2012 MERCEDES-BENZ B 180 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: five-door hatchback
Price: $38,950 plus on-roads
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.1 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.5 l/100km
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class has been transformed. Gone is the dowdy, van-like styling of the previous model which sent anyone under thirty screaming away in horror.
Now there's a fresh modern hatchback with enough edge to the styling to appeal to all ages. Mostly.
On test is the B 180, the entry-level model in the B-Class line-up. It comes with a 1.6-litre turbocharged four with a dual-clutch gearbox and the latest safety-tech.
It's a stylish motor car, which deceives you with its compact dimensions, but surprises with its space.
With a tempting price-tag (it’s currently the cheapest way to get into a Merc) and solid build, those with a yearning for the three-pointed star should certainly take a close look.
But take away the badge and does it still cut it in today’s competitive market?
Quality: The B-Class’s interior is a big step-up from the previous model, though cost-cutting is evident in a few places.
The upper dash features a soft grain; down below is hard plastic (though the texture conceals it well).
The contrasting tones however work in giving the interior an air of spaciousness, and it seems durable - there were no evident marks or scratches on our test car.
The stitching in the cloth is perfect, and the gloss dash divider has a premium feel.
The SLS-inspired twist on-and-off air-vents look a treat, but can get a little creaky in operation. The screen on the centre-stack is clearly a nod to the iPad, with its gloss-black surround and metal backing, but looks a bit tacked-on.
All the switchgear has been lifted from more expensive models, and the leather-bound steering wheel could have come straight from an AMG.
Comfort: Because the seats are cloth, there’s no sliding around and the spongy padding is quite comfy, although there's not much bolstering.
The seating position is quite upright but that makes rear-seat legroom more effective.
There won’t be any complaints from anyone sitting in the back of a B-Class, as the legroom will accommodate even tall adults.
The bench seat is soft and headroom is superb, though it’s not overly wide. Among its hatchback competition though, the B-Class is certainly one of the roomiest.
Equipment: Standard gear is quite good, with parking sensors, six-CD stacker, USB, Bluetooth phone and audio, rain-sensing wipers, climate control, electric park-brake and stop/start function.
Adding considerably to price of the test car though were the Vision Package ($2490), COMAND Package ($2990) and the Driving Assistance Package ($2490).
The one we’d opt for is the COMAND Package, which gives you a fabulous Harman/Kardon 12-speaker stereo and brilliant sat-nav with live traffic updates; it saved our bacon on numerous occasions, diverting around accidents or traffic jams.
Storage: Open the boot and you’re greeted with a huge 488 litres of space. Up front there’s a massive glovebox, two cupholders, two small lidded compartments in the centre console and a small storage space under the armrest.
For the back seat passengers there are two cupholders in the fold-down armrest, a pull-out bin on the centre console, and there are two tray tables which flip up on the back of the seats. The storage in the B-Class is excellent.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With 90kW and 200Nm to play with from the 1.6-litre turbo-four, the B 180 has its work cut out for it (0-100km/h takes 10.2 seconds) especially if loaded up.
But the engine’s smoothness and free-revving nature means you can lean on it to get you going.
Unfortunately, while it's no rocketship to begin with, the engine is severely hampered by a ham-fisted gearbox.
The dual-clutch transmission is frustratingly slow to respond to kick-down, slow to shift when it does, and then hangs onto gears for ages before shifting up.
Pressing the Sport button helps a little, but the result is more-or-less the same.
With a decent gearbox, the B-Class would be a whole lot more appealing. Perhaps this is why the fuel economy was a lot worse (8.5L/100km) the quoted figure.
Of course, you can always use the paddles on the steering-wheel to hustle things along, but that's arguably not what a B-Class customer will be seeking.
It steers faithfully, though, and has good weight and reasonable feel.
Refinement: When Mercedes-Benz makes a motor, it does a fine job of it, and the B 180 is no exception.
Again, the gearbox detracts from the experience, but it's a nicely balanced and refined engine even when working hard.
The breeding in the drivetrain is most apparent on take-off. Here the dual-clutch works better than most - it engages quickly and cleanly from standstill for refined city driving.
The B 180 also stops and starts immediately in ECO mode.
Suspension: For the most part, the suspension tuning provides a smooth ride and decent handling.
It can get ruffled on sharp-edged potholes or across train-tracks at low speed (probably due to the run-flat tyres), but at higher speeds, the ride is excellent.
Braking: The B-Class, as is the norm, uses discs all round, and it stops quickly with a slightly wooden pedal feel.
The ABS doesn’t cut in too early, even on rough surfaces, meaning you can rely on safe, short braking distances.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars (tested 2012)
Safety features: The B-Class comes with some of the latest safety-tech around. Nine airbags, ESC, ABS, braking assistance, traction control, hill hold, brake-pad wear indicator and brake-pad drying (for wet conditions) all make up a comprehensive suite of features.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehikilometers
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
BMW X1 ($43,900) – The X1 is a much better steer, and has more cachet in our SUV-mad country, but it’s a lot smaller inside and is more expensive. Interior quality is also not quite as good as the B-Class. (see X1 reviews)
Citroen C4 Picasso ($39,990) – For only a thousand dollars more than the B 180, the C4 Picasso offers more room, more flexibility and a superior engine/gearbox combo.
The ride is more bouncy, but the C4 Picasso is a worthy competitor with a cavern of space. (see C4 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Mercedes-Benz B 180 is not without flaws (most notably the sub-standard transmission), but it appeals for its clean design and TARDIS-like interior.
While its on-road dynamics are good, the B 180 is bettered here by sharper, more lively competitors. Meaning younger shoppers will probably look elsewhere.
That said, the B-Class’s solid quality, refined ride and quite inexpensive pricing - a sub-$40k Merc? - make more than one good reason to have a Mercedes-Benz badge on your keyring.
- 2012 Mercedes-Benz B 180 BlueEFFICIENCY - $38,950
- 2012 Mercedes-Benz B 200 BlueEFFICIENCY - $43,950
- 2012 Mercedes-Benz B 200 CDI BlueEFFIENCY - $43,950
Note: prices are Manufacturer’s List Price; including GST, any LCT, but excluding on-road costs.
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