No model change in the history of Mercedes brand has ever seen the introduction of so many developments at once. Everything from the platform the B-Class sits on to the powerplants that drive it has been re-engineered from scratch, alongside class-leading safety, a sharper chassis and hi-tech equipment. And most importantly, we’re promised a proper ‘premium’ feel in this ‘Sports Tourer’. Here’s a car that’s clearly more practical and versatile, not as frumpy and high-set as a five-seater mini-MPV. It’s the Mercedes take on compact, upwardly-mobile motoring for a compact, upwardly-mobile family.
Approach this car as an MPV customer and you’ll notice one thing very early on. There’s no raised driving position. As a result, customers used to the original version of this B-Class will find themselves perched 86mm closer to the road and it’ll feel like you’re steering from the sky. As the ‘Sports Tourer’ tag this car carries suggests, the dynamic emphasis here has been placed on fast fluid handling on major routes and of course it’ll cruise quietly all day on the highway. I can’t think of any family hatch or small MPV I’d rather use if I absolutely had to undertake a cross-Continental journey. Around town, it certainly feels manoeuvrable, helped by a tight turning circle, courtesy of the more compact engine and gearbox installation.
If you’d removed the front grille and badgework from an original first generation B-Class model, you’d have been left with a shape that could have been made by almost anyone. The MK2 version, in contrast, has much more of a brand-based identity. It is astoundingly sleek for something so necessarily boxy in remit. Compared to this car’s Cd drag factor of just 0. 26, most other MPVs and family hatches are about as wind-cheating as the average garden shed. The reasons why are down to the detail with small but significant touches like the serrated wheel arch spoilers.
Inside, the lower roofline hasn’t translated into less headroom. In fact, there’s actually more, something you especially notice in the rear where there’s potentially more legroom than in a Mercedes S-Class luxury saloon.
Luggage room on offer is undeniably very MPV-like with a 488-litre capacity, plus if you’ve opted for the sliding back seat, you can push it forward and increase the luggage compartment capacity to 666-litres without chucking any passengers out. That though may not be necessary if you poke longer items through the ski-hatch also included in the EASY-VARIO-PLUS package. As part of that, Mercedes also throws in a fold-flat front passenger seat, should you flatten the 60:40 split-folding rear seats and find the 1545-litre total capacity to be insufficient. The boot floor can be raised to make the loading area completely flat.
Behind the wheel it’s a beautifully conceived cabin, from the three-dimensional fascia finish to the SLS supercar-style airvents. From the grippy three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel to the iPad-like colour central info screen (either 5. 8 or 7-inch in size) that powers out of the top of the dash. And the interior’s practical too. There are the usual cupholders, door pockets large enough to put things in, plus a decently-sized glovebox and of course a 12v socket for easy charging. Every lever and stalk functions with a quality click suggestive of a car that will out-last you. It is, in every way, a proper Mercedes experience.