Generally designed with practicality in mind, rather than aesthetics, most cars for moms are box-shaped, with big boots and seven seats. The new Mercedes Benz B Class is bucking that trend and we had a chance to put this hot hatch through its paces and we discovered why being a mom doesn’t mean you need to drive a boring set of wheels.
If we start with the way the B Class looks, Merecedes Benz have given it a slick profile. The model we tested was the B200 CDI. It is slightly bigger than your standard city hatch, yet the extra size is disguised in a sleek looking low profile. With sexy multi-spoke wheels that give the car a very sporty look, the B200 has small elements that add credence to the fact that this family hatch is hiding something. The LED running lights, twin exhaust and double sun roof make sure that those who aren’t driving the B, know it is more than just a sad family carrier.
Once you slide inside the B Class, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that it is bigger than a city hatch with ample space for a family of five. The two front passengers have plenty of room and the driver’s comfort and space does not compromise on the room of those in the rear. The layout of the interior is great too, with cup holders everywhere, a large display screen for the satellite navigation and interior functions of the B200. The system allows seamless and easy Bluetooth integration, however you cannot connect your phones music to the onboard system. It does take MP3s, CDs and USBs, but we felt they missed the boat a little by not allow us to connect our smart phone’s music to the onboard system. As with all practical cars for parents, the interior is almost all leather. Leather is easy to clean and even the cream interior on the model we tested proved low maintenance. What we found strange for a car in this price range was the fact that the entire interior was not matching leather. For some reason Mercedes Benz thought it would be clever to match the dashboard and centre console to the beautiful leather seats, with a very hard and cold plastic imitation. The five star interior of the B200 is undone slightly by the cheap looking plastic knockoff.
Being more than we expected outside and inside, we hoped that the B200 would deliver from a performance point of view too. And the diesel engine in our particular model delivered above expectation. The Mercedes was nippy around town, cruised smoothly on the open road and delivered respectable performance without ever compromising on efficiency. Whatever the claimed figures are (somewhere in the high 4s per 100km), we were able to get nearly 800km out of the 54 litre tank. The B Class even has an efficiency monitor which we took upon ourselves to use as game. It gives you your efficiency performance from the start of each trip, measured as a percentage. It measures your acceleration, constant speed and amount of time cruising, to score how efficiently you drove on any particular trip. We were able to score a 70% on a trip that had a fair mix of urban and extra-urban driving.
The performance of the B200 CDI had its up and downs. The top speed of 210km/h and respectable acceleration were greatly complimented by a smooth shifting seven speed automatic gearbox. However, when you changed the gears to manual, the 6 speed paddle shift was slow to respond and meant you need to preempt a gear change well in advance, almost negating the need to have a manual option. The lag from the engine at low speed also meant jumping a gap in the traffic provide you with a few heart pumping moments during a rush hour journey.
No car is without fault, and the B200 CDI is not perfect, but at a shade over R400,000, this particular Mercedes is a step ahead of most of the brands competing for the moms-with-taste market.