Mercedes-Benz B 200 Review
I sat anxiously in a showroom Mercedes CLS while the salesman processed my paperwork for a test drive. Even in repose, the CLS is a magnificent machine. Soaking in that heady blend of luxury and gravitas, I wondered if my spin in the B200 (available in Canada and Europe) would capture any of that Mercedes quintessence. Sometimes, brand extension works (Bentley Continental GT) and sometimes, it doesn't (VW Phaeton). So does the B 200 fit in Herr Doktor Daimler's pantheon of pomp and circumstance?
The B 200's rakish styling is a farrago of Mercedes' styling cues. The diminutive people mover's front sports the familiar three-bar grill with a giant Merc badge (Yo! Yo!). The B's rear echoes the C-class and M-class, while the side profile offers up the same rakish swoops as a CLS– squashed between two Mack trucks. On a tall glass of water like the B 200, the coupe-style lines are distinctly Picasso-esque.
The B 200's interior has less Mercedes-ness than a Ford F-150. The Benz' seats are as firm as an old German frau, fabricated from a fabric that's coarser than her husband's three-day beard. The center armrest is made of an odd rubbery plastic carefully designed to remind Gen X of their childhood Ninja Turtle action figures. To make room for the e-brake, the armrest is truncated on its right side– exactly where my elbow sought relaxation. German engineering has apparently overlooked the fact that I'm not apt to use the e-brake whilst driving.
On the positive side, the B 200's controls operate with silky-smooth precision. And the radio delivers wikkid beats, with the added satisfaction of one button per function ergonomics. Beyond that, Mercitude is strictly (and expensively) a la carte. Heated seats, Bluetooth adapter, Bi-Xenon headlights with "active curve illumination," sunroof, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel; it's all gonna cost ya. Bottom line: even a fully-loaded B doesn't have enough luxury to earn the right to wear the Mercedes moniker.
Thanks to B 200's "sandwich concept," there's plenty of room for four real adults. Like Ye Olde VW van and Toyota Previa minivan, the B 200's engine sits under the floor, beneath the passenger cell, inclined downwards. The arrangement frees up space for passengers. More importantly, it provides more snout for crash deformation and helps in lateral collisions (occupants are seated above the impact zone). It also raises passengers up, in accord with the mini minivan gestalt.
Once underway, the B 200's family DNA finally asserts itself. Though the petite four-door isn't even on speaking terms with the word "fast," it goes about its business in the traditional stately Mercedes fashion. Bizarrely enough, most of the credit's due to the mini-Merc's Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT or "rubber band job"). Hooked-up to a 143hp in-line four (a 193hp turbo is… more money), the tag team motivate the 2900-lbs. car with genuine grace.
The CVT seamlessly serves-up the optimal gearing ratio as the situation demands. Accelerate slowly and the CVT keeps the mini mill at the ideal torque point. Floor it, and the CVT seamlessly gets taller while the engine revs get wilder. Depress the Sport button beside the shifter and seven virtual gears keep performance on the enthusiast's preferred side of the oomph / fuel economy trade-off.
Like Mercedes' A-Class models, B 200 is a front wheel-drive machine. And a damn fine one it is too. The electromechanical power steering is sharp and direct, on the same level as an Audi A3. The B 200's handling is a delight. Throw the lightweight into the twisties and it's equal to the task, easily dispatching turns, on-ramps and curves without a squeal. All hail the B's low slung engine and suspension, blessed with a new parabolic rear axle in back and McPherson struts and wishbones up front (both with twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, coil springs, and torsion bars).
The ride quality is excellent. The B 200 exhibits zen-like calm as it glides over most of the road's imperfections, transmitting very little of the commotion to its blissful passengers.
So what we have here is a de-contented Germanic budget luxury car with snobby aspirations. I'm not sure if it works. Everyone knows the B 200 is a Merc, but it's not a "real" Merc– which is the only fathomable reason someone might pay $32k for the non-turbo stripper. Seriously, in the same price point you have similar Eurosnob value and better handling in a BMW MINI or a Golf GTI– neither of which would dare insult you with such low-tech seating and unacceptably rubbery, plasticky interiors.
That said, the B 200 is a capable, pleasant, fine-riding small automobile. It brings no dishonor to the Mercedes brand. But in a field crowded with credible competitors, it's simply too expensive for a relatively clunky-looking machine with a pedestrian interior.
Kglazov on Aug 30, 2010
I recently got 2011 b200 turbo. It is a great car and I could not be happier. Splendid confort, verticality and good fuel economy. If you compare with A3 pricing B200 will be same price but better car in terms of versatility. You can put two stand up biked in b200 trunk.
HappyMom on Aug 03, 2014
I have a few questions for Mr Syed. First of all "Did you just sit in the car , take a quick spin and look at a spec sheet? " You wrote this article on Aug 20, 2007 and quote that the vehicle has " Bi-Xenon headlights with "active curve illumination". This feature was not introduced until 2013 and I have the email from Mercedes Canada to prove it. Prior to 2013, they take H7 bulbs. Oh, and by-the way, if you wanted to add Bi-Xenon headlights (a sealed unit) to your 2013 and prior B200, it is a $10K upgrade...the vehicle is not wired for it at the factory. It involves another wiring harness, relays, wires be laid under the carpet and fed through conduits to/from the headlights and another sub-fuse panel as well as changing they way the car was wired in the first place. Oops! This Vehicle Is Great Value When Down Sizing From A fully Loaded SUV!!! I downsized from a Loaded Ford Escape to the B200 when my son gave up being a Hockey Goalie for Soccer. Armed with a cheshire cat grin not to mention the happy though of easily cleaned minimal equipment I approached this with three things in mind. 1) My husband is 6'6" or 200cm and he had to fit in the driver's seat and the back without readjusting the driver's seat. This would allow growing room for our two kids who are genetically predisposed to and showing signs of being very tall. 2) As a self acclaimed midget in comparison at barely 5'4" or 162cm, I had to be able to sit high enough to see over the dash and reach the peddles without having the steering wheel 6" away from my chest. 3) Economy without sacrificing performance. Things were not going so well in the mid-size vehicle search and small car search with competitors was a joke-he simply doesn't fit. Then, we literally stumbled across a Mercedes Benz B200, at a Ford Dealership. To humour the salesman whom really we did not believe; we tried it and were amazed!!! We ended up buying at a Mercedes Dealership to get the "Certified pre-owned" status and extended warranties and we gave the Ford dealership salesman a few hundred dollars on the side as a BIG, BIG Thank You. This vehicle met all the requirements. My gas bill is next to nothing in comparison and I love the smooth glide feel to the ride-something that Mercedes did not give up for this entry level vehicle. The only real issue or improvements I can remark on are the turn radius, the CVT throttle ( I don't like the gutless wonder feel and sewing machine noise it makes before it really takes off on you at short BC highway entrances; but, to it's credit, it goes like stink at highway speeds and you don't experience this phenomenon at highway speeds. The lack of center console room for stuff within easy reach is a bone of contention for me as reaching for the glove compartment requires me to pull over. I absolutely Love the sunglasses holder on the driver's side headliner instead of that useless handle thing! Better rear A/C vents would be nice and if moulded winter mats could be made available to climb up the carpeted sides I'd be in mom heaven.......think about it, a 10 year old boy and winter muck with black carpet. As for the firm seats, they are firm but they don't sag after years of use as I looked at a 2009 B200. The fabric is not rough but very durable. With boys and jeans it has stood up well and shows no wear. I sit in it with shorts and it doesn't bother me. But I'm not expecting calf or sheep skin or a silk purse for that matter either. Overall the few luxuries you give up for this vehicle is more than made up for in this entry level vehicle in terms of performance, ride, comfort and economy. For it's price, it is what it is and it's great. Sadly 6 days shy of having it one year my husband, "Mr Anal Retentive" (try closing the door too hard on his BMW X5), was involved in an accident (2nd time he has done this in as many vehicles but both not his fault). Since I won't drive a car that has been in an accident he has been informed and it has been duly noted that we either get another one or he can buy himself a blow-up doll.
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