The Mercedes-Benz B 250, or simply the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, is a vehicle that I had never driven until now. Frankly, I have always tried to understand the appeal of this entry-level Benz, so maybe a week behind the wheel of a B 250 will finally allow me to solve the mystery of where the B-Class fits in the automotive landscape.
What is the B 250 anyways? My basic understanding is that it is a compact luxury hatchback, a class that basically doesn't really exist in North America. Lexus has a vehicle in this class, sort of, the Lexus CT200h, but that is available only as a hybrid and doesn't really offer the space of the B-class.
The B 250 kind of looks like a micro-minivan as well, like the Mazda5 or the Kia Rondo, but it is not really as large as those, it's really just a tall hatchback. But what is unique here is the availability of the 4Matic system from Mercedes-Benz -- that's right, an all-wheel-drive compact hatchback, another rarity in the automotive landscape.
The 4Matic-equipped B 250 has a base price of $33,500 and after some options and packages can get pricey; my tester, for example, is close to $42,000. But it is a Mercedes-Benz: a badge that is coveted by many, although I'm not sure how many covet the B-Class or even know it exists despite being around for quite some time now.
Maybe by the end of the week I'll understand this B-Class more, at first glance it's an odd duck, but that's not always a bad thing.
Pricing: 2015 Mercedes-Benz B250
Base Price: $33,500
Options: Premium Package $4,000; Versatility Package $1,800
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $41,895
I'm still a little confused. To me this is simply an all-wheel drive hatchback, hey that's a great thing and I like that! When CUVs are taking over the automotive landscape this is one vehicle that is very niche in that regard, but with Mercedes own GLA, those looking for style and a badge over utility will most likely gravitate towards the GLA before the B250.
But the B250 is just that, the traditional compact hatchback, which means it has great cargo carrying capacity for the size of the vehicle and has the lower centre of gravity for better handling, and you don't look like a wanna-be driving it. It does kind of look like a small minivan, so if you are a minivan hater you may shy away.
So what is the interior like of this vehicle anyways? The white leather like material looks great and feels durable and firm and the contrasting white seats, door trim and dash make the interior much more inviting than the usual German ho-hum all black interiors. It certainly made for taking a photo much easier and isn't washed out.
Besides the colour what you have on the inside are fairly roomy back seats, with tray tables that fold into the back of the front seats (like an airplane), they even have a cup holder which is pretty cool. Headroom is great in the back as well due to the shape of the vehicle. This also means cargo space is large and capable of swallowing large boxes as the roof does not slope down. But the plastic hump which seems to be covering some type of metal box behind the rear seats is a little bit in the way, I haven't had confirmation on what that is exactly yet. I'm guessing it is some type of battery or capacitor for the start/stop feature.
In the front the seats are little narrow and a little short in the thigh, even for a shorter driver like me. Less thigh support in the legs usually translates into fatigue on longer drives. That said, this is more like a city car anyways as it is somewhat noisy on the highway with lots of road noise emanating into the cabin, something I don't expect from a $40,000 plus Mercedes-Benz when the Sentra I had last week was quieter.
The dual-zone climate control is welcome here, but considering the price of the car the interior seems very basic and spartan. But the COMAND system (Mercedes-Benz infotainment system) works well here with an easy to use dial control and a back button. Funny how I find this easier to use than the touchpad in the C-Class I had about a month ago.
Thanks to our forum members, the mystery of the hump in the trunk is solved, it's actually a two level floor in the trunk, so the hump really isn't a hump if you raise the rear cargo piece up you get a completely flat floor with the seats folded -- neat.
So how does this car drive anyways? Well if you do not like the high seating position or high centre of gravity of a CUV then the B-Class might be the answer. Although it doesn't sit super low it certainly feels and behaves like a car with a low centre of gravity and good handling.
The engine is good too with a ton of power. This new engine is a huge improvement over the sluggish old entry level B200 naturally aspirated engine. Although an upgraded turbo engine was available before it wasn't standard and based on my unscientific count of Mercedes-Benz B-Class vehicles around town it wasn't a big seller.
This engine outputs 208 horsepower and 258 ft-lb of torque and with the all-wheel drive system it puts the power down well and without any drama. Now the transmission on the other hand leaves some things to be desired. It is a seven-speed DCT (dual clutch) transmission which works wonderfully as far as quick up and downshifts. But the programming is obviously set for maximum fuel economy so it really zaps the power on tap.
When you first start moving from a stop the transmission immediately shifts from first to second gear, you get this initial lunge forward then no acceleration unless you really stomp on the throttle. You can switch the car to sport mode to avoid this and the vehicle accelerates more like a car normally would, but then unless you manually shift or switch the programming back to economy mode the transmission holds some gears too long and won't shift into fuel saving seventh gear until much later. I'm sure there could be a compromise of sorts here that would work better than the current programming.
The Mercedes-Benz B250 with 4MATIC is an interesting vehicle. With very few all-wheel drive small cars available on the market it certainly has a niche if you are against owning a small CUV or want a little more space than a sub-compact CUV like the Mercedes-Benz GLA or competitors.
The price tag though, seems a little hard to swallow for what is essentially a compact hatchback with all-wheel drive. The badge ups the ante and certainly is worth some extra to some buyers, but at this price there certainly are other options out there that may perform just as good or better.
What the B250 did do for me over the week is perform in terms of power delivery when I wanted and fuel economy. I averaged 7.8L/100km with the B250 this past week, it does require premium fuel but it seems like I'm putting premium in a lot of vehicles these days as turbo's become more popular.
It seems the B250 is polarizing, just read the comments on our forum and you will agree this vehicle has a love it or hate it following. For me the car performed well, but the price tag would have me shopping elsewhere.