Mercedes B250 is surprisingly practical
Introduced to the Canadian market in 2005, Mercedes’s B-class is one of those cars Americans don’t get—like the Acura CSX, the VW City Golf, and if you go way back, the Ford Frontenac and Mercury Meteor.
It’s hard to understand why, since the B-class is arguably much more relevant to today’s market than, say, a G-class or E-class. It does everything you could ask from a compact people mover and has a reasonable—all things considered—price tag. You’d think it’d sell like gangbusters down south, but there you are.
The latest iteration, the B250, is much faster than it used to be, thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and Mercedes’s seven-speed automatic transmission, which I have misgivings about; more on that later. Unfortunately, this engine also requires premium gas, which is kind of a drag.
Power output for this slick little urban runabout is set at 208 horsepower, with an impressive 258 foot-pounds of torque. This is enough to whip it from a standing start to freeway speed in about seven seconds. Compared to some other similarly conceived models—Mazda5, Kia Rondo, Mini Cooper Clubman, Fiat 500L, et cetera—it’s a road rocket.
But what appeals to me the most is its practicality. This is an everyday vehicle that’s inviting to drive, reasonably thrifty, and as comfortable as, well, a Mercedes-Benz. Usually when I’m driving a Mercedes product, I’m conscious of that fact every step of the way, but with the B250, I was more impressed with its usability than its lineage. To me, it was a nicely engineered econobox with no real bad habits.
Well, maybe a couple. For starters, Mercedes’s toilet-handle Direct Select gearshift lever is pointless and silly. I fail to see how this is a better arrangement than the usual floor- or dash-mounted lever, and I have yet to adjust to it, despite having driven numerous Mercedes models over the years. That said, there are steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles that help offset this somewhat, and I used these on a fairly regular basis during my time with this one.
Which leads me to the transmission. My tester had a heck of a time deciding which gear it should be in, randomly shifting itself up and down and staying too long in one gear when it probably should have moved on to another. The problem was particularly acute in the morning after cold starts. Maybe seven speeds are just too much for a car of this type?
Lastly, Mercedes’s Eco start/stop function. This shuts the vehicle off when you’re stopped—at a light, for example—and re-starts it when you take your foot off the brake. Pretty standard fare these days, but in this case kind of crudely executed. Other manufacturers, like Honda and Toyota, have managed to engineer this feature so that you hardly even notice it. That’s not the case here, and I was kind of surprised at the crudeness of this function. For what it’s worth, BMW’s version is equally rough around the edges, and I hasten to add that this is more along the lines of an observation than a complaint, and you can deactivate it via a dash-mounted switch.
Being a Mercedes, the B250 does have a high equipment level. Standard kit includes cruise control, the aforementioned shift paddles, a huge sunroof, heated front seats, anti-pinch front windows, hill start assist, and an electronic parking brake. Most of these features are welcome, but the parking brake is not. Don’t need it, don’t want it.
My tester, with the premium package, driving assistance package, sport package, and various other odds and sods, included a navi system ($1,950), parking assist ($900), and a back-up camera ($480). As an aside, when I was first introduced to Mercedes’s navi system about 10 years ago, it was in Stuttgart, and if I’d followed it to the letter, I would have wound up in the sea. Things have improved since then.
Mercedes has never come up short when it comes to ergonomics and comfort, and the B250 is no exception. It has possibly the most comfortable seats I’ve parked myself in lately, with all kinds of head and elbow room. Fold the back seats down and you get some 1,500 litres of cargo space, which, unless you carry large objects around on a regular basis, is plenty. Four adults will fit comfortably. I also like Mercedes’s blurb on the interior of the B250: “Order is restored to the unpredictability of life in the new B-class.” Jawohl, mein Herr.
From a reasonable starting price of just under $30,000, the B250 climbs up into the big leagues quite rapidly. With all the extras, packages, and goodies mentioned, you’re looking at almost $40,000, more after taxes and levies. All things considered, this car’s value is found in the base model, with none of the above.