The new B-Class from Mercedes-Benz may be considered entry level but when you’re behind the wheel, it truly is anything but. It offers high-quality materials and finely structured surfaces, stylish details, precision workmanship and most importantly, spaciousness – the interior of the new B-Class will no doubt set the benchmark for all other compact vehicles.
Many features that have been reserved for the higher vehicle classes to date and that embody Mercedes-Benz’s special understanding of quality and aesthetics can now be found inside the 2012 B-Class. The dashboard is optionally available in ARTICO leather finish with stitching, for example. Four equipment packages (Chrome, Sports, Exclusive and Night package) enable individualisation according to personal tastes.
The interior: emotional design with sporty attributes
High-quality materials and finely structured surfaces, stylish details, precision workmanship and a new spaciousness – the interior of the B-Class defines a whole new benchmark in the compact segment. In the interior, the large, three-dimensional trim covering the entire dashboard first strikes the eye. The three large round vents in the middle and their uniquely designed cruciform nozzles add a sporty attribute to the interior’s emotional design idiom.
The display, which is available in two sizes with a diagonal or 147 or 178 millimetres, appears to hover over the vents. With its stylish design – the trim frame with galvanised finish contrasting with the piano black of the front panel – and slender lines, the colour display (TFT) is a highly attractive showpiece in the cockpit. The menus on the display are operated by means of rotary pushbuttons in the centre console. The “hovering” screen concept also serves two additional effects: the screen blends more harmoniously into its surroundings while at the same time conjuring up an impression of greater space in the centre of the instrument panel.
The 3-spoke steering wheel, which always features a matte chrome insert in the middle spoke, the instrument cluster with four analogue round dials and suspended pointers in 6 o’clock position and the seats with contrasting stitching underscore the sporty character.
The instrument panel features a mat, soiling-resistant surface with a pleasant, quality feel. The large trim situated centrally in the driver’s and front passenger’s field of vision is available in four variants covering a broad spectrum from modern through sporty to classic. Common to all versions is a high-class appeal combining an attractive look and feel with easy care and durability.
Instead of a high-gloss black finish, the trim on the basic model features the fine “Matrix” pattern on a piano lacquer-like background, for example. The trim is produced by means of the IMD technology (In-Mould Decoration), which involves spraying thermoplastic onto the backs of printed films in the mould. This results in mouldings with an excellent surface finish and quality appeal.
The trim in the Sports package is also produced by means of IMD. Here, the film is printed on both sides, creating an impression of even greater depth. On closer examination, the fascinating trim surfaces thus reveal further interesting details.
In the Exclusive package the trim is available in real matt walnut veneer.
The trim is optionally available in high-gloss black ash.
All the metallic surfaces in the interior are also genuine, thanks to electroplating. Various items, such as the outer ring on the round vents, the frame of the colour display and the upper shell of the shift lever, are finished in shimmering silk matt silver shadow. All silver surfaces possess the same lustre and the same surface quality, lending the interior a seamless appearance.
The high-quality impression is reinforced at night by the ambient lighting which is available in the Light and Sight package. A fibre-optic cable in the bottom edge of the trim diffuses gentle amber light. The scope of the ambient lighting also includes the front footwell lighting and the illuminated handle recesses on all doors.
While the design of the new B-Class continues to offer space in abundance, the line’s new dynamic character is directly apparent in its exterior dimensions. The most striking aspect is the reduced height: at 1557 millimetres, the new model crouches almost five centimetres lower on the road than its predecessor. The seat height in relation to the road has also been reduced (minus 86 mm). At the same time, this seat height also makes rolling movements substantially less noticeable.
In response to requests from many customers, the sitting position is more upright, however. At the same time, the headroom has been further improved. With maximum headroom of 1047 mm at the front (without sliding roof), the B-Class is among the most spacious cars in its segment in this discipline, too. The ergonomically expedient more upright sitting position in combination with a lowering of the vehicle’s floor at the rear leads to a segment-leading degree of legroom (976 mm).
The B-Class offers plenty of space for luggage, too. The luggage compartment has a capacity of 488 litres on the basic model. Even more important than this abstract volumetric measurement is the actual usable volume. The B-Class comes up trumps here with a luggage compartment width between the wheel arches of 1050 millimetres (40 mm more than its predecessor). Six crates of mineral water, each containing 12 0.7-litre bottles, or three medium-sized packing cases (measuring 440 x 345 x 470 mm) can be transported without encroaching on the space available in the second row of seats. As a particularly convenient feature, the loading sill has been lowered by five millimetres in comparison to the predecessor and is now at a height of 616 millimetres.
The rear seat backrest comes as standard in a folding variant with a 60:40 split. As an option, the B-Class is alternatively available with the so-called EASY-VARIO-PLUS system. This enables flexible reorganisation of the interior in next to no time. Features of the EASY-VARIO-PLUS system include separate fore/aft adjustment of the rear seats by up to 140 millimetres. The luggage capacity then increases from 488 to 666 litres.
The inclination of the rear seat backrest is also adjustable. In so-called cargo position, a washing machine can be transported with the tailgate closed without folding the backrest down, for example. Equally, nine crates of mineral water or six medium-sized packing cases fit under the tailgate in this position. With the EASY-VARIO-PLUS system, the backrest of the front passenger seat can additionally be folded down onto the seat cushion to enable the transportation of long objects.
The height-adjustable luggage compartment floor also offers added variability according to individual needs. It can be moved into two different positions with one hand and locked firmly into place. In the upper position the luggage compartment floor forms a continuous surface with the load sill, facilitating loading and unloading. The rear seat backrests can be folded forward to produce a level load surface. An additional 72 litres of stowage space is then available under the loading floor. On the basic version the floor is limited to the lower position, but is removable.
The deployment of the electric parking space and the resultant omission of the handbrake lever gives rise to key advantages regarding the design of the tunnel trim and the area of the centre armrest. A stowage compartment has been integrated in the resultant space under the hinged armrest, which is optionally available as a sliding version. The interfaces to the mobile communication devices are located here: AUX (option: UCI) and USB connection and the entire comfort telephony.
In conjunction with the DCT transmission, whereby the shift lever is relocated from the tunnel trim to the steering wheel as the DIRECT SELECT lever, additional stowage space becomes available, Other stowage facilities include the door pockets, which now securely accommodate 1.5-litre bottles on the driver’s and front passenger’s side. A special compartment for the reflective safety jacket which is required in many countries is also to be found here. There is an umbrella holder next to the driver’s and front passenger’s seat, and stowage compartments are incorporated on the left and right of the luggage compartment. Optional extras include fold-out stowage compartments under the driver’s and front passenger’s seat, folding tables on the front seat backrests and an insert for a double cup holder for the stowage compartment in the tunnel trim between the front seats.