2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T
2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T. Click image to enlarge

By Andrew McCredie; photos courtesy Mercedes-Benz

Photo Gallery: 2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T

Vancouver, British Columbia – Just when you thought automakers couldn’t possibly come up with yet another new market segment, Mercedes stormed the North American beachhead last year with its “Compact Sports Tourer”, the B Series. The 2007 B200T just might be the tonic for SUV-weary drivers.

I, for one, have no idea what Compact Sports Tourer means, is, or looks like; and after reading Mercedes press kit notes I still haven’t got the foggiest.

But having driven the nimble-yet-rock solid turbo-breathing hatchback sedan for a week all over Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, I do know that this vehicle epitomizes many characteristics today’s car buyers are looking for.

Functionality, comfort, safety, decent performance, and decent economy; even a little style, though I’m sure some Mercedes purists aren’t too taken with the mini van-esque proportions and silhouette.

Perhaps that is why the Mercedes marketing department changed the B-Class’s previous category, MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), to the sexier Compact Sports Tourer segment. In that same spirit, the 2007 R-Class is not a six-passenger Mercedes minivan, SUV or Crossover: it is a “Grand Sport Tourer.”

The front-wheel drive, five-door B-Class debuted in Canada as a 2006 model in both normally aspirated and turbocharged configurations. The styling cue to tell them apart is Mercedes’ iconic silver radiator grille – four horizontal bars for the normally aspirated B200, three for the turbo. Same is true for the sophomore year, and in fact not much has changed from last year’s model. More standard equipment is in the offing for 2007, though, as are new option packages for both B200 models.

2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T
2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T. Click image to enlarge

Not fooling with things too much is the right thing as Mercedes designers nailed the B-Class right out of the box. Well, sort of out of the box, as the B-Class shares the same engine and suspension as the A-Class, Mercedes’ European compact that began production in 1997. Still, the larger B-Class is a big improvement on the A-Class, which has long been dogged by a poor handling reputation.

No such problem with the B200T. If anything, the wide stance of the B-Class combined with its relative short stature give the four-door a very sticky footprint indeed. Mercedes designers credit the B200T’s comfortable ride and razor-sharp handling with the development of a parabolic rear axle, a first in a passenger car.

A base B200 model starts at $31,400, while it’s turbo-charged stablemate begins at $35,400. The local Benz dealership has billboards up around town proclaiming “$299 a month” for one, but before you break open the loonie jar, be forewarned that if you want extras like a sunroof, automatic transmission and uber-stereo, better hope there are plenty of toonies in there too.

My tester, a B200T unquestionably ‘loaded’, topped out at $44,600, a sticker price closer to the vicinity of Mercedes-ville in most of our minds.

2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T
2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T. Click image to enlarge

Featuring a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), the five-door hatchback really displayed a ‘hot-hatch’ personality with spirited performance from the 193 horsepower powerplant. Likewise, the newly developed transmission is a silky smooth piece of engineering ingenuity that improves both acceleration and ride comfort. Instead of using the traditional paired gear wheels of typical automatic transmissions, the CVT system employs a two-pulley wheeled variator and a belt to apply various pressure points. Technical semantics aside, suffice to say the result is a smooth and comfortable ride, whether hard on the accelerator or the brake.

A $1,500 option, the CVT system works from the driver’s point of view just like a conventional automatic. The shift gate features familiar letters (P, R, N, D), though there are two shift programs to select from with the push of a button. “C”, or Comfort mode, keeps the transmission at a lower speed for gentler acceleration and better fuel economy. The “S”, for Sport, mode turns the CVT into an adaptive power supply, mapping the specific driving style and optimizing the gear ratio to suit that style. When in S mode, the shift gate becomes a Tiptronic-like manual gearbox of sorts. All in all, the CVT is an excellent and not too costly alternative to the standard manual six-speed gearbox.

The turbo-charger doesn’t hurt the performance either, as it takes the normally aspirated 2.0-litre found in the B200 and its 134 ponies and pumps up that horsepower figure to a very respectable 193. Torque also gets a major boost, going from 136 to 206 lb.-ft. Mercedes claims a 0 to 100 km/h time of just 7.6 seconds with the manual transmission – probably a second slower with the CVT. Fuel consumption is very reasonable: manufacturer’s fuel economy figures are 9.5 L/100 km (30 mpg Imp) City; 7.4 L/100 km (38 mpg Imp) Highway with the CVT transmission.

Drivetrain and powertrain technology aside, the real charm of the B-Class is its unique profile and resulting spacious cabin space. Comparable to the cabin of a Mercedes E-Class sedan, the B200T’s interior is a masterstroke in making a lot out of seemingly little. At the heart of the chassis design is the so-called ‘sandwich’ concept, a space-saving configuration that locates the engine and transmission partly in front and partly beneath the passenger cabin, thus adding precious horizontal room. Likewise, a very long wheelbase that sees the four wheels at or very near the four corners adds rear legroom and a fully functional storage configuration scheme that boasts a load capacity in the 550 to 1530 litre range.

2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T
2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T
2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T. Click image to enlarge

An added dimension of the ‘sandwich’ concept is the safety aspect of the design. In the event of frontal impact, the engine slides down and under the inclined pedal floor panel. And thanks to the higher seat position due to the sandwich design, side-impacts are lessened as occupants are seated above the impact zone.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the B-Class, especially to people who have never owned a Benz, is the high-end fit and finish of the cabin and the use of high-quality materials throughout. Mercedes has built a large, loyal and proud ownership base in Canada for the attention to detail and quality production values of its passenger compartments for decades.

The feel of the controls, functionality of the gauges and just overall ergonomics of the cabin make this a very enjoyable and comfortable place to spend time, making the B200T an ideal commuter car that is also up to some extended road trips.

Mercedes-Benz Canada recently announced their first quarter results of 2007 were an all-time record, citing among other factors the “excellent sales” of B-Class vehicles.

They might want to reconsider Compact Sport Tourer for a more fitting name; say, “Deutschmarks in the bank.”

Pricing: 2007 Mercedes-Benz B200T


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