Mercedes B170 NGT (2008) gas powered review

Published:25 June 2008

  • At a glance
  • 2 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

The initials at the end of Mercedes-Benz B 170 NGT do not stand for No Green Technology. That’s just a rumour. BMW may be thrashing Mercedes in the environmental PR stakes just now, but it doesn’t mean the big M isn’t trying. The B 170 NGT is a B-Class with a conscience. And a boot full of Natural Gas…

So, the NGT in B 170 NGT stands for Natural Gas Technology?

Yep. In addition to the regular petrol tank, the NGT has five extra fuel reservoirs – gas bottles, three stashed between the rear wheels, two below the front seats. These accept either compressed natural gas or even greener purified biogas, to provide cleaner and more economical running.

It’s actually powered by the 2.0-litre lump from the B 200. Detuned from 134bhp to match the regular 1.7-litre B 170’s 114bhp output, and modified to accept compressed gas accordingly. An extra 160kg in weight compromises performance – 0-62mph in the NGT takes 12.4 seconds using either fuel compared to 11.3 for the unleaded-only B 170. But with all tanks brimmed the NGT’s range is over 1,000km (about 621 miles).

Hit me with the green stats, baby

The NGT isn’t anything special on petrol. At 38.7mpg combined it can’t even match the B 200 – capable of 39.2mpg on a small set of wheels – let alone the standard B 170. And that’s before the eco stop-start function arrives for the 1.7 later this year, upping efficiency to 44.1mpg. However, switch the gas on, and the NGT’s economy rockets to 57.6mpg, and CO2 emissions drop from 175g/km to 135. Bettering both B-Class diesels.

Its 16kg gas capacity is good for up to 186 miles. Top speed using either fuel is the same as the standard B 170’s 114mph, but anyone attempting to max this car is probably missing the point. Torque is up slightly to 122lb ft, thanks to the bigger engine.

Ok, so it works in theory. How does it drive?

The NGT always starts on petrol, switching to gas automatically once it’s warmed up. The transition between fuels is practically seamless, and the switch can be made manually at any time using a button on the steering wheel. A large bottle graphic and digital fuel gauge appears in the middle of the instrument cluster when the gas is engaged, helping remind you how good you’re being.

Once moving, the only obvious difference between the two fuels is that it actually runs quieter on gas. Performance never was going to be startling, and the over-light steering, rough ride quality, and body roll carry over wholesale from the standard car. But as a spacious family shuttle it’s basically fine.

I’m starting to wonder what the catch is…

Although the B-Class’ clever sandwich floor construction swallows the gas tanks under the front seats with no problem, the ones in the boot knock 128-litres off the luggage capacity.  But this still leaves 422 litres of space before you have to fold the seats down, and the boot floor remains useably flat.

Perhaps you’re more concerned about the price. At 28,798 Euros (in Germany) the NGT costs just under 3,700 Euros more than the regular B 170, and around 1,700 Euros more than the B 180 CDI diesel. It’s actually 400 Euros less than the B 200 CDI. We could go on to explain how the running costs are also cheaper, and tell you that 28,798 Euros is around £22,791 at current exchange rates. But it’s irrelevant, as Mercedes-Benz has no plans to sell the B 170 NGT over here, citing the lack of a natural gas filling station infrastructure.

Verdict

Are we missing out? Probably not. The NGT certainly works, and is the greenest B-Class currently made. But if you really cared about the environment you’d buy one of those poverty spec ‘green’ family hatchbacks with a super economical diesel engine. Every manufacturer seems to have one of those these days. Except Mercedes.

Specs

Price when new: £22,791
On sale in the UK: Now, in Germany
Engine: 2034cc 4-cyl 8v bifuel (petrol and compressed natural gas), 114bhp @ 5750rpm, 122lb ft @ 3500-4000rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 12.4sec 0-62mph, 114mph, 38.7mpg, 175g/ckm CO2 (petrol), 57.6mpg, 135g/km CO2 (gas)
Weight / material: 1470kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4273/1777/1624

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