GRR

Meet the new Mercedes B-class

01st October 2018
Bob Murray

You don’t hear “MPV” very often in these SUV obsessed times. Even “minivan”, the equivalent in the US, is not what it used to be. But they still love a multi-purpose vehicle in France and Mercedes is taking advantage of that to unveil a new compact MPV at the Paris show today.

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It’s the new B-class, the more grown-up and practical brother to the sleek and sporty new A-class. While it doesn’t look as sleek – despite  boasting an excellent Cd of 0.24 – Mercedes says it is definitely sporty, so much so it’s not a compact MPV at all now but a Sports Tourer.

Perhaps…but the real test has to be its added practicality, otherwise why not just buy an A-class? So how does it differ?

The front end gets the same A-class look, instantly identifying it as a new-generation Mercedes family member, but the rest of the body is new. It’s taller than the A, if slightly lower than the old B, it sits on an inch longer wheelbase and has a lower beltline, so more glass and more of what Mercedes says is a greater feeling of space than the old B-class. You sit a full 90mm (almost four inches) higher than in an A. The view out of this car should be very good indeed.

How’s the space used? Only for five seats and a boot. There’s not enough room here for a seven-seat option. But Mercedes says there’s more elbow room and more head room than before, up front at least, but there are no claims for more rear-seat space, other than it is easier to get to the middle seat now.

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The rear bench is split 40:20:40 with each bit folding down as required, while from mid 2019 some versions will come with a rear bench that can be slid forwards by 140mm (five and a bit inches) to expand load space, varying it between 455 and 705 litres. At best an A-class will give you just 341 litres. Fold the back seats down in the new B and you get 1,540 litres of luggage room – more if you opt for the fold-flat front front passenger seat that’s coming later. In contrast an A loaded to the gunwales will take 400 litres less.

That’s the new B then: roomier with a more flexible boot space and a great view out. That alone might not win prizes for MPV ingenuity, but  combined with the A’s assets – class-leading cabin design and optional widescreen dashboard, user-friendly “Hey Mercedes” user experience and new engines and suspension – it might just make a pretty handy Sports Tourer.

There are lots of engine options, mostly diesel including a new 190PS (187bhp) unit, and first deliveries are promised for February. No prices yet but expect a range that parallels the A-class, minus the entry models and the sportiest versions.

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