Mercedes Benz B-Class unveiled and driven

Mercedes is getting into increasingly competitive segments, and will launch the B-Class ‘Sports Tourer’ in October, with a choice of both petrol and diesel engines. The car will have a starting price of Rs. 25 lakh, and will initially be imported as a CBU, but will eventually be assembled in India. We bring you a preview of the B-Class. Peter Honegg, managing director and CEO, Mercedes Benz India, says the B-Class ‘Sports Tourer’ is going to be more of a multi-purpose lifestyle vehicle and bridges the gap between SUVs and MPVs. This will be the lowest-priced Mercedes model in India for now and will compete with the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3.

CarToq was invited to preview the Mercedes Benz B-Class at the Buddh International Circuit, and we did get a feel of it (driving an imported left-hand drive version) on the track.

 

Mercedes B-Class-track-photo
Photo: Mercedes B-Class 'Sports Tourer' will be priced at Rs. 25 lakh

Ride and handling

The B-Class will be available in both petrol and diesel options. The petrol B-Class will be powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine that churns out 156 bhp of power and 215 Nm of torque. It will be mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts. The diesel is expected to be a 1.8-litre motor that puts out about 134 bhp of power. It will come with a six-speed manual transmission. It will also be the first front-wheel drive car offered in India by Mercedes Benz. Also read: Mini Cooper versus Audi A3 and Mercedes Benz B Class: Model Comparison

The variant we drove on the track was the 1.6-litre petrol with a six-speed manual transmission. As is expected, the car is very refined, although at high rpm, it does take on a sporty note in the cabin. Driving around the Buddh International Circuit, the car feels like a rather large hatchback in the way it handles. Yes, there is noticeable body roll, but Mercedes safety tech, such as traction control and intelligent ABS kick in quickly enough to keep things in check.

Our three-lap drive was limited in pace (we didn’t get the opportunity to take it beyond 160 kph), but was good enough to judge the car’s pick up. The clutch is extremely light and the gear shifts are slick and easy, with a very positive shift action. The steering is precise and the car feels fun to drive, despite the bit of body roll in the corners, because of its high stance.

Buyers of this vehicle, of course, won’t be pushing it to these limits on open roads. All-round visibility is good, and the car is pretty wide – giving a spacious feel to the cabin.

Mercedes-B-Class-interior
Photo: The Mercedes B-Class has sedan-like handling with MPV styling

Comfort and features

The B-Class will be loaded with safety features like seven airbags, ABS, collision prevention assist, attention assist (a coffee-cup icon that lights up if you are tired)  and seat-belt pre-tensioners. The top of the line variants of the B-Class will get a panoramic sun-roof and tinted glasses. The car has a very good air-conditioner, which kept us cool in near 40 degree centigrade heat at the circuit.A central infotainment system with a “command” control system, gives you access to the entertainment system and phone functionality, with a pop-up screen on the dashboard.

The boot is just about adequate at 488 litres, but it has intelligent storage areas and the seats too can split fold to increase luggage space if needed. A roll-on parcel tray helps keep prying eyes away from luggage in the boot. Front and rear parking sensors are also standard.

Looks

When it comes to looks, is where things get a little mixed up with the B-Class. The vehicle looks like a cross between an MPV and a large hatchback. Mercedes calls it a Sport Tourer, and is promoting the vehicle by associating it with extreme adventure sports. The cabin seems to rise out of the body just a wee-bit more than one would expect, and that frees up a lot of interior space. It has a high, curved bonnet and wrap-around tail-lamps at the rear. From the rear, it almost looks like a regular hatchback.

Mercedes B-Class-photo-track-1
Photo: The B-Class is expected to compete against the BMW X1 and Audi Q3

What we think

The Mercedes B-Class will appeal to buyers as a lifestyle vehicle – those who want that premium brand imagery that comes with the three-pointer star. It is a lot bigger than the BMW X1, and may appeal to that set of buyers as well. However, it may not appeal as much when pitched against the Audi Q3 customer, who is obviously looking for that SUV appeal. All-in-all, the B-Class opens up a new segment in India, that of a sports tourer, an MPV that has the ride and handling qualities of a car. And at a price point that is seeing an increasing number of buyers – it will be a volume driver for Mercedes.

Mercedes-B-Class-track-photo-2