Mercedes B180 CDI 5dr (2008) review

Published:30 May 2008

Mercedes B180 CDI 5dr (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5

By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator

By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator

Plaudits for the Mercedes B-class were thin on the ground back in 2005 when the car first launched, pitched as a ‘Compact Sports Tourer’. To drive it was nothing of the sort – not as ‘compact’ or ‘sporty’ as a Ford C-Max, nor as able to ‘tour’ on even vaguely demanding roads as a BMW 3-series Touring. And it was always too close to the A-class in concept.

But quietly, the Mercedes B-class has shifted 350,000 units globally in three years; presumably to people who liked the idea of a roomy and flexible five-seater that could swallow considerably more luggage – 544 to 2245 litres – than an A-class (435 to 1995) while ‘out-badging’ its compact MPV opposition. The facelifted version continues that tradition with more fuel-efficient engines, stop/start tech, extra kit and new options.

What sort of extra kit exactly?

The new B-class continues its two-diesel (180 and 200CDI), two-petrol (150 and 170) engine line-up with a reduced trim line-up consisting of just SE and Sport. Prices run from £18,840 to £22,540.

SE trim now includes a large panoramic fixed glass roof worth £440 for only a £150 price hike while the Sport gets the previous £495 Sports package of various interior and exterior chrome upgrades for the same small £150 premium over the previous model.

All models get hill start assist, adaptive brake lights that go into ‘flashing hazard mode’ under heavy braking, and crash-responsive emergency lighting that lights up the interior to help you out if things go pear-shaped.

Topping the unusual options list is ‘park assist’ that all but parks the car for you via sensors and electric power steering, but the driver must remember to do the braking when the rear and front parking sensors bleep their worst. At £550 it’s clever kit but not unique – VW already has similar tech on the Tiguan and Touran – and not one you’d specify unless you were extremely poor at parallel parking. Watch CAR’s test of the self-parking car here.

Click ‘Next’ to read the verdict on the new Merc B-class

But does the B-class look any different?

Exterior changes are small, but the front end gets a slightly better-looking three-louvre matt silver grille with chrome trim and a redesigned bumper to accommodate a large lower air intake. At the back a useful polished stainless steel scratch protection bumper has been added. On the inside brushed aluminium accents lift the otherwise austere interior. Not very different, is it?

Is the new B any better to drive?

Not really. Changes here have been minimal. The B180 CDI tested – which currently takes over a third of B-class registrations – feeds back serious vibrations and noise to the cabin, while its 109bhp never feels able to get the car anywhere fast. Especially when teamed up with the lacklustre CVT auto box – which accounts for almost 70 percent of B-class sales.

The car still feels unsettlingly high-sided with a ‘bobbly’ ride and detached steering. Economy has been improved though, to a creditable 50.4mpg and 148g/km CO2 – great for a diesel auto. The 140bhp B200 CDI is punchier and the two petrol units will at least get some fuel-saving ECO ‘stop/start’ technology from October 2008 as part of Mercedes’ ‘Blue Efficiency’ programme.

Verdict

But overall, the B-class is still one of Mercedes’ weakest products – easily outflanked by the smart Honda FR-V with its extra seat, greater flexibility and cheaper price. Don’t do it.

Specs

Price when new: £20,850
On sale in the UK: 17 July 2008
Engine: 4cyl diesel, 1992cc, 109bhp @ 4200rpm, 184lb ft @ 1600rpm
Transmission: CVT auto, front-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph 11.8sec, 111mph, 50.4mpg, 148g/km
Weight / material: 1435kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4273/1777/1604

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • Mercedes B class: side view photo
  • Mercedes B class: interior view photo
  • Mercedes B class: front view photo
  • Mercedes B class: front three-quarters photo
  • Mercedes B class: front three-quarters photo

By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator

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