Test Drive:
2006 Mercedes-Benz B200


Review and photos by Bob McHugh

2006 Mercedes-Benz B150
2006 Mercedes-Benz B150, European model shown. Photo: Mercedes-Benz. Click image to enlarge

A brand new Mercedes for less than $31,000! And it’s not a Smart Car. The new B-Class may be small but it’s still a genuine Mercedes-Benz. What’s more it can seat up to five passengers, in cabin space that rivals the top-line S-Class sedan, and there’s space for their luggage.

In Europe, Mercedes makes a complete range of vehicles for every market segment. If there is a ‘silver lining’ to soaring gas prices it’s that we’ll probably see more fuel-efficient Euro-style compact vehicles, like the new B-Class.

A tall wagon/hatchback, the design is not like any Mercedes currently sold in Canada and is hard to slot it into a conventional category (Sport Tourer, according to M-B). Pop the hood and there are more surprises, the engine is positioned crossways as it’s the first front-drive Mercedes sold on this side of the Atlantic. Step inside and the spaciousness of the interior is remarkable, considering the small parcel of road space it occupies.

The “B” comes in two trim levels and with two 4-cylinder engines. The base B200 has a normally-aspirated 2.0-litre that can generate a respectable 134 horsepower. The top-line B200 Turbo adds a turbocharger that pushes maximum engine output to 190 hp. It also delivers impressive torque (206 lb-ft @ 1800-4850 rpm) at low engine speeds.

2006 Mercedes-Benz B200
2006 Mercedes-Benz B200. Click image to enlarge

A nice-shifting five-speed manual transmission is standard in the B200. The B200 Turbo has a newer crisper-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. Both trim levels can also be ordered with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic. A silky-smooth operator, the CVT has no gear-shift points to jolt occupants and is more efficient than a conventional automatic. This CVT also has a manual mode with seven selectable ratios, which mimic seven gears.

The most intriguing design feature of the ‘B’ is what happens to its drive-train in a frontal impact. The engine and transmission are tilted so that they slide under a raised floor beneath the front occupant’s feet. It’s a unique safety feature that Mercedes calls the “sandwich concept”.


The looks

2006 Mercedes-Benz B150

2006 Mercedes-Benz B150
2006 Mercedes-Benz B150, European model shown. Photo: Mercedes-Benz. Click image to enlarge

Tall but small, the ‘B’ is a distinctive form that from a side-view is wedge-like. There are no sharp edges to this design, however, and the big three-point star in the front grille leaves no mistake about its maker.

There’s minimal overhang beyond the front and rear wheels and they appear to push-out beyond the body providing a stable appearance. A sloping roofline that drops off at the rear, and a fastback rear window are nice little styling suggestions that signal “sporty”.


The inside

One drawback to the elevated front floor area is that it also increases step-in height for passengers. Front seat passenger space, however, is excellent and the taller seating position allows an elevated and better view of the road.

2006 Mercedes-Benz B200
2006 Mercedes-Benz B200. Click image to enlarge

There’s an upscale ambiance to the interior that’s characteristically Mercedes. Even the base B200 cloth upholstery has a quality feel and the front seats have excellent sports car-like lateral support in the seat-cushion and seat-back. The manual seat-back adjuster, however, is awkwardly positioned at the base of the seat-back.

Storage spots include extra-large front door pockets, a long narrow drawer that pops out of the centre console and a huge glove box that’s air conditioned. With the rear seats up there’s a sizeable 550-litres of cargo room in the back and 1140-litres with them folded. And a cleverly adjustable rear shelf also allows a completely flat-floor arrangement.


Safety equipment

2006 Mercedes-Benz B200
2006 Mercedes-Benz B200, safety kit. Click image to enlarge

It may be small and cute, but the B is tougher than it looks. The ‘sandwich concept’ design is part of a robust floor structure with laser-welded cross-members that also protect the occupants in a side impact.

The list of standard safety features is extensive and includes active head restraints on front seats and both the front and rear passengers are protected by side air bags and side-curtain air bags.

An electronic stability system (called ESP) that reduces the risk of skidding is also standard and a supplementary system called Steer Control works with the B’s electronic steering to aid the driver in an emergency.

Although the owner’s manual claims it has dual-action rear seat belt retractors, the test B did not have them on the rear outboard seating positions, when checked by BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation for a child seat installation.


The drive

When I picked up the test B it was parked on a slope. Attempting to slide the seat forward I pulled the seat lever, unlatched the slider and gravity caused me to slide even further away from the pedals. I felt like a kid trying to drive Dad’s car and barely ably to touch the pedals.

2006 Mercedes-Benz B200

2006 Mercedes-Benz B200

2006 Mercedes-Benz B200
2006 Mercedes-Benz B200. Click image to enlarge

Now, I’m above average height, have long legs and more commonly have the opposite problem. This car has an amazing range of front seat legroom. Headroom is also generous and an adjustable seat cushion and steering column made finding a good driving position easy.

The base normally aspirated engine idles quietly, but growls a bit when pushed. M-B claims a 0-to-100 time of 10.1 seconds (7.6 seconds with the turbo engine), which certainly doesn’t put it in the rocket category. Around town, however, it was quick and peppy off the mark and cruises very quietly in top gear at highway speeds.

The tall driving position is an advantage in traffic as are the B’s compact proportions and agile handling attributes. Considering its tall-but-small design it’s far more stable than you would expect.

Little things can make a big difference to driving ease and pleasure. I loved the B’s extra large outside mirrors (which are heated). Likewise the super powerful windshield washers (also heated) and super-sized fluid reservoir. And the adjustable armrest on the centre console and the safety kit in the trunk – the list goes on.


Verdict

Good things now come in small, but tall, packages. I give the B an A.


Technical Data: 2006 Mercedes-Benz B200

Base price $30,950
Options None
Freight $1,245
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $32,295 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger crossover
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 2.0 litre 4 cylinder, 8 valves
Horsepower 134 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Torque 136 lb-ft torque @ 3,500 – 4,000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (opt CVT
Tires 205/55R-16
Curb weight 1,270 kg (2800 lb.)
Wheelbase 2,778 mm (109.3 in.)
Length 4,270 mm (168.1 in.)
Width 1,777 mm (70.0 in.)
Height 1,604 mm (63.2 in.)
Cargo area 550 litres (19.4 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 9.2 litres/100 km (31 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 6.7 litres/100 km (42 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Premium unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km

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