WHEN MERCEDES launched the B-Class in India towards the end of 2012, it signalled the beginning of a crest that always succeeds a trough. The company had embarked on a series of new exciting small car platforms it believed would help it shed a image that its cars were boring and did not appeal to the youth. B-Class was quickly followed by the A-Class and more recently, the GLA crossover and CLA compact sedan. Suddenly, the Mercedes cars have become stylish and aggressive, and are being lapped up. In its first mid-cycle facelift, the B-Class has got quite a few tweaks. How does it pan out?
EXTERIOR: TOO BLUNT TO BE STYLISH?
INTERIORS : SPACE, SPACE AND MORE SPACE
If interior space was the only yardstick to judge a car, B-Class would be in a class of its own. The newer version is longer than the outgoing one by 34mm, but that has gone into the bumpers, with the wheelbase unchanged. Yet this is a very spacious car. The high riding position means ingress and egress are a breeze, and you also get a commanding view of the road, which India would cheer. The leather seats offer good support and there is abundant leg, knee and head room at both the front and the back. This is one small car that can actually accommodate 5 adults. Boot space is cavernous at 488 litres expandable to 1,547 litres with rear seats folded. It is not perfect though. There is a sense of deja vu with the dash
board and instrument console design. The 7” display at the centre is static and not touch-enabled. While it is feature packed—7 airbags, all sorts of brake assist systems, panoramic sun roof, rear parking camera all standard—a few boxes are unchecked. No rear AC vents, keyless ignition or (gasp!) automatic climate control.
PERFORMANCE, RIDE AND HANDLING
There are no changes with the 1.6-litre petrol engine, but the 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel powertrain has been beefed up to match the GLA and CLA sedans. It now makes 136 PS power and 300 Nm of torque, 25% and 20% more than the outgoing version respectively. On the road, though, the result is not radical. There is a bit of urgency when you go full throttle and the rev needle crosses 3,500 rpm, but its basic character is of a sedate mile-muncher. Alongwith an efficient 7-speed dual clutch transmission, it offers a very sorted ride and corners reasonably well. Body roll is kept in check even at high speeds. B-Class is a capable tourer but without all-wheel drive it is best kept on the tarmac.
Designing a tourer is not an easy job. It should have space both for passengers and luggage, should be refined and stylish and not look like a van. B-Class does most of the job, but flatters to deceive in a few places. For Rs. 30 lakh, a consumer has a lot of options. For style, look at the A class, performance, the CLA and for versatility, GLA and Audi Q3. Then there is the Volvo V40 cross country as well. While the B Class does have the space to command the price tag, it has neither the style nor the performance to make a compelling case. In Mercedes’ own line up of exciting cars, this seems to be the weak link.