August 18, 2008
Surrey, British Columbia – This Mercedes-Benz is only sold north of the border, it costs less than $30,000 and it’s not a Smart Car. First introduced to Canadians two years ago, the small but tall B200 has been an unqualified success here. A Euro-style city car, the B200 also is quite different when compared to other Mercedes products sold in Canada. In addition to its unique shape, it has a transversely mounted engine that drives the front wheels. Its clever design allows it to seat up to five passengers in cabin space that’s comparable to the mid-size E-Class sedan, and there’s space for their luggage too.
An intriguingly designed safety feature of the B-class is what Mercedes calls the "sandwich concept." In a frontal collision, its engine and transmission are designed to slide under a raised floor beneath the front-seat occupant’s feet. It’s clever because normally, on short-nosed vehicle like this, the engine has nowhere else to go, except into the passenger compartment.
The "B" comes in two trim levels and with two four-cylinder engines. The base B200 has a normally-aspirated two-litre that can generate a respectable 134 horsepower. The top-line B200 Turbo adds a turbocharger that pushes max engine output to 190 hp. 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 available with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic.
My test car, a B200 came with a Premium package ($2,200 – and now also includes electronic compass and myrtle wood trim), a panoramic sunroof ($1,600) and the CVT automatic transmission ($1,600).
New standard features on the 2008 B200 include storage nets on the front seatbacks, cruise control, an interior-lighting package and a new seat-comfort package. In addition, heated front seats are now standard on the Turbo version.
The good news for Canadian consumers is a $1,500 price drop on the base price of both the 2008 B200 and B200 turbo.
The B200’s unique "sandwich" design elevates the floor area under the front occupants, which also increases the step-in height. It’s a small price to pay when you consider the safety benefits, but it may be an issue for some users.
There’s an upscale ambiance to the roomy interior that’s characteristically Mercedes. The cloth upholstery has a quality feel, lots of nice soft-touch plastics and all put together with excellent fit and finish. The well-bolstered front seats have excellent lateral support in both the seat-cushion and 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.
There’s a sizeable 550-litres of cargo room in the back. It increases to 1140-litres when the rear seats are folded down and it has a completely flat, extended floor.
On the downside, I found the manual seat-back adjuster a bit awkward to reach at the base of the driver’s seatback, the rear seatbacks do not have a recline adjustment and the front console cup-holders are too close to the shift lever.
The optional panoramic sunroof is different from a normal sunroof. Bigger in surface area, it’s also louvered and stacks on externally, so that it doesn’t detract from interior head room.
The front section tilts, if you just want some ventilation, and I was impressed by how little wind noise was generated in this position.
The list of standard safety features is extensive and includes active head restraints on the front seats. An electronic stability system (called ESP) is also standard and a supplementary system called Steer Control also aids the driver in an emergency.
Taller than average? Not a problem, the B200 front-seat leg room is particularly generous. Headroom is also good and there’s the added convenience of a seat cushion with height and tilt adjustments plus tilt and telescopic steering column to make finding a good driving position easy.
A silky-smooth operator, the CVT has no gear-shift points to jolt occupants and is more efficient than a conventional automatic. In addition, this CVT also has a manual mode with seven selectable ratios, which mimic seven gears.
Mercedes claims a 0-to-100 km/hour acceleration time of 10.1 seconds (7.6 seconds with the turbo engine) for the base normally aspirated engine. While it’s no sports car, the figures don’t tell the whole story as this engine pulls well at low engine speeds, is reasonably quick off the mark and cruises quietly at highway speeds. Energuide City/Hwy fuel consumption figures with the CVT are a frugal 9.2/7.2 L/100 km.
The high driving position is an advantage in traffic plus the compact proportions and agile handling attributes of the B200. It’s actually much more stable than you would expect as most of the weight is concentrated in lower parts of the car.
Pricing: 2008 Mercedes-Benz B200
|(Premium package ($2,200); panoramic sunroof ($1,600); CVT automatic transmission ($1,600).)|
|Price as tested:||$||
Manufacturer’s web site