Friday, 30 March 2012


When Mercedes-Benz first launched the B-Class in South Africa, they went into previously-unchartered territory. MPVs in the premium sector don’t exist actually, so the B-Class never really had competition. The brand new car, just launched here in Mzansi, still does not.

While the old car sold well enough, the market where it plays is quite mature. Some even call it old. Mercedes-Benz already has an image as an old people’s brand, and adding a mama’s car into the mix did no help. In order to attract a younger audience, Merc has had to redesign the car from scratch as part of a new batch of small premium vehicles that include the upcoming 2013 A-Class.

“Mercedes-Benz already has an image as an old people’s brand”

A good job done is probably the best way to describe it. Featuring a front grille with three bold brushed chrome louvers, short overhands, a trapezoidal front end with sloping LED daytime running lights and a high bonnet for improved pedestrian safety, the B-Class is quite a striking vehicle. The side profile is characterised by three main kinky lines forming the shape of a sharp blade, while the window pillars grow shorter as one progresses towards the rear. This gives it a slanting look, accentuated by small rear windows. Some of the extra-cost packages make it look even cooler, like the Night Package with a sports suspension and smoked 18-inch alloy wheels.

Having grown in size, the B-Class now measures 4.3 metres long, 1.8m wide, 1.6m high and has a wheelbase of 2.7m. One sits higher than in a normal car inside the B, which I suppose is to be expected for its type. Those with back sensitivities will find it easy to get into, as it requires only an easy slide in. nice as this part is, I’ve never been sold on the idea that this car could be as practical as a Chevrolet Orlando or Renault Scenic for instance, at the same time offering a higher level of spec and comfort. My attitude remains the same.

“I’ve never been sold on the idea that this car could be as practical as a Chevrolet Orlando”

The SLS AMG is obviously Mercedes-Benz’s halo model and the rest of the range will employ a few elements from it. For B, these include the circular air vents adorning the dashboard. Don’t try and fold the screen because it’s permanently fixed on top there. The interior in general is roomy and welcoming, very comfortable in a way that befits a Mercedes-Benz of course. With a long list of features and options, one would probably need the whole internet to list them all. But of for interest’s sake, some are worth noting. In fact, no new Merc has ever debuted with as many new features as the B. Like the Eco start/ stop system that switches off the engine as soon as the car comes to a full stop, then restarts it automatically when the accelerator pedal is prodded.

How about the Comand online feature worth R20 000 extra, which, just as in the C-Class Coupe, one can only use the online function through one’s own Bluetooth connection. Not very clever I must say. Distronic Plus is cool though. While following a car, it keeps a safe distance between the two of you by adjusting your speed to slow down simultaneously with that car. It also has that feature that helps it park itself automatically.

“It also has that feature that helps it park itself automatically”

We got to drive two of the four initial derivatives as they are both immediately available. Interestingly they are both diesel. The B 180 CDI BlueEfficiency and B 200 CDI BlueEfficiency are on dealership floors as we speak, while the B 180 and B 200 can be seen in a couple of months’ time. Standard in all is a 6-speed manual gearbox, which I didn’t get to drive. But the big news is that Mercedes-Benz has fitted a new 7-speed double clutch called 7G-DCT (Dual Clutch Auto Transmission). The changer is awesomely smooth, yet also gives iotas of sporty feedback when applied with shift paddles behind the steering wheel.

The B 180 CDI is one of only a few appropriately badged cars in the Merc garage as it features an actual 1.8-litre engine! The 4-cylinder with a VTG turbo, common rail technology and direct injection pushes through 80kW between 3200rpm and 4600rpm, paired with 250Nm of torque between 1400rpm and 2800rpm. Entry-level it is, and entry-level it felt while attempting some steeps on the rolling hills around the Durban area. A 0 – 100km/h time of 10.9 seconds is claimed but I suspect it would only be achievable with a quarter tank of fuel on board, while going downhill even. Nevertheless, the quoted average fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100km (or a range of about 1 240km off a tank) isn’t that far-fetched.

“Big news is that Mercedes-Benz has fitted a new 7-speed double clutch”

Extra punch was however, supplied by the more entertaining B 200 CDI with the same 1.8-litre but more go. At 100kW between 3600rpm and 4400rpm, and 300Nm between 1600rpm and 3000rpm, it became clear that this would be the entertaining piece of the day. Indeed it was pushier over those rolling green hills, and the car’s handling in general is quite good too. A fuel claim matching its less potent sibling’s is probably less believable, while 0 – 100km/h is said to be 9.5 seconds.

Previous B sold an average of 97 units a month for six years. With this revamped version, MBSA wishes to dramatically increase that number, perhaps up to 150 per month. Key to this is attracting people below 75 years of age. It’s a much improved car overall. Bigger, safer, faster in some instances, noticeably more upmarket and possibly younger, B-Class shows marked improvement. Will the younger mamas and papas notice though?

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Prices
B 180 (R299 600)
B 200 (R319 600)
B 180 CDI (R325 000)
B 200 CDI (R358 000)


kaelo said...


Anonymous said...

I prefer the old one over this one to be honest