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Mercedes-Benz B180 CDI BlueEfficiency Sport

Click to view picture gallery“The new B-Class five-door, five-
  seater premium hatch-cum-sports-
  tourer estate is the first of a series
  of smaller cars from Mercedes
  targeting the
compact premium
brand segments so successfully
  dominated by Audi and BMW

THIS ALL-NEW B-CLASS is without question designed for classy family duties ranging from mums delivering and collecting children to and from school, empty-nester couples who can afford a Mercedes and want that extra room for their active senior lifestyles such as garden centre shopping, carrying the grandchildren or the family dog.

It will also appeal to the less able because of its large load space, easy fold-down rear seats and easy access to the higher than average, comfortable but supportive seats — plus there's the option of an automatic transmission for both petrol and diesel engines.

“More of a roomy five-
door hatchback
edging towards a sports-
tourer estate, as is
reflected by the pricing:
21,295 to 26,160
The previous generation B-Class edged towards being an MPV people carrier, competing against the likes of the cheaper Ford C-Max, Citroen C4 Picasso and the Vauxhall Zafira.

Today's totally new B-Class isn't what I would now refer to as an MPV — it's more of a roomy five-door hatchback edging towards a sports-tourer estate, as is reflected by the pricing: from 21,295 to 26,160, with SE and Sport levels of styling, trim and specification.

There's a choice between two latest-generation 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engines with 120 or 154bhp and two 1.8-litre four-pot new-generation CDI turbodiesel units with 107 or 134bhp. All four engines are '
BlueEfficiency' and fitted with ECO start/stop as standard. Six-speed manual transmissions are also standard; a seven-speed, twin-clutch auto is a 1,450 option.

The rear seats offer loads of leg space and the long distance between them and the backs of the front seats allows lots of room to easily load and unload children into their childseats or seatbelts.

An Easy-Vario sliding rear seat option (515 ) makes the rear accommodation more flexible although this really should be a standard-fit feature. The rear seat squabs do not tumble forward so the 60:40 split rear seatbacks are folded down on top of them but this leaves the front section of the load floor slightly elevated — long items have to be pushed uphill to load them. With all five seats in use the boot space is a generous 486 litres — and with all three rear seats folded you have a 1,545-litre loadbay.

The premium interior design, including five large round air vents and loads of chrome finishing, comes from the latest C-Class models; you'll also find plenty of ambient lighting together with leather trim and artificial leather upholstery. The four-dial instrument cluster continues the sports impression, and my Sport specification version also had rubber-studded bright metal pedals.

The 23,360 B180 CDI BlueEfficiency Sport — the range's likely best seller — comes well equipped with all the usual features now expected as standard in a premium brand model. And for those who want the lot there's a long list of extra-cost options and extra equipment packs.

“Externally there’s an
element of sports design
and it looks quite athletic
with sculptured lines
in the side bodywork
giving it a toned look
Standard kit on this version includes four electric windows, power door mirrors, AirCon, and a decent audio system with a 5.8-inch colour screen for displaying driver information. A full array of front and side airbags maximises the safety features. There's also one of my least liked an least user-friendly features — an electronic parking brake.

Externally there's an element of sporting design; it looks quite athletic with sculptured lines in the side bodywork giving it a toned appearance. Glitzy door mirrors, daytime running lights, a large dual-slatted grille with an imposing Mercedes three-pointed star badge, smart alloy wheels, side sills and chrome detailing all add to the look.

The Sports spec also includes large 18-inch alloy wheels shod with low profile run-flat tyres and a lowered sports suspension. These last two items are, for me, the undoing of this particular new B-Class model: the ride is so harsh as to be uncomfortable most of the time, and tiring on a long journey.

The low-pro tyres and lowered, firm suspension just do not cope with poor UK road surfaces and potholes. Deeper ruts and holes create a crashing ride — sending a real jarring impact, that can also be heard, through the car.

A family people carrier, or upmarket roomy sports estate-cum-hatch, just shouldn't have these characteristics. On smoother German or other European roads it might be acceptable, but for motorists in the UK it simply doesn't work and Mercedes needs to tune their car's suspension system and adopt a more appropriate wheel size for this important market. My advice to buyers is to choose an SE model with smaller wheels and without the sports suspension.

Fortunately the previous electro-mechanical power steering has been revised and the latest B-Class delivers up much sharper steering responses with better feedback. The roadholding and cornering is also improved, partly due to the lower centre of gravity brought about by the lower floorpan over the previous sandwich twin floor design.

“Fuel economy is,
officially, 64.2mpg in the
Combined Cycle —
my test car returned a
very respectable
56.2mpg, so what you
lose in zippy
performance you
ll save
in fuel costs
The 1.8-litre, four-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel engine with BlueEfficiency technology generates a modest 108bhp but makes up for it with 184lb ft of torque (from 1,400rpm), so remains responsive accelerating from low to medium speeds — the 'Sport' signature definitely refers to the specification and styling tweaks rather than performance.

That said, in this sector its 118mph top speed is sufficient and the nought to 62mph acceleration time of 10.9 seconds is perfectly adequate.

Fuel economy is, officially, 64.2mpg in the Combined Cycle — my test car returned a very respectable 56.2mpg, so what you lose in zippy performance you'll save in fuel costs.

CO2 emissions of 121g/km mean a 0 road tax bill for the First Year; for the second year of ownership and thereafter you'll pay 100. Insurance costs are attractive with a group 15 rating and company car drivers will appreciate its competitive 17% BIK charge.

Against? Poor ride comfort from the sports suspension, large wheels and low profile run-flat tyres combination; electronic handbrake; rear seats don't fold completely flat.

The styling will undoubtedly attract premium brand buyers in the compact family car sector, as too will the very roomy interior, comfortable seating, large load space and good fuel economy. But the poor ride comfort and the price (particularly if top spec models and options are chosen) take the gloss off ownership in a competitive market sector. If a B-Class appeals then stick with SE versions as they will be better on comfort and better on your pocket. — David Miles

Mercedes-Benz B180 CDI BlueEfficiency Sport | 23,360
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 10.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 56.2mpg
Power: 108bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 121g/km