First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class 200 CGI BlueEfficiency +VIDEO
By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
VIENNA, Austria - October 20, 2011: The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is about to hit the European market within four weeks and Canada will also get this completely renewed second generation model. However, Mercedes says that – just like the original B-Class – the new model will not be available in America…not anytime soon, that is.
However I would not be surprised if around this time next year, the B-Class gets presented as the 2013 model for the US market.
In 2005, when the current model was first introduced, nobody was talking about downsizing yet. With this in mind and given the fact that Mercedes-Benz did not want to disturb its image as a brand that offers large(r) luxury cars and SUVs, it made sense. Since then, the world has changed a lot and the 171.6 inches long B-Class is not really small either. In the course of next year, a new plant in Hungary will begin production of the A- and B-Class, which may also be a reason to reconsider an American introduction.
• SEE ALSO: Compact Sports Tourer: The New Mercedes B-Class
While unveiling the ‘B’ at the Frankfurt auto show, Mercedes-Benz showed that never before have so many innovations been available for a new model. With new engines in combination with a new 6-speed gearbox or the optional 7G-DCT double clutch transmission it will be more efficient. With a more dynamic design and a new suspension, the new generation should beat the 700,000 units sold of the current version, which was so popular with woman and older drivers because of its high seating position. In fact Mercedes hopes to also attract younger buyers.
Watch the Mercedes-Benz B-Class intro at the Frankfurt Motor Show
The new model is not only 3.38 in longer than the outgoing model;
As with the exterior, the interior of the new B is much more attractive than before. The seating position has been lowered nearly 3.5 in, providing a better feel with the car, ready for a dynamic drive and less – as was the case with the current model – up for relaxed touring.
Headroom is excellent and legroom in the rear is even better than in an E-Class. With the optional Easy Vario Plus package it is possible to adjust the rear seats, fold them down and even fold the back rest of the front passenger seat in order to haul long items. The luggage space can be extended to from 17.23 cu-ft to 23.51 cu- ft. The free standing tablet-like display stands out on the very contemporary-looking dashboard. Quality of the materials and the large stitch finish of the seats really provide a premium look.
The 2012 B-Class will be available, either standard or optional, with a slew of innovations that could so far only be found on the larger Mercedes models. Collision Prevention Assist, which warns the driver of a possibility of a rear-end collision and even applies the brakes if necessary, is standard and marks a first in the segment. Also unique in the segment is the availability of a preventive occupant protection system that Mercedes calls Pre-Safe (it was originally introduced in the S-Class in 2002). Furthermore there will be four trims: Chrome, Sports, Exclusive and Night. But all options can be ordered separately, which means the B can easily be customized.
The new Mercedes will be available with two new 1.6-liter gasoline engines for the 180 CGI and 200 CGI models and two new diesel power plants for the 180 CDI and 200 CDI. All these BlueEfficiency engines have direct injection and turbo technology and Eco start-stop. The average fuel consumption of both petrol engines is 5.9 l/100 km and of the diesels is 4.4 l/100 km in the European Cycle (equals some 39 and 53 mpg respectively),
During the driving event near Vienna, Austria, I had enough opportunity to drive both diesel models and two variants with the 200 CGI BlueEfficiency with the 156 hp strong 1.6-liter petrol engine. It was most fun to drive on the curvy road through the hilly landscape, something you could not have said in the current B-Class! The engine reacts fast to any input on the throttle pedal and works well with the 7G double clutch transmission. This shifts up and down effortlessly; and when you do not use the paddles on the steering wheel anymore, the transmission goes back into drive and starts to ‘think and act’ in the optimal way. Comfort is good and there is hardly any wind noise. The aerodynamic shape of the outside mirrors will help, but overall the design is so efficient, that the B-Class has a Cw of only 0.26.
The B-Class model with the Sports package, with a .59 in. lower suspension, direct steering and larger 18-inch wheels with 225/40 rubber practically tempts you to push your sportiest driving style to the limit (The standard model has 16 in wheels, but ours were fitted with 17 inch). With direct steering the car makes no mistake of its intentions and follows your directions in a quick and obedient way. But you’ll have to accept a less comfortable ride on bad roads and streets with cobble stones. Operating the 6-speed stick shift feels natural and quick but you do not need to down shift down so frequently if you are not in a sporty mode.. With 250 Nm (184 lb-ft) of torque available between 1250 and 4,000 revs even in 5th gear at, say, 90 mph there is pulling power available.
It’s a pity that the shifter is placed a little bit too far back in the center console. I was hitting the armrest/lid in the middle and noticed later on that my arm was pressed to my body inside the seat when shifting. The brake pedal has a good hard feel and the brakes are well suited to do their work when decelerating from a higher speed.
I nearly forget to mention the start-stop system in this review because you hardly notice it. The B-Class has Brake Hold function standard on the models with the 7G-transmission and as an option for the ones with stick shift. It allows you to lift your foot off the brake pedal after pushing it deep when you have come to a stop. Also the start-stop system is instantly activated until you wish to move on.
Mercedes-Benz has gone to great lengths to update the B-Class. The new model offers customers a choice of driving characteristics that range from comfortable, yet dynamic, to sporty. I believe this will appeal to younger buyers, who want some oomph, even when their family is on board.