The baby Benz proves to be a practical, roomy 5-door car with two distinct personalities. And this car review ends with a big twist.
If you’re looking for a review on the 2015 model, you can find it here.
The mini mini-van look of the former B-class is gone, and has been replaced with a slightly bigger, sleeker, more sculpted shape. The front end is unmistakably Mercedes, sporting an enormous three-pointed star in the grille, and then another badge for good measure. The headlight pods look sophisticated, and the angry LED light bar eyebrows over the projectors are fantastic – they got a ton of appreciative comments. By the way, the same line of those arched eyebrows becomes a bright amber signal light – it definitely grabs your attention when it’s flashing.
The side of the vehicle gets a strong character crease which boldly angles up toward the back of the car. The rear end gets some slick LED tail lights that remind me of Kia’s current look (in a good way), as well as a couple of meaty oval exhaust tips.
The B250’s 17-inch rims, wearing 225/45-sized rubber, look fine, but the optional Sport package with its stunning 18-inch rims really takes the styling up a notch. I don’t always like white cars, but I thought this car’s Calcite White looked very nice.
The B250’s tall stance makes it easy to get in (and out). A surprisingly spacious cockpit greets you once you plop yourself into the supportive and comfortable seats – they’re heated and highly adjustable. I had plenty of headroom for my 5’10” frame even though the seating position is nice and high. The upper dash is sculpted out of one giant piece of soft-touch plastic. There’s a nice “Matrix” trim piece on the face of the dash that does little to break up the sea of black. As in many German cars, it’s all business in the B250. The door panels are very nicely finished – every single surface is soft-touch, whether it’s plastic or upholstered with contrasting stitching. The fit and finish was exceptional.
Ahead of you is one of the finest steering wheels in the industry. I love the size, the grippy feel and how the sculpting was perfect for any kind of driving. It has controls for the sound system, the phone and the driver information screen, which you’ll find between the two large gauges. I found the speedometer cramped and tough to read, and I usually relied on the digital speedo instead.
Smack dab in the centre of the dash is a floating screen – as a matter of fact, it looks like it could be detached, but that’s not the case. It’s controlled by Mercedes’ intuitive COMAND user interface, using a rotary joystick button on the console. The screen handles the car’s media (playing from radio, CD, Bluetooth streaming, USB and auxiliary sources), phone functions, vehicle settings and the rear-view camera (which has handy moving trajectory lines to make your parking easier). The base sound system is excellent, though there’s a harman/kardon system you can upgrade to.
Below the screen is a mess of hard buttons that Mercedes has stuck with for a while. Some access major stereo functions and there’s also a full old-school numeric keypad. Thankfully the most-used stereo functions (power, volume and skip/back) are centered and easy to find. Below that is an automatic dual-zone climate control system.
I loved the ambient lighting hidden throughout the interior – it got a lot of positive comments from passengers. The dual panoramic sunroof is nice – the front panel tilts and slides and there are powered sunshades for both panels. I thought the circular air vents added a touch of fun to the interior.
Getting into the back of the B250 leads to perhaps one of the biggest surprises. There are three seats, each with a seatbelt and a headrest. The leg room is absolutely astounding for a vehicle of this size and it is further augmented by excellent foot space under the front seats. There is also a ton of head room, and things feel even airier thanks to the rear sunroof panel. Every person that sat in the back was completely taken aback by the amount of space. The outboard seats are comfortable for adults, but the middle one only cuts it for kids. It’s narrow, raised and your legs will straddle a hefty tunnel in the floor.
Our three kids were very comfortable back there. There are two excellent ISOFIX anchors for children seats and the rear doors open wide, making access very easy. There’s a 12V plug and the always-handy ashtray at the back of the console, as well as adjustable air vents. The middle seat back folds down to become an armrest with a couple of awkward cupholders that swing out of it.
There are a few places to drop your stuff. The centre console has an open dual cupholder, as well as a large third one under a swing-away lid – this is where I put my phone. There’s a massive two-level glove compartment and reasonable storage in the carpeted bin under the armrest, which adjusts fore and aft for comfort. A small but ingenious detail – there are long, shallow trays on the outside of each front seat. A great place to put something, and it’ll also catch any change or other goodies that might fall out your pockets. My wife kept her umbrella there.
Though the beautifully finished trunk isn’t huge on paper at 488 litres, we found it was wide and felt large, easily accommodating a family shopping trip to Costco – we also appreciated the nice low load height. You can fold the rear seats down (in a 60/40 split) and the space grows to an immense 1547 litres, enough to easily transport an appliance in the shipping box. Impressive. There’s a pass-through for long, skinny items and a significant amount of under-floor storage as well. The bag hooks were convenient for grocery trips, and there are four very solid tie-down hooks. There’s also a retractable, removable tonneau cover.
Under the Hood
Here is one of the biggest improvements from the first generation B-class. A new 2.0-litre direct injection turbocharged 4-cylinder putting out 208 horsepower at 5500 RPM and a very healthy 258 lb.ft of torque at a deliciously low 1200 RPM. It’s more than enough to motivate the B250, even if it tips the scales at a surprisingly portly 1475 kg (3252 pounds). The new engine is coupled with an equally fresh 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and it drives the front wheels.
Even with its new-found grunt (74 horsepower and 122 lb.ft of torque(!) more than the previous B-class’ base engine) , the B250 posts impressive fuel economy ratings – 7.9 L/100 km (30 US mpg) in the city and 5.5 L/100 km (43 US mpg) on the highway. That’s an 18-percent improvement of the previous base model.
We ended up averaging 8.8 L/100 km (27 US mpg) during a week of city driving – impressive for a brand-new vehicle in which we made no effort to drive efficiently. Of note, we averaged 6.5 L/100 km (36 US mpg) on an extended highway cruise at 115-120 km/h, often seeing fuel economy as low as 5.5 L/100 km. The B250 has a 50 litre tank and requires premium fuel.
It is in the driving experience that you will find two very polar personalities. At first I was a bit shocked at how subdued the B250 was. Sluggish, massive lag off the line and a fuel-miser attitude from the transmission that embraces the higher gears as soon as possible. Add to that the auto start-stop function that turns the engine off at red lights, and it was a bit of a lethargic ride. I soon learned how to drive it, keeping my foot in it a bit more and realizing it required a kick when you were in a bit of a rush to get going. With all this said, it’s a perfectly fine set up for daily commuting.
But it had me wondering where all that wonderful power was. There’s a little button on the centre stack, and it allows you to choose from three driving modes. I just told you about Eco mode. There’s also manual mode, which allows you to shift exclusively with the paddle shifters. But the best one, my friends, is the Sport mode. Put it in Sport, and the B250 becomes completely transformed. Turbo lag, while still there in a barely measurable sense, is practically negligible. Throttle response is immediate and the transmission plays ball too, holding on to gears much longer and shifting more crisply. It all adds up to a completely different animal on the road, and it’s a terrific amount of fun, happily pushing you back into your seat with gobs of torque.
The B250 handles very well, although its tall shape does make for some body lean in corners. Turn-in is sharp and the car manages the curves impressively but I found the electronic steering a bit overboosted for truly spirited driving. The suspension is very well sorted out, and the car is as impressively comfortable in the city as on the open road. There’s a small fly in the ointment though – the run-flat tires cause the B250 to get a bit crashy over some road irregularities, and the harshness over pot holes is downright frightening. On that note, the run-flat tires also add quite a bit of road noise on certain kinds of road surfaces, yet I found them just fine on others.
Wind noise on the highway is reasonable, although at 120 km/h, it is noticeable – not really a surprise considering the upright shape of the car. There is a healthy snarl when you fire up the car and when you step on it, but otherwise engine noise is quite subdued.
The B250’s brakes are quite powerful and effective when called upon. Visibility out of the car is wonderful, with a couple of minor exceptions. The sloped hood makes it difficult to tell where the front of the car is when you’re parking and the rear pillars intrude into the shoulder-checking view a bit. The column-mounted gear selector (a la Oldsmobile circa 1970s) took me a few drives to get used to, but once I did, I appreciated the amount of centre console real estate it freed up.
It’s tough to name true competitors for the B250 – frankly it’s tough to put it into a category. It’s a tall 5-door hatch. Taller than a wagon, smaller than most crossovers. Wherever you end up sticking it, you’ll find the smaller size of the exterior easily masks the spaciousness and utility offered in the interior. A well-appointed cabin with plenty of luxurious touches, reasonable amounts of technology and plenty of comfort gets high marks and the car gets an outstanding safety rating, which is very important to a lot of folks.
I give the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B250 an 8 out of 10.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was surprisingly very high. She loved the styling and the driving experience and said that it felt expensive on the road. She was very happy with the rear seat space for our kids, and the large, easily accessible trunk made for a happy shopping weekend. To be honest, my wife asked if we could buy one.
I was surprised at how much I liked this car. It has a lot to offer. Is it perfect? Definitely not. The run-flat tires suck. It’s a shame it doesn’t come in all-wheel drive (yet). I’d appreciate a little more fuel efficiency around town (but then again it’s hard to argue with the power this thing has). And I’d love a Normal drive mode, somewhere between the Eco and Sport modes. And hey, while I’m dropping a wish list – I’d really like a diesel option here in Canada. But seriously, considering it’s a Benz, and that it starts for a hair over $30,000, this little big car is a smart vehicle and it’s pretty darn competitive. I just had a tough time figuring out who the competition is.
You know how I said my wife asked if we could buy one? Truth is, we walked into the local dealership to buy a Mercedes GLK 250. My wife saw the B250, fell in love with it, test drove it and loved it even more. So we left the GLK where it sat – not to diss the GLK because it is a fantastic car – and bought the B250. Yes, the car in this review is my wife’s new car. We’ve had it for about three months now and she is more in love than ever. Well, with the car anyway.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2014 Mercedes-Benz B250
Base price (of specific trim): $30,500
Options: $2400 Premium package; $750 Bi-Xenon Headlight package; $480 rear-view camera
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $36,725