Tuesday 15 October 2019

Warning: don’t jump to conclusions with this new Mercedes B-Class


Brisk nature: the new Mercedes B-Class
Brisk nature: the new Mercedes B-Class
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

One thing my late dad taught me was to avoid jumping to conclusions. Perhaps I should rephrase that: one thing he tried to teach me was not to nail down verdicts or opinions without first letting the dust settle and seeing the clearer picture.

Somehow, I never quite acquired the knack. I am older and wiser now, of course, and not nearly as prone to such impulsive leaps.

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However, my experience with this week's car, the new Mercedes B-Class, meant I had to remind myself of my old flaws.

The old B-Class had been something of a non-entity in previous incarnations.

It never caught, or fired, the imagination with anything like the same gusto as the C-Class or E-Class (to mention just two).

That was down, in large measure, to fairly dour looks generally and a terribly old-fashioned interior (trust me, I remember it quite well) that harked back to gloomier days.

So I was entitled to expect great things from this brand new one wasn't I?

Yes, I think so, because Mercedes has re-energised so much of its line-up now that comparisons with models from a few years back are incongruous.

And I was not disappointed with the new B-Class. Well, not initially anyway. So I merrily leapt to conclusions of near-Olympian heights. My poor father would have despaired.

I have to say the new car looks a deal better; it's not madly stylistically endowed; a bit bland to be frank, but I set the aesthetics to one side because the car had a wonderful and roomy interior.

Another clincher for me, in my early days at the wheel, was the shining-star 1.5-litre diesel engine.

With a system to boost performance and help at critical junctures, I was completely, if pleasantly, taken aback by its brisk nature and quick turn-of-foot.

Here, says I to myself (I do a lot of that some days), is a car showing how to 'do' transformation from boring old to brilliant new.

So much so I was not certain I should call it a people carrier/MPV any more because buyers seem to be turning away from these MPVs in their droves, preferring to buy slews of SUVs and crossovers.

So I'll call it a compact hatch. In reality, I think that is more accurate. After all, it is based on the new A-Class platform.

But it beats the smaller sibling on height; it felt a good deal roomier and has an easy-to-access spacious boot.

Significantly, the seats were well above average. They would need to have been because I occupied mine a lot. Killarney and back is a good and varied journey over which to test the tolerance of the lower lumbar.

With only a couple of short breaks to avert sleepiness, I could have no complaints about seat support and comfort.

Indeed, as I drove into the May dusk, I was quite buoyed by my discovery of what I thought was a hidden gem.

Sadly, the poorer quality roads after the motorway took the shine off fairly quickly. I began to realise the tyres and suspension were not matching the exemplary headlines set by the engine and interior.

A couple of clatters over a few not-so-deep potholes only served to highlight how far apart were those aspects of the car's set-up and drive.

Heeding my need to avoid jumping to conclusions, for once I waited to see how we'd get on over other types of surfaces.

Not that much better I'm afraid to say; road noise and poor damping lowered my previous high hopes.

It is yet another lesson learned. Most cars feel smooth and silky on our well-maintained motorway surfaces. The real test comes when confronted with the bumps and lumps on other routes.

So yes, I was disappointed but I will say this: the stylish A-Class's suspension is a bit stiff, too, so it is unlikely the B-Class could do much about its set-up.

It had been just such a lovely city/good-road drive that the contrast was all the more sharply drawn over poorer roads.

I'd consider buying it for its excellent interior/dash/interactive screen (say 'Hey Mercedes' and 'she' will sort phone calls, etc). But I'd think twice if I was driving it a lot on poorer roads.

Maybe you should give it a test drive - just in case I have you jumping too quickly to conclusions as well.

Facts & Figures

Mercedes B-Class B180d

Price: €35,300 AMG Line; on test €45,346.

1.5-litre diesel auto, 116bhp, 3.9-4l/100km, 104g/km, €190 tax. Spec included range of safety items, MBUX multimedia system, reversing camera, sports seats, climate control, 18ins alloys, active lane keep assist, AMG-line bodystyling, light/sight package, Artico seats. Extras: 10.25in display, navigation, parking pack.

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