Vari­a­tion on a theme

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH grah.smith@big­pond.com

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.

NOW

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.

SMITHY SAYS

Re­li­able, flex­i­ble fam­ily trans­port, but high re­pair and run­ning costs dampen en­thu­si­asm.

OWN­ERS SAY

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.

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