Variation on a theme
YOU could be forgiven for thinking the B-Class is just a bigger A-Class, but that would be a mistake.
It’s based on the A-Class, but it’s actually quite a different car.
Whereas the A-Class is conceived for crowded city streets, the B-Class is a cleverly designed five-seater that is roomy, practical and efficient.
It’s an all-rounder for someone who wants a highriding driving position and space for a family, but doesn’t want an SUV or all-wheel drive.
There’s nothing special about its looks; it’s tall, it has a rather heavy nose and its lines flow back to an abrupt end.
But the appeal of the B-Class goes well beyond looks. Its upright stance, with tall doors and an unusually high floor, allow for easy access and good all-round visibility.
Even the tallest can feel comfortable in the B-Class, with good head and legroom for all occupants. Slide the driver’s seat back and there’s still ample room for someone in the rear.
For added flexibility the rear seats can be split and folded to create a useful load or luggage carrying space.
Mercedes offered a choice of four engines across the range.
At launch in 2005 the choices were limited to a stout 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that offered more performance.
A frugal turbodiesel joined the ranks in 2006 and a 1.7-litre four-cylinder petrol engine was added in 2010 when the B180 was introduced in the wake of the demise of the A-Class.
Manual or CVT transmissions were available depending on the model. Most used the CVT, and were surprisingly zippy.
On the road the B-Class was stable and secure with good grip and balance. The ride was typically Mercedes: firm, but comfortable.
Owners report few problems with their B-Classes; most say they are happy with them and would have another one.
The problems that do crop up are fairly minor in nature and nothing to be overly concerned about.
Fuel consumption is reported as being good, with owners content with what they’re getting from petrol or diesel engines.
One thing to be mindful of is the CVT transmission. CVTs are not new, they’ve been used in various cars since the 1970s, and shouldn’t be confused with the direct-shift transmissions that have proved a little troublesome in today’s cars.
While direct-shift transmissions are manuals with an automated shift, the CVT is completely different, using a steel band and pulleys that grow and shrink to alter the speed.
Anyone who hasn’t driven a car fitted with a CVT transmission should take the time to familiarise themselves with they way it drives before they spend their money. If you’re uncertain about the operation of the CVT have a specialist mechanic drive it and tell you if it’s doing what it is supposed to do. As with all potential used car buys a credible service record is important, so check the book to assure yourself your potential choice has been maintained as per recommendations.
It’s also a good idea to cozy up to a specialist mechanic experienced in servicing and repairing Mercedes-Benz cars, otherwise the ownership experience can be expensive.
Reliable, flexible family transport, but high repair and running costs dampen enthusiasm.
Ron Deane’s wife has owned two B-Class Benzes. He says she loves the design, but the first, which was one of the first B180 diesels, was a shocker. The engine noise and rattle was almost unbearable and despite Mercedes making several attempts to fix the problem, it was sold after a year or so. The CVT was also a problem — on descending, it would drop down a couple of gears and the engine would be rattling away at 5000rpm. It was, however, very economical. She bought another one, this time a 2011 petrol model and loves it. It is quite economical and comfortable.
Barrie Halliday’s 2007 B180 CDI has done a little over 130,000km and he says it is the best car he has owned. He’s tall and his wife is short and they both appreciate the easy access of the B-Class. Even with the driver’s seat right back, there is room for a rear seat passenger. He also says the economy and reliability are outstanding. He isn’t so happy with the cost of dealer servicing.