2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class. Click image to enlarge

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Mercedes-Benz Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class

Crowbush Cove, Prince Edward Island – Mercedes Benz has built its reputation as a maker of luxury vehicles of the highest order. In North America especially, owning one has always been a sign of success and taste.

But with the introduction to our market of a wider range of its vehicles, some Mercedes models are now affordable for buyers of more modest means. Consequently, of the 20,000 vehicles Mercedes-Benz Canada sells per year, over 3,000 of them are the entry-level, B-Class.

At a starting price of $29,200, the B-Class is the most affordable Mercedes available in our market. Introduced for 2006, it has quickly evolved into a complete package that even when fully loaded with options, costs well under $40,000.

2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class. Click image to enlarge

The B-Class is a front-drive, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, four-door hatchback, popular in Europe and not sold in the U.S., that features easily recognizable Mercedes exterior and interior styling cues, but in a smaller package. The model is available in two trim levels: B200 and B200 Turbo.

The B200 is powered by a 134 horsepower engine that makes 136 foot-pounds of torque, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. It consumes just 9.2/6.7 litres of premium fuel per 100 kilometres, city/highway (having a combined rating of 8.1 L/100 km). About 60 per cent of B-Class sales are B200 models.

The $34,400 B200 Turbo generates 193 hp and 206 lb.-ft torque, with fuel consumption rated at 9.5/7.4 L/100 km, city/highway. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission.

An automatic “CVT” transmission is available for both models at a cost of $1,500, which gives drivers the choice of full automatic mode or “virtual” manual shifting. Most buyers select the automatic, with only five per cent choosing a manual transmission.

Safety equipment is comprehensive, including electronic stability control with Steering Control, ABS with Brake Assist, crash responsive lighting, front, side and side curtain airbags. It has an innovative double floor, under which the drivetrain slides in the event of a crash, and features the same structural engineering that’s found in larger, more expensive Mercedes models, according to Mercedes Benz Canada’s B-Class Project Manager, Christopher Goczan.

2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class. Click image to enlarge

For 2009, the B-Class receives a facelift that includes minor but effective changes to its appearance and operation. An auto dimming mirror (and side mirrors on the Turbo) and rain-sensing windshield wipers become standard equipment on both models (and they work well!), as does Bluetooth connectivity that enables hands-free cell phone operation.

Giving the B-Class a sportier look has been achieved by changing the style of the lower front bumper, offering different wheels and revising the rear bumper, rear lights and rear window.

What may not be noticed are that the antenna is shorter and the liftgate handle has been improved, which are “small, but important items for owners,” according to Mr. Goczan.

2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class. Click image to enlarge

Inside, changes include new seat cushions and fabric design, and the use of dark aluminum trim. Optional are a 500-watt Harman-Kardon LOGIC7 surround audio system and a “new media” interface for iPod, USB and auxiliary connections. A navigation system is not available.

A $1,500 Sport Package is available which includes AMG wheels, sport seats, a stiffer suspension and lowered ride height by 15 millimeters. This is only available on the B200 Turbo, however.

A $2,200 Premium Package for the B200 includes an electronic compass, wood effect trim, sunroof and heated seats. The B200 Turbo Premium Package is $2,900 and adds dual-zone electronic climate control and power driver’s seat to the B200’s Premium Package (single zone climate control is standard on the B200 and B200 Turbo).

Distinguishing both B-Class models are the spacious interior, quality fit and finish, manoeuvrability, high seating that provides an excellent view of the road ahead and behind, long front legroom, generous standard equipment, comprehensive safety features, a height-adjustable rear shelf, fold-flat rear seats, excellent fuel economy, solid feel and the luxury association of the Mercedes brand.

We drove B200 and B200 Turbos on a wide range of surfaces (from highways to rutted gravel roads) in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and found that they are quite different in character. The B200 is noteworthy for its very smooth and quiet ride; the B200 Turbo for its powerful and responsive engine.

The Sport Package, while offering sharper handling, produces a choppy ride on uneven or broken road surfaces even though there is no increase in the 17-inch wheel size (shorter, stiffer springs are used).

2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class
2009 Mercedes-Benz B Class. Click image to enlarge

The B200 Turbo with six-speed manual transmission is a delight to drive. Clutch operation is light, but has good feel; power is available with minimal turbo lag. The vehicle feels quick, responsive and stable. Buyers should give this a look if they prefer an engaging, sporty driving experience.

Most drivers will prefer the B200 with automatic transmission, however. It’s a comfortable, practical vehicle with adequate power; roomy inside but small outside. And with the Mercedes Benz badge, it’s a definite “step up” from economy hatchbacks and compact SUVs.

Direct competition for the B-Class would be the Audi A3 and Volvo V50. Non-luxury alternatives are the Toyota Matrix, Kia Rondo, Pontiac Vibe and Mazda5.

2009 MSRPs are as follows: Mercedes-Benz B200: $29,200; Mercedes-Benz B200 Turbo: $34,400.

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