B-grade: it's not an engaging car to drive thanks to inconsistent steering, an overly firm ride and too much noise reaching the cabin
Chunky pillars and a slimline rear windscreen hamper visibility, but there's no denying the lavish interior quality
Standard safety systems will alert you if you're driving too close to the vehicle in front, or if you seem to be dropping off. More can be added for a price
Mercedes hasn't scored too well in recent reliability surveys
Five can stretch out very comfortably, and there's enough boot space
Standard SE cars come with alloys, air-con and a self-parking system, Sport adds a reversing camera and fake-leather for a hefty premium and the options list is extensive
There are four engines to choose from: two 1.6-litre petrols with either 120bhp or 154bhp, and a pair of 1.8-litre turbodiesels providing 107bhp or 134bhp. All of the engines are strong from low revs, though none of them makes the B-Class especially quick. They're impressively smooth and quiet, too, and only get vocal on the rare occasion you need to work them hard. However, the ride is disappointingly firm, even on comfort-orientated SE models, and it never seems to settle. To make matters worse, the steering is inconsistently weighted, and there's a lot of slack around the straight-ahead position. However, the B-Class handles well for a car this big and tall, with good body control through bends. There's some wind noise on the motorway, and versions with big wheels generate quite a lot of road noise.
The soft-touch dashboard and door trims give the B-Class an upmarket feel, as do the circular metal air vents. The materials lower down in the cabin don't feel quite as posh, but they don't ruin the effect. Many functions are operated through on-screen menus and a central control dial, but the menus are confusing. There's plenty of adjustment for the driver's seat and the steering wheel, but rear visibility isn't great; the windscreen pillars can block your view and the screen is shallow. The B-Class is roomier than most family hatchbacks. There's lots of space in the front and back, and at 488 litres, the boot is bigger than the class average. Specify the optional sliding rear seats, and you can increase it to 666 litres. Entry-level SE trim comes with alloys, air-conditioning, four electric windows and a system that helps you steer your car into a parking space. Sport models add artificial leather, xenon headlamps and a reversing camera, but they cost a lot more.
Mercedes scored reasonably well in the latest J D Power customer satisfaction report. The manufacturer also has an excellent record for safety, and the B-Class is no exception. Standard kit includes stability control, seven airbags, a driver drowsiness detector and a system that warns of an impending collision. Not surprisingly, B-Class achieved a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
The B-Class feels classy but it costs thousands more to buy than most other hatchback rivals. Plus, even though it has a desirable Mercedes badge, resale values are nothing special for the class. In the short-term, however, all the engines have fuel-saving stop-start technology and return competitive figures for fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.