The Mercedes-Benz B200 is updated with a nicer interior and improved handling
This B is better TIMELY FACELIFT: With its mid-life makeover, the B-Class gets a new front end featuring LED headlamps and a re-profiled lower bumper. PHOTO: SAMUEL EE

That the Mercedes-Benz B-Class has been such a popular model here is largely understandable. This is, after all, a mini-MPV with a slightly elevated driving position and a roomy interior which seats five adults comfortably. 

The fact that it has the coveted three-pointed star on the front grille and is available in COE Category A are merely icing on the cake. But those seem to be the B-Class' only strong points as some were not enamoured of its performance and handling. 

Fortunately, a timely facelift has rectified those two points. The B-Class is available as the B180 and B200. Both use the same 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine to drive the front wheels through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission but with different levels of tune. 

The B180 is a Cat A model which produces 122 hp and 200 Nm, while the B200 sits in Cat B with its 156 hp and 250 Nm.

With its mid-life makeover, the B-Class gets a new front end featuring LED headlamps and a re-profiled lower bumper. At the back are restyled rear lamps. 

There are equally subtle revisions to the interior, such as a re-designed audio unit with new controls, and satin-finished buttons for the electric seat adjustment. The meters in the instrument cluster also get new needles and calibrations. 

The most significant changes have been to the free-standing centre display, both internally and externally. The eight-inch monitor is a step up from the old five-inch screen, and it now boasts the next-generation telematics system with a new interface and graphics. There are also 12 selectable ambient light colours (from just one before) to illuminate the dashboard and centre console. 

Also new for the B-Class is the availability of the AMG line. For the first time, this premium mommy van has the option of a racier front bumper, side skirts, 18-inch AMG five-spoke rims and nicer upholstery in the form of a sporty alcantara- like/man-made leather combo.

 But the most important tweaks to the B-Class cannot be seen; they have to be experienced from behind the wheel.

Where once stepping on the accelerator of the B200 with 250 Newton-metres of torque elicited almost the same response as moving off in a heavy commercial vehicle, the boxy Merc is now much more spirited. Gone is the tentative hesitancy and the B200 displays more enthusiastic pedal action and a faster-acting gearbox with a remapped transmission logic. 

The turbo lag is still noticeable but progress can be improved by selecting Sport mode. Manual mode, with gear changes effected using the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, is even more engaging. And the transmission now allows manual downshifts even at higher engine speeds.

 Best of all, the B200 has better body control even as the ride comfort has been raised a notch higher. It cannot be called sporty but this B-Class no longer wallows in fast corners, thanks to the retuned suspension. 

So, is it more fun to drive? Not really, but it has improved significantly. 

Is the cabin a nicer place to be in? Definitely, with materials that look less plasticky and have more tactile satisfaction. Moreover, it is very spacious for a compact car. There is lots of head and legroom, even for the rear passenger in the middle. It looks like the popularity of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class has nowhere to go but up.

CAR INFORMATION

Mercedes-Benz B-Class B200 Urban (A)

Price

:$162,888

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,595 cc

Horsepower

:

154 bhp / 5,300 rpm

Torque

:

250 Nm / 4,000 rpm

Transmission

:

7G-DCT (A)

Acceleration

:

8.4 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

220 km/h