There’s no such thing as coincidence in the motoring industry. Unveilings and product launches are planned meticulously by marketing and PR departments. So when Mercedes-Benz chose to reveal the upgraded B-Class in South Africa in the same week as the BMW 2 Series, everyone knew it wasn’t by chance. Of course, the team didn’t mention their newest competitor directly. But it was an opportunity to subtly remind the media in attendance that Mercedes-Benz had been playing in this arena well before “Baby 2” was conceived. Since the first-generation B-Class launched in 2005, more than a million units have found homes.
But despite the big lead, the possibility of usurpation can’t be discounted. And so the German carmaker has rejuvenated its premium compact MPV. The most noticeable changes are up front, with the B-Class sporting a tauter visage, thanks to a re- designed bumper and headlights. The goal was to give it greater resemblance to models like the A-Class. The rear also gains new illumination, with LED lamps and an additional chrome trim strip.
Mercedes claims that the B-Class is the most aerodynamic car in its segment, with a drag coefficient figure of 0.28. BMW might like to chime in, since its 218i boasts a figure of 0.26. There’s more safety, though. The collision prevention assist system with autonomous braking has been made standard across the board. It warns the driver if you are following too close to the car ahead and will deploy the anchors if you fail to react timeously.
You might not feel the inclination to test this, but it’s assuring to know the ability is there. The attention assist function monitors driver fatigue and advises when you should take a break. Little has changed on the inside, save for the colour display unit on the fascia, which is wider. You can also pick from a dozen ambient lighting choices and Keyless-Go is now offered as an optional extra.
A more cost-effective navigation system is available too, courtesy of a Garmin map pilot setup, which relies on an SD card. So you no longer have to opt for the pricey Comand interface should you want GPS assistance. Buyers can pick from four derivatives — two petrol and two diesel. There’s the B200 (115kW and 250Nm), the B200 CDI (100kW and 300Nm), the B250 (155kW and 350Nm) and the B200 CDI (125kW and 350Nm). The “starter” B200 petrol with Benz’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission has to be the least desirable combination. Power delivery is lumpy and the engine tends to be noisy. Both CDI engines offer healthy servings of torque with great economy. And the top-tier 250 petrol caters to those who want a bit of fun. The new B-Class starts at R388 300 for the B200 model. The B200 CDI costs R404200. The C220 CDI is priced at R448 000 and the 250 goes for R464 800.