OVERSTEER ROAD TEST: Mercedes-Benz B250
The Mercedes-Benz B250 is a hard car to get your head around. On one hand you have the upright, mini-people mover body and slightly, well, grandmotherly styling. But on the other hand you have the noticeably lower ride height, big wheels and the quite frankly silly 155kW/350Nm engine lurking under the bonnet…
That means VW Golf GTI power and (nearly) Ford Focus ST torque. In a funny, upright, granny-ish package. So what the hell is it then? A very fast way to get to the bowls club or the ultimate small Q-car? Or both?
Turns out it’s neither really. Its performance means it is anything but a granny-car and its massive wheels, lowered ride height and the noise it makes when you really wind it up make it far too obvious to be a Q-car. But its surprising ride quality and lack of ultimate cornering aggression discount it from being a left-field hot hatch as well…
What Mercedes has got here is a mighty fine small Grand Tourer. Which may seem odd, but wait until the A-Class appears with the same engine in the AMG-tweaked A250 Sport and things will become clearer.
You see, the B250 can’t come over all sporty simply because it has to leave room for the sexier A-Class variants. So that leaves it in an unusual, sparsely populated segment; that of the small Grand Tourer hatch, population; one.
While it may be the single entrant in a mighty small niche, it does what it does very well indeed and you would be justified in saying that, if there were other cars in the segment, the B250 would definitely be one of the best of them.
Hollow praise aside, the B250 combines several key features that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to play well together – a slick dual-clutch transmission, a stupidly powerful direct-injection 2.0-litre engine, big wheels, a surprisingly comfortable and pliant ride, huge amounts of practical and usable interior space, fuel efficiency and an open, airy, high-spec interior.
But it does all work well. Very well indeed. The transmission is wonderfully slick and fast, and makes a very complimentary partner to the torquey 2.0-litre engine. Ignore all the Eco settings that the car defaults too when switched on and head straight for Sport – this speeds up the shifts and holds the revs slightly higher, keeping the engine on the boil.
This may go against fuel efficiency, but it keeps things far more entertaining…
Inside, the B250 is well equipped and remarkably comfortable. There are the usual Mercedes ergonomic oddities floating around the cabin, but these are mostly things that you quickly get used to and, if you are a current MB owner, probably come to expect anyway…
Nail the throttle with real intent and the B250 leaps off the line with a squeal of rubber and the engine note hardens to a purposeful growl as the revs rise. The transmission is so smooth and fast that shifts are virtually seamless and the acceleration is one fluid rush, accompanied by that wonderful, belligerent rasp from under the bonnet.
Tipping it into a corner betrays the softer, more comfort oriented bias of the B-Class, as it doesn’t quite dig in with the enthusiasm of a Golf or Focus, and certainly not with the sheer exuberance of its most obvious competitor – the BMW 125i.
But then it has a far better ride and is massively more practical than the little BMW, coming back to where we came in; the Mercedes-Benz B250 is a car with no real direct competition. But it would still probably be at the top of the class if it did.
Engine: 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 6.8 seconds
Fuel consumption: 6.5L/100km
CO2 emissions: 151g/km