When Mercedes-Benz unveiled the first B-Class, it was a more interesting and more spacious alternative to the rather diminutive second-generation A-Class. Things changed quite rapidly with the following generation, when the A-Class became the poster-child of the range, spawning the CLA- and GLA-Class models which provide a not insignificant chunk of sales for the three-pointed star. The B-Class, while being a fairly competent small family hauler, was left to the sidelines in favour of spicier A45 AMGs and a customer base that was growing ever younger.
But the third-generation B-Class has just been unveiled at the Paris Motor Show 2018, and it's a step in the right direction for the "tourer" of the brand. The design brief for this generation was for the B-Class to stand out among minivans, and they've certainly managed to achieve this with far sportier looks achieved in a more subtle fashion.
The B-Class gets its dynamic styling not through add-on body items, but through changes to the overhang and roofline that accentuate a sporty character. The headlights and taillights have gone through a large revision, merging more smoothly with the body for a more cohesive design that improves both aerodynamics and aesthetics.
While exterior styling may be what gets people through the showroom doors, it's what's on the inside that counts - quite literally, in the case of the B-Class. The dashboard sees a full reworking from the ground up, with more aggressive styling that suits a more youthful nature on the whole.
The launch of the fourth-generation A-Class has set the standard for all Mercedes-Benz interior designs, and the B-Class is no different with the full MBUX package, including that "Hey Mercedes" voice control and touch controls as well. The huge screen is the centrepiece of the car's dashboard, and a welcome replacement to the free-floating design that has grown a little old.
At launch, the car will be available with a variety of powertrains and gearboxes, including the new eight-speed 8G-DCT gearbox that is paired with the B200d and B220d diesel options. The B180d, B180, and B200 will stick with the 7G-DCT that we're more familiar with.
Outputs for the diesel models range from 116 hp and 260 Nm to 190 hp and 400 Nm, while the two petrol variants offer 136 hp and 200 Nm, or 163 hp and 250 Nm. The most powerful diesel variant is an entirely new engine, known as the OM 654q, and will already meet upcoming emissions regulations due in 2020.
A number of features that the B-Class will come with depends heavily on the options selected, and in the case of our country we're really at the mercy of what Mercedes-Benz Malaysia decides to pick for us.
That being said, the flexibility of options and the number available is still an important consideration; we're not talking heated seats, but things like adaptive suspension and 40:20:40 split rear folding seats with a sliding second row (a feature that can vary the luggage space between 455 litres and 705 litres on the fly, with 1,540 litres when dropping the rear seats).
And of course, chief among these features are the Intelligent Drive functions derived from the S-Class. The B-Class is afforded those same luxuries, through the use of cameras and radar systems in combination with map data in order to anticipate traffic conditions up to 500 meters ahead and to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations.
Known items like Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Emergency Stop Assist, and Active Lane Change Assist are all present, along with Active Brake Assist as standard for collision mitigation whether it's a car, cyclist, or pedestrian.