All change – Mercedes’ plan B

It’s been not so much a rethink as a complete sea change for Mercedes. Plan B, if you like.

The new Benz B-Class has a claim to fame in that it’s the most significantly changed Mercedes model ever introduced. As Dr Thomas Weber, board member and head of R&D said: “No model change in the history of Mercedes-Benz has ever seen so many developments in one fell swoop.”

Mercedes’ chunky, small SUV’s other boast is that the company claims it as the world’s most aerodynamically efficient car – despite its ‘function over form’ shape, UK models have an impressive 0.26 drag coefficient, with the optionally available Eco model scoring even less at 0.24.

The compact two-box design sees the B with a 48mm height reduction compared with its predecessor and a sports tourer front end look, but in truth this is in many ways Mercedes’ most unusual looking vehicle.

The side profile is decidedly slabby and even Mercedes describes the rear end as sporty but ‘functional’.

But there’s no denying its capabilities, or the fact that the B-Class impresses in every aspect of its driving experience.

Aerodynamic features include front wheel arches that create a ‘cushion’ of air over the front wheels, reducing drag, and low-drag mirrors while emissions improve across the range by up to 26 per cent, with fuel-saving start-stop as standard.

The B-Class also uses latest technology to looks after everyone on board, with Collision Prevention Assist as standard – a radar-based system with adaptive brake assist, designed to prevent rear-end shunts or nullify their severity.

There is also the option of a lane-tracking package designed to stop drivers from wandering and an ‘intelligent’ light system that senses darkness.

Tall, wide and roomy, the B-180 that I tested has many impressive styling cues, with black bordered windows, huge Merc three-pointed star and wicked, dark tinted alloys and low profile tyres. Yes, the side view is frumpy, but looks alone wouldn’t put me off the car, as it has so much going for it.

Inside, for example, the B-Class has top quality furnishings and appointments, with a smart, metal-look fascia and classic all black dash, doors and seats, plus leather wrapped wheel and dramatic, silver-rimmed air vents.

As with all Mercs, big main dial readouts are very clear and the central info screen is operated via a master toggle switch on the centre console.

After a few moments’ panic I finally found the neat little auto gearbox lever tucked away behind the wheel on the offside – the smoothest nudge change you’ll ever come across.

Another space-saver is the push-on, pull off handle for handbrake under the dash , which also releases automatically when you drive away.

Despite its slightly bulky shape, the B is an excellent drive. Steering has plenty of feedback to the driver for a sure touch, the car sits so solidly on the road in the straight ahead position and coasts confidently through the bends.

The diesel engine needs booting early on to get the best out of it 
but picks up well and runs smoothly, with near 70mpg easily achievable overall.

With generous all round space, and loads of versatility, the B180 is family friendly transport with class.

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