- Practical upright hatchback architecture
- All-wheel drive
- Sharp handling
- Options add up
- A bit too much impact harshness
- Seats could be cushier
If you’re feeling particularly patriotic these days, here’s another happy reason to be Canadian: the Mercedes-Benz B-Class. While we have had access to this wee Euro MPV (or Sports Tourer in M-B speak) since 2006, the US has been denied. Okay, a boxy four-pot hatchback Merc is hardly the stuff of flag-waving and Timbit-juggling, but it is a practical little thing that gives Canadians a $31,850 gateway into the world of the three-pointed star.
So does this four-cylinder cubist cutie feel like a Merc?
The much improved second-generation B-Class arrived for 2012, running with a 208 horsepower, 258 lb-ft turbo four and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (7G-DTC). For 2015, Mercedes-Benz introduced a 4Matic all-wheel-drive version, which not surprisingly handily outsells the front-drive model.
Here we are looking at the 2017 B250 4Matic that carries a base price of $34,150. The extra $2,300 nets an all-wheel-drive system that, for the most part, runs in front-drive mode until wheel slip is detected, after which up to fifty percent of the engine’s torque can be sent aft. The rear wheels also come into play when accelerating vigorously and cornering briskly. On slippery surfaces, targeted braking of individual wheels will direct torque to the tires with the most grip.
4Matic adds about 40 kg of heft and shaves a bit off the official fuel economy figures, which lands at a respectable 10.2 L/100 km city, 7.6 highway, and 9.1 combined. My week of mostly highway driving concluded at 8.8 L/100, with premium fuel required.
So does this four-cylinder cubist cutie feel like a Merc? We North Americans equate Benz-ness with posh interiors, plush rides, high levels of cabin isolation and a sense of enduring solidity – all things present in the current C-Class and upwards. The B250 is a slightly different animal, built on a (soon to be replaced) front-drive-based platform that it shares with the CLA 250 sedan, GLA 250 crossover and, now that Infiniti has jumped in bed with Mercedes-Benz, the 2017 Infiniti Q30 and QX30. With any of these vehicles, you’ll find a ride bordering on stiff that exhibits just a bit too much impact harshness and road noise.
But it’s hardly a deal-breaker. (Unless you prefer the VW/Audi MQB-platform vehicles.) The B250 4Matic is a competent handler, showing sharp steering and a firm set in the corners. The engine and transmission make a fine pair, working best in default Comfort mode where shifts are smooth and the engine stays in the lower reaches of the tachometer. With all 258 lb-ft available from 1,200–4,000 rpm, there is plenty of relaxed urge.
If you’re feeling frisky, Sport mode calls up a more aggressive shift map, and the standard shift paddles add a modicum of driver involvement. There’s also an Eco mode that dulls throttle response and has the engine decoupling from the transmission, dropping to idle when coasting or decelerating. Auto start-stop is standard.
Resplendent in new-for-2017 Cavansite Blue Metallic paint, this tester exudes a certain elegance – its big twin-louvre grill with the salad-plate-sized three-pointed star declares its premium German branding in no uncertain terms. The tapered halogen headlights sport the de rigueur LED eyeliner and there’s some interesting sculpting on the side panels. Out back we have a spoiler and chrome detailing around the twin exhaust outlets. The standard 17-inch alloys look classy too.
Inside we’re treated to a high-quality cabin with a nicely contoured leather-wrapped wheel and a swath of machined “sail pattern” aluminum trim sweeping across the dash. A quartet of large gun-sight air vents and a tablet-like screen perched precariously atop the dash are your giveaway Benz design cues. The major gauges are big and clear, and below the 8-inch screen is an array of buttons for audio and HVAC, including some radio presets. Danke. Delving deeper into Mercedes’ Comand interface requires the use of a rotary/nudge controller that lives on the centre console. As far as these systems go, it’s perfectly logical once you learn it. However, audio quality gets a B- from this musician.
I didn’t find the standard Artico (faux) leather front seats particularly coddling, and it’s the same story in the back – a bit hard. That said, the B250’s upright dimensions pay dividends.
The cabin is airy with generous headroom and excellent sight lines all around. The large rear hatch opens up to a sensibly cubist 488 litres of cargo space that expands to 1,547 litres with the rear 60/40 seat folded forward (although sadly, not flat). This tester had the $1,700 Versatility Package that, among other things, adds 12V power in the cargo area, folding rear tray tables, auto-dimming mirrors, power folding mirrors and a nifty height-adjustable bi-level load floor.
Adding to the sense of openness was this tester’s humungous panoramic sunroof at $1,480. Other interior upticks included Keyless-Go proximity key ($700) and SiriusXM ($475).
Ah yes, the options and packages. Every Mercedes-Benz vehicle has a cleverly configured Premium Package with just enough essentials to make it, er… essential. This year, the B250’s Premium Package drops significantly in price – the once-included navigation and sunroof are now standalone options. So, for the $1,600 we see automatic climate control, back-up camera, smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support (new for 2017), blind-spot assist and 8-inch display (up from 7-inches). Navigation runs $1,100 for those who don’t want to chew through their cell phone data.
Also available is the $1,500 Sport Package that perks things up with an AMG styling package, 18-inch AMG wheels, lowered sport suspension, sport brake system, carbon-look trim, flat-bottom steering wheel and fabric seat inserts with red stitching.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz B250 4Matic is a pretty unique vehicle, offering Euro-cool practicality and all-wheel drive wrapped in that all-important premium Germanic sheen. But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s still a box on wheels, so don’t expect this Benz to be getting a preferred spot in front of the Four Seasons. Valet dude will parking the B in the bowels with all the other proletariat conveyances, three-pointed star notwithstanding. Just sayin’.
|Engine Displacement||2.0L||Model Tested||2017 Mercedes-Benz B250 4Matic|
|Engine Cylinders||4||Base Price||$34,150|
|Peak Horsepower||208 hp||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||258 lb-ft||Destination Fee||$2,026|
|Fuel Economy||10.2/7.6/9.1 L/100 km, cty/hwy/cmb||Price as Tested||$43,121|
|Cargo Space||488/1,547 L (seats down)|
$6,845 – Premium Package $1,600; Versatility Package $1,700; Canvasite Blue Metallic $890; SiriusXM $475; Panoramic Sunroof $1,480; Keyless-Go $700