Premium hatchbacks aren’t a new concept to India as Fiat did try to woo buyers with the launch of the 500 in 2008, the iconic retro car didn’t take off and had to be discontinued by the Italian firm. Fast forward to 2012, it was Mercedes-Benz which seemed to be trying their luck with the launch of the B-Class, another premium hatchback which was expected to get a lukewarm response in the Indian market. But it didn’t, the B-Class took off in spite of it being offered with a petrol engine only and Mercedes brought in the diesel in 2013 while in 2014, the Edition 1 variant was launched. Now in 2015, the facelift of the B-Class has gone on sale and here is why the changes make the car much better than before.
Despite undergoing a minor facelift, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class has increased in length by 34mm. This is mainly due to a pair of well sculpted new bumpers. There is also a new two-slat chrome grille proudly holding a large Tristar badge. Also making a debut on this affordable Mercedes are full LED head lamps which look cooler than before.
There’s nothing new to talk about the facelift B-Class’ side profile except the taller 16-inch wheels, that replace the older 17-inch tyres, which definitely doesn’t add to the overall appeal but will definitely improve the ride quality. At the back, the new Mercedes-Benz B200 CDI gets smart looking chrome highlights around the exhaust tips to reinstate its new sporty theme.
There’s good thought gone in to make the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class appear sportier than before, but it’s not as attractive as the A-Class and reminds us of the long gone Mercedes-Benz R-Class.
Again, there is the C-Class influence here starting with the steering wheel with larger buttons and moving up to even the COMAND screen. When we drove the car in Spain a couple of months ago, we liked the hi-res touchscreen system. In the Indian version though, the screen size has increased compared to the earlier car but is still smaller than the one available internationally. Mercedes have also added satellite navigation, a welcome addition for a car that is called a luxury tourer. Other features include powered seats with memory function and electrically adjustable lumbar support for the driver and co-driver, panoramic sunroof. The upholstery is all-black (depends on the exterior colour and there is an option for beige as well) interspersed with a bit of chrome on the dash
That aside, there are the usual safety trappings that accompany any Mercedes-Benz car – seven airbags, ESP, adaptive braking, brake assist and many more. There is also lots of space even for six-foot plus passengers such as me. I was comfortable in both the driver’s as well as the rear seat as far as leg room was concerned. However, the B-Class’ more upright seats fall short in terms of lower back comfort over long distances. Also, there are no rear AC vents in the model we drove (200 CDI Sport) and we would have also preferred more usable storage spaces. Speaking of storage space, the B-Class gets a massive 488 litres of boot volume.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
The big change and of course the highlight of this facelift for us is the change in tune of the 2.1-litre diesel engine. From 109 HP and 250 Nm on the B180 CDI to 136 HP and 300 Nm on the B200 CDI, the facelifted B-Class receives some much needed punch. The increase in output has an immediate effect on the performance of the car, not only is the new B-Class diesel faster in outright acceleration (0-100 km/hr takes 9.06 seconds as per our VBOX tests), it also feels more eager right from get-go.
Low-end punch is good but the mid-range is where this motor is at its best, power fading as you push the oil burner into the top-end. Redline comes in at under 5000 RPM and there are three driving modes in conventional Merc fashion – C, E and S. The engine’s tuning is actually identical to the A200 CDI (which was launched alongside the B-Class facelift) but the higher weight on the B-Class makes it marginally slower. There are steering mounted paddles should you want to take control of things although the 7-speed gearbox isn’t the quickest when you want urgent shifts, it does work with smoothness and calm though.
Among other things, Mercedes claims that the B-Class now has lower NVH which is something that is too minor to gauge in normal day to day driving. The vehicle should return a mileage of 12-14 km/l. Mercedes hasn’t made any changes to the petrol engine of the B-Class which continues in its B180 guise. The 1.6-litre powerplant produces 122 HP of power and 200 Nm of torque and is matched to a 7-speed automatic gearbox, just like the diesel model. The top speed of the B petrol is rated at 200 km/hr while the diesel model is 10 km/hr faster.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
Our test car came with low-profile tyres (225/40 R18) and an optional sports suspension, so the ride was pretty stiff. However, the launch version comes with a softer suspension and 225/45 tyres on 17-inch rims, which should make it far more comfortable. Hence, it would be inappropriate to comment on the ride quality, but it is safe to say that though it should be fairly pliant, the small B-class is unlikely to have the majestic ride of the Merc saloons. Also, the way the body shuddered through potholes points to a chassis that is not as stiff as the saloons. However, that’s to be expected from a monocoque MPV.
What is truly impressive is the handling, which certainly has a sporty feel to it. The B-class darts from corner to corner in a way that is incredible for a car with such a long wheelbase. The chassis is brilliantly balanced and there’s a wonderful neutral feel to the handling. The way it puts its power down is very impressive for a front-wheel-drive car too. The turn-in is sharp, the grip is fantastic and the body stays nice and flat, allowing you to push it even harder. The best bit about the B-class’ dynamics is the electric steering, which is quick, accurate and has been tuned to offer the same wonderfully fluidic feel Mercedes owners will know so well. In fact, the steering feel is so good it will make you wonder if Mercedes has secretly hidden a hydraulic steering pump under the bonnet.
SAFETY FEATURES ;
Mercedes Benz B Class has an integral safety system that is designed to avoid accidents and provide ideal protection for the driver and passenger on the road. It has a drowsiness detection system that observes the movement of the driver on the steering wheel and monitors its details to detect signs of loss of concentration on the road, especially in the night time. In case of a high collision impact, the security system triggers special airbags in two different stages. The front airbags for the driver and passenger are first triggered accompanied by the side airbags for front and rear passengers and knee airbags for the front driver and passenger to avoid collision of the knee joint with the dashboard.
The B-Class costs thousands more to buy than most other small hatchbacks, and even though it has a desirable Mercedes badge, residual values are nothing special for the class. That’ll make ownership even more expensive long-term. All the engines have stop-start technology and return competitive figures for fuel consumption and emissions.