Car Reviews

2019 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Review

Paul Horrell’s 2019 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.

In A Nutshell It’s a compact posh people carrier. Very smooth and refined to drive, full of gadgets if you pay. But not much fun to drive and the interior isn’t as versatile as French MPVs.

2019 Mercedes-Benz B220d Specifications (EU)

Price NA Engine 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder Power 140kW at 3800rpm Torque 400Nm at 1600-2600rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic DCT Drive Front-wheel drive Body 4419mm (L) 1796mm (W) 1567mm (H) Turning Circle 11.0m Kerb Weight 1545kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 43 litres Spare Space saver Thirst 4.4 litres per 100 kilometres (claimed)

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AS REPORTED in our 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class review, the tri-star brand is launching a total of eight cars. The Mercedes-Benz B-Class is one of those, so it shares the same mechanics and much the same dash and equipment, but it has a taller roomier body.

It flies in the face of the global trend for families to shift into crossovers. Mind you Mercedes-Benz offers a shedload of crossovers too. Anyway, if you want lots of cabin room  but have to park in a confined space, ‘minivans’ are a great answer.

Curious about those eight? There’s the A itself, and the next-generation CLA ‘four-door coupe’ as well as a wagon version of that, called the CLA Shooting Brake.

The A-Class sedan (slightly roomier than the CLA) has been launched in some markets, and a longer wheelbase version of that for China. There will be a new GLA soft-roader, and another boxier SUV called the GLB. With this B-Class, that makes eight.

They’re all transverse-engined compacts. There’s a big range of four-cylinder engines, manual transmissions or two different dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs), and all-wheel-drive on some (but not the B-Class – yet).

There are even two different rear suspensions – most have multi-link rear ends, but low-powered ones have a basic torsion beam. That’s cheaper and also makes room for the underfloor battery in forthcoming plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) versions.

What’s The Interior Like?

Minivans have a pretty utilitarian image, but actually the B-Class is a full-on Mercedes-Benz inside. The decor and quality of materials are first rate. The vents are lovely jet-outlet types, the heating controls are nice clicky pieces of jewellery, and there’s fancy ambient lighting. The only exception is the spindly column stalks, for the wipers/indicators and the transmission lever. They don’t feel very reassuring.

You sit high in the B-Class, up with crossover drivers. In the front that means it’s a slightly van-like driving position. It’s not uncomfortable, partly because the seats are excellent, but it doesn’t encourage energetic driving.

Your passengers will be grateful. Not just because it doesn’t have you hooning it around every bend, but also because they, like you, sit high. That means loads of rear legroom, aided by the fact they can tuck their feet under the front seats. They’ve got plenty of head clearance too. And vents and reading lights. But nowhere near as many oddments spaces as in French MPVs.

The back seat has a simple one-piece cushion. The backrest folds forward onto it and is split 40:20:40. But in many MPVs you have individual rear seats. The B-Class does offer a split-cushion seat but only as an option, and not in all markets.

It allows the two halves of the seat to slide separately, and some degree of backrest recline. Those things allow you to apportion space between passengers and the boot, so if you have small children behind they can be slid closer to the adults in front.

The boot behind the standard rear seat isn’t huge, at 445 litres.

What’s The Infotainment And Controls Like?

All of the instruments are on a TFT screen – a 7.0-inch unit unless you stump up for a larger one, but its layout is easy to read. The larger one carries so much info it can get distracting.

A head-up display is available in Germany where they like expensive tech, but it probably won’t make it to Oz – right-hand-drive Britain doesn’t get it.

The infotainment system is called MBUX, for Mercedes Benz User Experience. It combines touchscreens with a touchpad and voice dialogue, and crucially is linked to online servers.

All B-Class versions get a 7.0-inch screen in the centre dash. That has navigation, plus a connected digital assistant with voice activation. This is supposed to be able to decipher natural-language commands, so you can ask the car to alter its settings for you, or ask it to input or search for destinations. It’s a sort of Apple Siri, OK Google or Alexa.

To be honest it doesn’t work brilliantly, but because it’s online it will get better as it gets to know its owner and as they add extra commands to the servers. Plus you need to be in mobile range for it to work properly, as per a smartphone.

The fact the navigation is connected to the web means it can show live traffic, though. The system is also capable of learning: say you go to the same destination every week, or switch from streaming music to a radio news station at the same time of day, then the screen should pop up suggestions at the right time.

Resolution and response times of the screens are top notch. But the most obvious headline on this B-Class, as in the new A-Class, is the upgraded screen system. That’s the layout in these pictures. It comes for a hefty option fee.

This replaces the two small screens for a pair of 10.25-inch jobs that abut each other to make the impression of a single widescreen that runs halfway across the dash.

You can stroke and touch the screen to control it, but that’s not very convenient when the car’s bouncing down the road. So Mercedes also has a touchpad down between your knees. It has haptic feedback, and works pretty smoothly. There are also tiny touchpads on the steering wheel spokes, but my sausage fingers finds them pretty fiddly.

What’s The Performance Like?

We drove two of the diesels, the B200d and B220d. They both use versions of a brand-new engine, with an equally new eight-speed automatic DCT.

The engine’s emissions of NOx and soot are clean enough to meet laws way into the future, thanks to good combustion and lots of after-treatment paraphernalia in the exhaust system. It’s also very quiet and smooth for a diesel. The B200d is supposed to make zero to 100km/h in 8.3 seconds, which sounds quick. It doesn’t feel like it, though. Hills really drag it back too, and though we didn’t try it loaded up the omens aren’t good.

The B220d feels much more gutsy, to a greater extent than its measured acceleration improvement implies. It claims a 7.2sec 0-100km/h. Part of the reason it does that sprint in good time is the excellent transmission. It shifts smoothy and smartly. We’ve separately driven the available petrol engines in the A-Class; the A200 is wheezy, but the A250 gets along nicely enough, and both are available in Australia now for under $50K plus on-road costs.

What’s It Like On The Road?

The set-up is soft. Which makes sense as it’s a car as much about the passengers as the driver.

So the ride is nicely absorbent, the tyres quietly swallowing bumps of all sizes at any speed. Undulating roads taken quickly will have the body floating about, though, as the damping isn’t very firm. There’s an optional AMG Line version with lower, more tautly damped suspension that does help.

Through corners, you’ll find a fair bit of roll and little engagement or feedback for the driver. That said, the steering is accurate and the reactions progressive. It’s very safe and predictable.

Because we were driving the higher-powered engines, we had the multi-link rear suspension. Engineers say the torsion beam is pretty much the same in corners but a bit coarser over bumps – but we’ll have to see about that.

Get the optional Driver Assistane package, likely to be standard in Australia, and it delivers full support of speed and steering on highways.

Surprisingly, wind noise is a bit of a bother at a cruise at European motorway speeds, though at a lower 110km/h it’s peaceful.

What About The Safety Features?

There are five proper three-point seatbelts, four of which have pre-tensioners and load limiters. Airbag count is high: twin front, plys a knee-bag for the driver, curtains front and rear, and standard front-side with optional rear-side protection.

The closely related A-Class collected five stars in ANCAP, and some superb scores in the various sections: 96 per cent for adult occupants, 91 for children, an excellent 92 per cent for pedestrians, and 75 per cent for the safety assist systems.

Those assist systems include standard emergency braking for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The optional safety pack even senses cyclists in blind spots. As a part-time city cyclist, I’m glad about that.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring Says: This isn't quite a full MPV. More of a tall hatch that emphasises rear room. The cabin isn't very versatile in terms of movable seats or multiple storage bins. But then being a Mercedes-Benz it's available with a load of high-tech connectivity and safety features. The cabin decor and quality are also sky-high. On the road it's comfortable, peaceful and reassuring, but utterly unexciting for the driver.

Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.