Mercedes-Benz had first launched the B-class last year. When we put it through a road test, we were impressed by the space, practicality, build quality and sublime interiors. Of course, this being India, we were keen to see what it would be like with a diesel engine under the bonnet. And now, nearly a year later, we have a B 180 CDI. But the badge nomenclature is a misnomer. This diesel motor is not a 1.8-litre engine, but rather, a 2.2-litre unit good for 107bhp and 25.5kgm of torque.
It may be a hatchback, but it’s quite a large and solid one, and this B 180 CDI weighs in at over 1.5 tonnes (to be fair, that’s as much as the A-class). Although the power figure is low, the torque from the engine is ample and available from the word go. You hardly feel any turbo lag (the larger displacement helps here), and the car pulls away smoothly in true Mercedes fashion. It’s got a really good mid-range, and the top end is not too bad either – but it does get a bit noisy towards the end. A lot of credit must be given to the seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox, which is good at picking the best ratio for any given situation. It can even be set to Sport or Manual for quicker shifts and better throttle response.
The big news is the ride, which is a huge improvement on the petrol car. This is down to the smaller, 16-inch wheels and higher, 55-profile tyres that are standard on the diesel (the petrol has 225/45 R17s). The suspension is still somewhat stiffly set up, though, and you will feel this most on sharper bumps.
While the B 180 petrol is available only in Sport trim, the diesel is available only in Style trim, which is also the reason the latter will likely cost less than the former. What you sacrifice in the step down is the dual sunroof setup and the 17-inch wheels. Otherwise, it has all the other features, with a fully powered driver’s seat, leather upholstery, seven airbags, a COMAND interface with a variety of media connectivity and a whole lot of safety tech.
Two questions arise with this car. One, is the diesel version better than the petrol, and two, now that the stylish and more affordable A-class is also on sale, should you be considering the B-class at all? The answer to both is yes. The B-class is a hugely spacious and very practical large hatchback, and to that end, the diesel engine is a much better fit for it. It makes for a smoother, more relaxed drive, and there’s also the benefit of better fuel economy. We also expect it to be the cheaper variant, and it rides better too.
Although the B-class shares a platform, engines and a lot of trim with the A-class, the two cars have very different characters. The big B may lose some desirability points to its cheaper sibling, but on real-world practicality and usability, it absolutely trounces it. If the lowest possible sticker price is your primary criterion, perhaps the A-class is a better choice. But if you want a useful boot, proper room in the rear seats, and a comfortable ride, the B-class – particularly the CDI – is well worth the extra spend.