Mercedes re-enters compact wagon segment

Mercedes-Benz will re-enter the compact wagon/hatch segment in the fourth quarter of 2013 with the B 250 with a starting price of $29,900.

Story and photos by Jim Robinson
Metroland Media/Wheelstalk.com -

MIAMI, Fl.: “They’re going to sell a ton of these,” my learned co-driver exclaimed of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250.

A writer, who is more on the business side of auto journalism, pointed out that offering it only in Canada, and not the U.S., was a brilliant move because it hits at Canada’s love of smaller more utilitarian vehicles with an increasing Canadian yearning for more luxury features with an added touch of exclusivity.

I agreed but I see it more as upping the smaller MPV game started by the Mazda MPV/Dodge Journey that is now being joined by the Chevrolet Orlando and Ford Transit Connect Wagon.

Where the B 250 may have a leg up is the price, starting at $29,900 with that coveted Three-Pointed Star on the hood.

The B 250 is not new to Canada. An earlier version, the B 200 was sold here until the 2010 model year.

After a hiatus, the people mover is back with relatively the same shape but with some major changes.

Mercedes-Benz is a leader in safety and that is reflected in standard features on the B 250 such as 11 airbags, electronic stability control and even Attention Assist that monitors the driver and flashes an icon of a coffee cup and sounds an alert if the B 250 detects the driver becoming drowsy.

But also standard is the world debut of Collision Prevention Assist, a first on any Mercedes-Benz vehicle that will soon be found on every vehicle it makes.

The system is always on at speeds from 30-250 km/h. Only when it senses you may hit the car in front of you is a visual and audible alert sounded.

As soon as the brake is depressed, the Adaptive Brake Assist system integrated into Collision Prevention Assist can boost the brake pressure to prevent the accident thus ensuring the available braking distance between you and guy ahead is used to maximum effect.

The rear gate of the 2013 B 250 has a low lift over height for easier loading of heavy or bulky items.

Also seen for the first time is a new 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder producing 208 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque driving the front wheels through a new seven-speed dual clutch transmission.

The transmission is capable of double and triple downshifts with the driver being given the choice of three drive modes – economy, sport and manual. In economy mode, fuel consumption is listed at 7.9/5.5/6.8L/100 km city/highway/combined.

Summing it up, the new engine produces 55 per cent more power and is 18 per cent more fuel efficient than the 2.0-litre engine it replaces.

Much was made about the “sandwich” platform of the previous B-Class but it has been dropped. The reason Mercedes-Benz officials frankly admitted was customers didn’t like the handling.

Thus the B 250 is a unibody with MacPherson strut system up front and an independent four-link system at the rear. There is an available sports package setup that also lowers the B 250 by 20 mm.

Miami and environs is one vast megacity flowing along the Atlantic coast and, as such, is mainly urban travel, perfect for something like the B-Class.

Except for Highway 1 North and South, a bulk of the driving component of the press introduction was on city streets that were a giant maze to me.

The turning radius on the B 250 was tight (11 meters) and thankfully so as this is a city where, if you make a mistake, you had better recover quickly as the locals give no quarter.

I expected the B 250 to be quiet because it was a Mercedes, nevertheless, I have to talk about the wind noise, or more correctly, the lack of it.

Even though it is a station wagon, the 2013 B 250 has a drag coefficient of 0.26, better than a lot of sports cars on the road.

Cargo volume of the B 250 is 488 behind the rear seats, 1,547 litres folded. The optional Easy-Vario-Plus rear seat slides up to 140 mm to expand the volume behind the rear seat to 666 litres.

But look closely and you’ll notice how the shape of the front fenders optimizes the airflow around the front wheels and there is a patent-pending serrated wheel arch spoiler that decreases drag and wind noise at the same time.

Along with the outside mirrors mounted on the door, not the A pillar, little things like this can mean a lot when it comes to lessening noise.

And while the body height is reduced by 5 mm over the previous model the seating has been made more upright for a more commanding view of the road ahead.

Claimed by Mercedes-Benz to be one of the most spacious vehicles in its class, an option is the Easy-Vario-Plus system that offers fore/aft adjustment of the rear seats by up to 140 millimetres (thereby increasing the luggage compartment volume from 488 to 666 litres) and a front passenger seat whose backrest can be folded forward onto the seat cushion. With all seats flat, cargo volume is 1,547 litres.

The B 250 will tow up to 1,500 kg (3,307 lb).

Cloth is the standard seating material but optionally available is what Mercedes calls Artico leather. It’s man-made but looks and feels like the real thing down to the double stitching.

The interior of the 2013 B 250 is offered in a variety of colours and materials. Note the “jet” style ventilation ports.

There are a host of options such as $1,200 for the memory power seats, $2,000 for the Sport Package that includes 17-inch wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights at $750 and $800 for the blind spot/lane departure system.

Standard is a 5.8-inch TFT colour display mounted on the centre of the dashboard looking very much like a small tablet. There is a larger 7-inch version with the navigation option but the 5.8-inch does just about everything you need.

When you add up all the added extras compared to the outgoing B-Class such as the new engine/transmission and all the electronic driver aids like Collision Alert, it represents $7,000 in added value.

The new B 250 will not be coming until the third quarter of 2013 and even then (probably because of supply) Mercedes is expecting to sell 3,000 units which seems low.

Nevertheless, at under thirty grand and with the cachet of the name, the B-Class is driving into one of Canada’s emerging segments.

The B 250 proves being small doesn’t mean you can’t be elegant as well.

Mercedes-Benz B 250 2013 At A Glance

  • BODY STYLE: Compact station wagon
  • DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-wheel-drive
  • ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbocharged DOHC inline four-cylinder (208 hp, 258 lb/ft torque)
  • FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 7.9/5.5/6.8L/100 km city/highway/combined
  • TOW RATING: 1,500 kg (3,307 lb)
  • CARGO: 488 litres behind the back seat, 1,547 litres folded
  • PRICE: Base price $29,900

www.mercedes-benz.ca

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