Mercedes B-Class MPV review
"It's not a true MPV, but the B-Class excels as a spacious, classy hatchback"
- Desirable looks
- Classy interior
- Only five seats
- Not a true MPV
The Mercedes B-Class is a small MPV that’s based on the current Mercedes A-Class hatchback. Taller, wider and longer, the B-Class aims to blend the quality, refinement and hi-tech interior of the A-Class with greater space and practicality.
The B-Class closely competes against cars like the Volkswagen Touran and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, but has fewer direct rivals than ever as MPVs are increasingly overshadowed by SUVs. Unlike the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, the Mercedes offers no seven-seat alternative, unless you look at the Mercedes GLB SUV. Other models like the Volkswagen Golf SV and Toyota Prius+ are no longer available; so many buyers have flocked to crossovers in recent years that many MPVs have been withdrawn from the market.
You could argue that the B-Class doesn’t quite meet the MPV tag. There aren’t many clever storage features, the seats don’t slide backwards and forwards, and rivals offer more boot space. But the B-Class will appeal if you think an A-Class is too cramped for family duties or too low to the ground to get in and out comfortably. The B-Class is also slightly cheaper to buy than the Mercedes GLA and GLB SUVs.
Part of the reason small MPVs fell out of fashion was because of their dowdy looks, but the B-Class looks every inch a taller A-Class – a description that perfectly describes how it shapes up as a package. Swing a wide-opening door open and you're greeted by an interior that shares the same classy style and attractive detailing as the A-Class hatchback that won it much praise when it was launched in 2019, although you’ll need to upgrade to a higher trim level for the full effect.
Some of that praise was directed at the MBUX infotainment system, which has become a feature across the entire Mercedes range, and it’s as easy to use as it is good to look at. All the must-have connectivity options are available, either as standard equipment or via the options list.
The range of diesel engines includes the 114bhp B 180 d, 148bhp B 200 d and the 188bhp B 220 d diesels, along with two petrol models particularly suited to buyers who cover a low to medium annual mileage. There’s also a plug-in hybrid B 250 e, which has the potential to slash your fuel bills with a 43-mile pure-electric range possible from a full charge.
Of the petrol engine variants, the 161bhp B 200 impressed us with its perky performance, with the standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox proving smooth if occasionally hesitant on the move.
The most powerful petrol engine is fairly efficient, returning up to 46.3mpg under the WLTP economy measurement regime, but the Mercedes' 2.0-litre diesel engine – used by the B 200 d and B 220 d - is certified to Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standards, which means a lower Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate than some rival cars, helping it to appeal to company-car drivers. They're also likely to be drawn to the plug-in hybrid B 250 e with by far the lowest CO2 emissions, and therefore BiK band, of the entire B-Class line-up.
If you fear that the extra practicality the B-Class offers over the A-Class will come at the expense of driving pleasure, you needn't worry. From behind the wheel, the B-Class feels just like a taller hatchback, and one with a clearer view of the road ahead. Although the suspension design is dependent on which model you buy, the B 200 we drove disguised its bulk very well, with plenty of grip and little tendency to lean in corners, even if steering feel is in short supply. In AMG Line trim, the ride is also slightly stiffer, especially at lower speeds in town, where the BMW feels a bit more composed.
Rather more generous is the interior space on offer in the B-Class, which combines with the high-set seating and four wide-opening doors to exist as one of the car’s main selling points. The boot is big, too, and a van-like load bay is available if you fold the rear seats down. However – none of these qualities are hugely unusual or elusive; there are family estate cars out there which will beat the B-Class for boot space and practicality.
Before long, Mercedes will release a version of the B-Class with sliding rear seats that can be positioned to prioritise space for passengers or packages, lending the MPV a welcome dose of versatility. As it is, the interior of the B-Class lacks some of the innovation of several of its MPV and SUV rivals. Furthermore, not only does the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer offer seats for up to seven, but it also offers four-wheel drive.
However, think of the B-Class as the taller, more spacious A-Class it really is, and it makes more sense. It's not a true MPV but for those who want an interior that's spacious and easy to use in a car with a premium badge, the B-Class makes a classy choice.