REVIEW DATE: 16 Aug 2010
Models Covered: 5dr hatch B150, B170, B200, B200T petrol, B180CDI, B200CDI diesel [base, SE]
The B-Class has proven something of an oddity in the Mercedes range. Despite offering decent quality and plenty of space for four, the B-Class has underperformed. As a used buy however, it's one of the safest around, the diesels being particularly attractive now that the sharp edge has been taken off the prices. Comparing a one or two year old B-Class with something like a lower middle order mainstream mini-MPV now makes the Mercedes look rather attractive. Get one that's been babied and you'll have little cause for complaint.
Mercedes doesn't often get it wrong but with the B-Class, it developed and brought to market a car that rather confused the public. What was a B-Class? What did it compete against and why should I buy one? Mercedes said it was a premium mini-MPV but the asking prices were way above other cars in this sector. Which was one reason why, while the renaissance of Stuttgart's smaller A-class continued apace, the B didn't fare so well, squeezed into a microscopic market niche. If you wanted an Audi A3 or BMW 1 Series but needed more versatile space, didn't care about handling and had a decent budget, you might buy one. As you might if you wanted a mini-MPV and didn't mind paying over the odds for a three-pointed star on the bonnet. A pretty limited marketplace in other words. Seasoned used car buyers will know what happens next. With a lack of image and little in the way of used market driven demand, residuals crumble and bargains can be picked up for the used buyer who thinks the B-Class' blend of qualities are just the ticket.
Perhaps emboldened by the sales success of long wheelbase variants of the first generation A-Class, Mercedes figured that this was a potential revenue opportunity, plushing up the stretched chassis and charging more for a car they dubbed the B-Class. Landing in dealer showrooms in August 2005, the B-Class met with a deafening wall of buyer apathy, most quite unwilling to shell out over £17,000 for the entry-level 95bhp model while decently specified 2.0-litre petrol versions were looking rather self conscious with a sticker price of well over £20,000 on them. A B200T turbocharged model was introduced to give the range a little added sassiness but otherwise there wasn't a great deal to interest customers looking for the biggest bang for their buck in terms of either practicality, sexy styling or sharp driving manners.
Sit in the back of the B-Class, stretch your legs out and you'll appreciate that it's comparable with the amount of room in the back of an S-Class limousine. Only those at the extreme end of the ergonomic scale will have any problems with head or legroom and there's ample room for three abreast. Despite this, the B-Class breaks the tape at only 4,270mm long. To put that figure into perspective, a Ford Focus measures 4,342mm from bumper to bumper, making this Mercedes something of a packaging marvel. So why weren't we all beating a path to our local Mercedes dealer? The big caveat for many was the asking price. Many looked at those prices, compared them to something like a Renault Scenic or a Focus C-MAX and decided that the gulf was just too large. At one point, Mercedes tried to dub the car a 'Compact Sports Tourer', but despite the great strides in driveability made by the A-Class upon which the B-Class is inspired, 'sporty' is perhaps a stretch too far, even in range-topping 193bhp 2.0-litre turbo guise. Still, at least the car is quite versatile. The rear seats all fold flat into the floor and the boot floor can even be raised to offer a flat loading surface. Other clever touches include a front passenger seat that folds forward to permit long loads and slots next to the rear doors to allow seat belts to be stowed safely out of the way when loading and unloading. The centre rear seat back can also pop forward, offering an armrest with a neat pair of cupholders when travelling four-up. The driving position is undeniably sporty. The wheel sits almost vertical and your legs stretch forward into a deep foot well. It almost feels like sitting in a jacked-up Lotus Elise but for the interior appointments.
Opening price for a Mercedes B150 is £7,500 on a 2005 05 plate. Opt for the SE model and you'll be looking at £8,250 for an 05 plate car. The 1.5-litre engine doesn't have a whole lot of go and the 1.7-litre B170 is a better bet with the SE here costing from around £9,000. The diesels are a better bet altogether and the B180 CDI is possibly the most attractive model in the whole line up from a used perspective, prices kicking off at £9,700 with the manual 'box or another £1,000 on top of that with the CVT continuously variable transmission. The B200 CDI SE starts at just under £10,000. Insurance ranges from Group 7 through to Group 10 for the mainstream models, with the B200 Turbo standing alone at Group 14.
A full Mercedes dealer service history is absolutely essential, especially for the most recent models whose lengthy warranty - effectively for the life of the car - is dependent on proper servicing by an authorised agent. Check that all the accessories work and watch out for cosmetic damage which can be expensive to correct. These are popular cars for families, so check for wear and tear in the rear. Also look for the usual signs of wheel kerbing and poorly repaired accident damage.
The petrol line up opens with the 95bhp B150, then there's a 115bhp B170 and a punchy 136bhp B200. Mercedes even offered a 193bhp turbocharged version of this engine which will make 60mph in 7.2 seconds and run onto a top speed of 140mph. Most buyers instead opted for the diesel-engined models and Mercedes offered a pair of Euro IV-compliant units, the entry-level being marked out by the109bhp B180 CDI, while the premier diesel powerplant was that fitted to the 140bhp B200CDI. A manual transmission is the default gearbox but most models were available with an optional Autotronic CVT gearbox. Its 'manual' mode features seven gears although like a proper automatic, it has a torque converter. The B-Class handles neatly enough, with less body roll than you may expect for such a high-sided vehicle. The electro-mechanical power steering feels a little odd at first, but trust it and it'll direct the car's nose accurately. The ESP stability control system can feel a little over zealous for real press-on driving but otherwise it's fairly vice free. With a little more weight to carry around than the equivalent A-Class, the B-Class enjoys better front end traction, especially evident when packing one of the more powerful engines.
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
(approx. Based on B150 model) Allow around £55 for a set of front brake pads and £35 for the rear and about £175 (excluding catalyst) for a factory exhaust system. A full clutch replacement would cost around £195, a radiator is about £145 whilst a starter motor can be up to £250. A new alternator would be in the region of £495.
The results below show the top B CLASS deals on buyacar
|Mercedes Benz B Class B180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport 5dr Auto diesel hatchback|
|Price £24,500||Save £680|
|Mercedes Benz B Class B180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £23,108||Save £622|
|Mercedes Benz B Class B180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY SE 5dr Auto diesel hatchback|
|Price £23,252||Save £628|
|Mercedes Benz B Class B160 BlueEFFICIENCY Sport 5dr hatchback|
|Mercedes Benz B Class B160 SE 5dr CVT Auto hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT B CLASS DEALS|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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