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Mercedes-Benz B170 2006 Road Test

Thu, 03 Aug 2006

After a normal car, getting into the Mercedes Benz B Class is slightly odd. You have to step up quite high. Then you find yourself sitting on the floor. It didn’t do my back any favours.

Seat and steering wheel are fully adjustable in all directions. The controls are all quite light, especially the steering (on Michelin Energy 205/55 R16 tyres). The manual B170 petrol comes with a 5-speed box, though most buyers will pay £1,390 extra to get the seven ratio ZF CVT Autotronic also available in the A Class and Ford Focus and C-Max 1.6 TDCIs.

That light feeling translates to the way the car handles. It’s effortless, a quality much appreciated and even needed by some drivers. At low speeds the handling is viceless. Though at speed the lightness and lack of ‘feel’ conspire with the shape of the body to demand constant attention, especially in crosswinds on the motorway. Ride quality is good and “speed cushions” absorbed reasonably well.

Despite only 116bhp, the optional Speedtronic cruise control works simply and is well worth the extra £205 now that many road works limits are enforced by SPECS average speed cameras. Speedtronic also includes a maximum speed limiter.

The interior is quite versatile. The basic luggage area is rectangular. The rear seats tuck and fold 2/3:1/3. The passenger seatback folds forward onto its squab allowing transportation of objects up to 2,950mm (nine feet) long. My car had the £205 ‘Easy Vario’ option of a removable passenger seat and removable rear seat cushions and backrests giving it the capacity of a small van.

For the amount of safety equipment on board it’s surprising that the B-Class has not been Euro NCAP tested, though the five stars of its smaller sister, the A-Class, are reassuring.

I got a very average 34.55mpg measured brim to brim over 222 miles.

It’s very difficult to get excited about the B-Class. The luggage capacity and practicality are definitely better than a Golf or a Focus, for example, though on a par with a Golf Plus or C-Max. The fact that, like the A-Class, you sit fairly high is a definite bonus in side-impact accidents. The fit and finish is good. Even cubbyholes are properly trimmed. But list prices are very stiff.

In the status stakes I suppose it’s the sort of third or fourth car a rich couple would buy for the nanny to ferry their children to school and use to do the shopping. It’s obviously much better and safer at those jobs than a pointless 4x4.

Maybe they should offer an accessory sticker for the back window: “My other cars are an SL, a GL and an S-Class.”

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