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Mercedes-Benz B180 CDI SE

Click to view picture galleryThe B-Class is not the best known
  Mercedes in the UK but, as its name
  suggests, it is the next step up the
  ladder from the A-Class. The B-Class
  has, as part of Mercedes-Benz
s new
  and refreshed ‘product rush
, just
  been revised and the latest versions
  will be on sale in the UK from July...”

LIKE THE A-CLASS, THE B-CLASS MODEL RANGE is also very much all about passenger packaging whilst still retaining considerable amounts of load and luggage space. First introduced in 2005, the B-Class has, to date, sold over 350,000 worldwide 14,528 of them in the UK. In a full year, the UK market is expected to average around 5,500 sales of these 'B' cars.

The B-Class is only available in one five-door body style and combines some of the functions of an estate car with those of a five-seater MPV. In Germany and Austria they are very popular vehicles for taxi operators because of their seating capacity, the large luggage area and they are, of course, cheaper to buy and run than the traditional Mercedes E-Class Estate which is also widely used for taxi work.

In the UK, 68 per cent of B-Class customers are private buyers; 62 per cent of registered owners are male; and 40 per cent are over 56 years of age. UK B-Class owners also come mainly from multi-car households; 54 per cent of buyers choose diesel models and 68 per cent also choose the automatic transmission option.

The revised B-Class range for the UK has been reduced in the number of engine and specification options. Standard and Turbo versions are deleted — the line-up now has SE and Sport derivatives with two petrol and two diesel engines

These prices represent a marginal increase (of 150) across the range but Marc Palmer, Mercedes-Benz UK product manager, said the new B-Class models have added value for the customer in terms of specification, design, safety, fuel economy and Bluetooth capability. He added that the SE models also now have a panoramic glass roof as standard (which previously cost 460) and the Sports specification, which used to cost an extra 495, is now also standard.

The B-Class revised engine line-up now consists of two petrol and two diesel engine options, with manual and automatic transmission options available for all of them. The two petrol units are the 1.5-litre 150 with 94bhp, and the 1.7-litre 170 with 114bhp. The turbodiesel engines options are both 2.0-litre units: the 180 CDI (108bhp) and the 200 CDI (138bhp). The sales split between the engines is traditionally 36 per cent for the B180 CDI; 25.5 per cent for the B150; 18 per cent for the B200 CDI; and 14.7 per cent for the B170. The sales split between SE and Sport specifications is expected to be 50:50.

BlueEfficiency versions using petrol engines with manual transmission will become available from September this year. Priced at 550, Active Park Assist is also an option for the B-Class models.

Simply put, look on the B-Class as being the big brother of the A-Class five-door. It lingers in the domain between a C-segment five-door estate and a C-segment MPV. It has more seating space — and certainly more luggage room — than an estate but it does not have the clever alternative seating positions of an MPV such as, say, the Vauxhall Zafira. All the B-Class's rear three seats fold away to create an even larger luggage space that is probably enough for most families with children or older couples with grandchildren.

Again, the right badge is the thing here, with the B-Class having more appeal than estates based on the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra or VW Golf. Not being a true MPV also means it also doesn't shout 'functional family transport' at you — or anyone else!

With the new model line-up in the UK, the SE specification is by far and away the most sensible and will appeal to the vast majority of drivers — even though the prices are the same for SE and Sport specification options. The B180 CDI diesel will marginally be the best-selling engine, even though nearly 70 per cent of customers will be private buyers but these will include business owners. Good news for these buyers is that the most popular B180 engine now shows up to a seven per cent improvement in fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

The restyling, similar to the A-Class, has sharpened up and refreshed the car's exterior. And there are the same savings for fuel economy and reduced CO2 levels. The front-wheel drive B-Class generally handles well enough for most people where ride comfort is the priority. It rolls a little during cornering and rough surfaces can upset the vehicle's stability — small issues if you want to own a family-sized Mercedes-Benz.

The high-up seating position gives good visibility in all directions and, with an overall length of 4,273mm, the B180 can easily be parked. Its 1,604mm height means it fits easily into normal house garages as well as multi-story car parks. Add to that refinement, a huge load space (544-2,245 litres), flexible seating, impressive build quality and executive looks topped off by Mercedes' three-pointed star and it's easy to see why — despite rather indifferent handling and lack-lustre steering response — many motorists would be more than happy to park one on their drive. — David Miles

Mercedes Benz B180 CDI SE
| 20,850
Maximum speed: 114mph | 0-62mph: 11.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 40mpg
Power: 108bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 137g/km | Insurance group 8