New car review: Mercedes-Benz B180 Sports Tourer
Mini-MPV delivers on versatility and space.
Australian and European tastes don’t always align when it comes to automobiles.
Our wide open spaces and sprawling suburbs versus Europe’s close-knit towns and older cities simply make for different vehicular tastes.
A case in point is the mini-MPV or “Multi-Purpose Vehicle”, which is a reasonably popular format there but rarely sighted here.
Fact is, MPVs have never really taken off in Australia and the sales statistics confirm we much prefer an SUV when it comes to our pragmatic motoring needs.
Among the brands maintaining a mini-MPV presence here are Mercedes-Benz and BMW, with the B180 and 2 Active Tourer respectively.
Neither set the sales charts afire, but Mercedes comfortably out-sells BMW with its third-generation B-Class, launched here in mid-2019.
Priced just below $50,000, the B180 is one of the least expensive ways into the famous three-pointed star brand and is available in a single specification with features including panoramic glass sunroof, LED headlights with active high beam assist, 360-degree camera, heated-electric front seats with memory mode, AMG body styling, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Power comes from a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels via a seven-speed twin clutch transmission. The engine produces just 100kW and 200Nm, requiring a steady 9.0 seconds t from 0-100km/h.
Of course, sprinting away from traffic lights is not really part of the modus operandi of MPVs, which tend to pitch their wares more on the basis of space and versatility.
Here, the B-Class fares much better. Its relatively high roofline and seating position make it easy to climb in and out of, while the rear seat accommodation is more generous than you’ll find in a typical hatchback.
There’s plenty of headroom but also good space for two or even three in the rear seat, and an impressive 455L luggage bay.
Drop the 40:20:40 spilt-fold second row and that expands to a whopping 1540L. A low load-lip and electric tailgate make accessing the luggage area pleasingly easy.
The driving position is 90mm higher than the A-Class hatchback on which it’s based, with good all-round visibility thanks to a low beltline and deep glasshouse.
A three-spoke leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel sits ahead of a digital dash display that stands out for the quality of its graphics and functionality.
It’s the same widescreen cockpit design used in other new Mercedes models, and features twin 10.25 inch digital displays.
The system’s key functions can be accessed via voice control, touch screen, or touch pads on the centre console and steering wheel.
The dual clutch gearbox has the slight off-the-mark hesitation that is common to this transmission type, but once you put your foot down it moves smoothly and efficiently through the cogs.
Driving in car parks or stop-start traffic shows up this hesitancy but elsewhere the drivetrain is smooth and fuss-free.
The steering is nice and light and the turning circle tight, making it a friendly inner-city runabout.
Open-road performance is more than adequate, with ride and handling that’s tuned for comfort rather than sporting prowess.
A five-star safety rating comes courtesy of standard features like dual front, and side chest-protecting airbags for both the first and second row outboard seating positions, side head-protecting airbags (curtains), and a driver knee airbag. Other standard safety fare includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist (LKA), lane departure warning (LDW), and blind spot monitoring (BSM).
Icing the cake is the fact Mercedes-Benz recently broke ranks with its luxury car rivals Audi and BMW, announcing a new five-year, unlimited kilometre manufacturer’s warranty, in lieu of the old three-year version.
MLP: $47,800 (plus on-road costs)
ENGINE: 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
ANCAP SAFETY RATING: 5-star (2019)
TAILPIPE CO2 (g/km): 127g/km
Excellent safety package, spacious and practical interior, high-quality infotainment system, improved warranty.
Underwhelming performance, autonomous emergency braking system occasionally intervenes unnecessarily, hi-tech infotainment system takes some getting used to.