Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 2012 B-Class in India today. The German automaker is betting big on the B-Class, which it is positioning as a sports tourer. Its not just in India, but even globally, the new B-Class has been positioned as a sports tourer. However, such a category does not exist in India and the company will focus its attention on enlightening people about what a sports tourer is. Thus, the new B-Class will be launched in September but the cars have already arrived at the dealer. We drove the Mercedes B-Class at the Buddh International Circuit earlier today and below is our initial impressions of the car.
Mercedes-Benz has bought in the B-Class from Germany for this event. The particular model is the European spec version with a slightly stiffer suspension and low profile rubber. The automaker is yet to start local assembly at its Chakan facility. Thus the made in Germany model offered to drive was a left hand drive with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Mercedes-Benz will offer the B-Class in India in B180 and B180 CDI variants which will be mated to a 7-speed DCT automatic gearbox (no manual gearbox will be offered). We drove 3 laps around the Buddh Circuit in the B200, which is a more powerful version of the car.
The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class is codenamed W246. It is essentially an enlarged A-Class and shares most of the parts with it. Mercedes chooses to call the B-Class as a Compact Sports Tourer internationally, while the R-Class is a Grand Sports Tourer. Essentially, the B-Class looks like an mini MPV with a length of 4359 mm, width of 1786 mm and height of 1557 mm. Even with such a height, the B-Class has a very low CD of just 0.26. It gets the latest design language of Mercedes-Benz which gives it a youthful appearance. The European model gets bigger 18-inch wheels but keeping in mind the roads in India, Mercedes will slap on 17-inch rubber for better ride quality. The super smooth tarmac on the circuit did not let us gauge the ride quality of the car.
The dashboard has borrowed heavy cues from the concept version of the A-Class. The steering wheel feels good to hold and there are 5 AC vents present on the dash, which are styled in a very unique manner. The 3-spoke steering wheel has many buttons and a medium-sized display is present right in the center. Many of the interior and exterior parts are typical MERC, including the audio system, mirrors, etc. The front seats are supportive, while the rear seats offer very good space to the passengers. Undoubtedly, the B-Class is the most spacious hatchback in the country.
The boot is huge and can swallow in 488-litres of luggage. A system called EASY-VARIO-PLUS will boost boot space to 666-litres by adjusting the rear seats by up to 140 mm.
The B200 CGI variant of the B-Class (not to be offered initially) produces 156 BHP of peak power and 250 Nm of peak torque. This turbocharged motor is decently powerful and hits 100 km/h in 8.4 seconds with a top speed of 220 km/h.
We were able to hit a top speed of around 160 km/h on the long straight between turn 3 and turn 4. The engines to be offered in India will be a 1.6-litre petrol (B180) which produces 122 HP of power and 200 Nm of torque. The B180 CDI uses a 1.8-litre diesel motor to produce 109 BHP of power and 250 Nm of torque from as low as 1400 RPM. These engine might not burn the road but will offer decent performance and very good mileage. The petrol engined B-Class will be launched this year, while the diesel variant will be launched next year.
The B-Class uses Mercedes-Benz’ new drive architecture called MFA (Modular Front Architecture) which is front-wheel drive. This helps in cost and weight saving and results in the B-Class having very good handling. Even with such big dimensions (the B-Class is bigger than the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga and wider than the Toyota Innova), the handling seemed to be as good as bigger Mercedes cars, which have a rear-wheel drive layout. Brakes are sharp too and there are a plethora of systems working to ensure that the B-Class is as safe as any other three-pointed star.
Some of the equipment on the Mercedes B-Class includes hill hold function, attention assist, blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, adaptive headlamp assist, active parking assist, brake hold function, reversing camera, Eco start stop, Bi-xenon headlights, 7 airbags, tire pressure monitor, acceleration skid control, panoramic sunroof, paddle shifts, LINGUATRONIC, PRE-SAFE and DISTRONIC PLUS. It is still unknown as to what Mercedes-Benz will offer as standard in India.
During our short drive of the B-Class, we found it quite promising. The vehicle offers very good space and luggage carrying capacity along with excellent dynamics for a car of this size. Mercedes-Benz will locally assemble the B-Class and plans to locally manufacture it within the next five years. Prices are expected to start at around Rs. 22 lakhs, which makes the new B-Class a great alternative to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.