If any evidence were needed that the opinions of car reviewers and the public occasionally differ, you need look no further than the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
Here is a car that on several occasions we've found to have average ride and handling characteristics, no more practicality than cars from "lesser" marques, yet a price tag thousands higher.
And, true to form, they seem to be everywhere. Mercedes has cleverly found a niche for customers who need the practicality, but can't face a badge from Ford, Renault or Vauxhall on their driveway.
We're starting to appreciate what those customers see in the car, and it isn't simply the badge. There is good space front and rear. The cabin feels airy, the seats are comfortable, and there's a large boot.
Provided you pick an automatic, rather than the clunky, unresponsive manual, piloting the B-Class is quite a relaxed pastime too. In B220 CDI guise, as tested here, there's a 350 Nm surge of torque pulling you along, and at 8.3 seconds to 62 mph, performance isn't an issue.
Ride and handling still is. It's an easy car to drive at low speeds, but up the pace and the B-Class bobs and rolls like a punch-drunk boxer. Despite the seemingly soft suspensions setup, it also thumps over road imperfections at any speed, resulting in rattles unbecoming of a Mercedes. Both the smaller A-Class and larger C-Class feel more composed.
Our car featured several options over and above the 27,880 list price this model normally commands. Of these, the 515 Easy-Vario-Plus Package is probably most useful, allowing split folding, tilting and sliding rear seats.
It's still an expensive car then, but family-friendly safety features like Collision Prevention Assist and bi-xenon headlamps are standard. You'll see some return on fuel economy too - over 60 mpg officially, but 50 mpg should be realistic day-to-day.
Price as tested: 31,620
Combined MPG: 61.4
CO2: 120 g/km
The B-Class is clearly proving a hit with family buyers, and our concerns about the poor ride (fun is largely irrelevant in cars like these, but ride quality shouldn't be) don't seem to make much difference. To drive, the B220 CDI is probably the best yet, though we'd be happy enough recommending the more affordable B180 CDI. You'll not miss the performance, but economy may be even better.
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For more information check out our full summary of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class alongside reviews, stats, photos and videos!