors. The nice, sporty three-spoke wheel, the triple AC vents in the centre and the sheer quality of leather and plastics tell you that you’re in no oridinary hatchback. It’s a practical cabin too, with a larger glovebox and plenty of storage spaces scattered around.
Merc is tight-lipped about the engines that will power the India-spec B-class, but we do know it will debut with a petrol engine, a diesel following later. We suspect the B-class will initially be offered with the motor under the hood of this B 200-a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, direct-injection turbo-petrol making 156bhp and 25.5kgm of torque. It’s a smooth motor that makes more shove the more it revs. In fact, below 300rpm there is some lag, but once past this mark, the push gets satisfyingly strong and builds shove all the way up to its redline. It is unlikely that India-spec, cars will get this six-speed manual; we expect the seven-speed, twin-clutch auto to be the default choice.
As for the ride, we did find it a bit thumpy and on the stiff side, but we put it down to the run-flats and their low profile. Indian cars will surely get higher-profile, non-run-flat tyres. For the short while we drove it, the B-class displayed good body control, a reasonably direct steering and grip levels were good too.
So first impressions of the B-class are impressive. It’s spacious, well-built and has the feel of a proper Merc. But is our market mature enough to want a luxury mini MPV?
Source: Autocar August 2012