What hits you the minute you slip into the easily accessible cabin is the fantastic quality of materials. The fit and finish is comparable to the nearly twice-as-expensive E-class and there’s a genuine luxury feel inside. The black leather interiors feel sporty, and even minute details like the contrasting stitching on the seats and doorpads and the aluminium highlights on the stalks are absolutely top-notch. The dashboard design is smart and we particularly liked the SLS-style air-con vents and the AMG-style steering wheel. But although build quality is impressively ahead of any big hatchback we’ve seen, the B-class doesn’t feel like it has the torsional rigidity of the bigger Merc saloons, but more on that later.
The seating position is, again, somewhere between a tall hatchback and a soft-roader, which means it isn’t too high, but it’s not saloon low. The seats are nicely cushioned and there’s ample room for heads and knees wherever you’re sitting, with particularly good provision for feet in the second row. If there’s a catch to this, it is with the seat base of the rear seats – it is a tad short and the seat-back is a bit upright as well. Still, you won’t complain much when you realise that, even if you’re a six-footer, there truly is enough room to stretch out in here. It’s a practical cabin – storage space is adequate, with big door pockets, two reasonably big cubbyholes on the centre console and a rather big glovebox.
Like in most new auto-transmission Mercs, the gear selector is on the steering column to free up space on the centre console, and for once the door mirrors are big and convex on both sides, so they are actually usable.
If we had a complaint with the cabin it would be with the control stalks, which are configured in true Merc tradition. The single stalk for the lights and wipers is on the left, the cruise control stalk is just below it and the gearlever stalk is on the right of the steering wheel. It is confusing initially and you tend to knock the gearlever into neutral when you want the indicators. Breaking away from Mercedes tradition is the parking brake; it is no longer foot-operated, but electronically activated with a button on the dashboard. The COMAND system’s screen isn’t particularly well integrated into the dashboard and it looks like a tablet computer has been stuck on to it. Also, the interface itself is now looking a bit dated.
At 486 litres, the boot is usefully big and you get a huge 1545 litres when you fold the rear seats. Adding to its practical nature is the low boot loading lip that makes it easy to haul luggage in.
Equipment levels are good – there’s climate control, USB and aux-in ports, leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof and electrically adjustable seats (though our test car didn’t have this last feature). The safety feature list is quite long as well – there are seven airbags, hill-start assist, ABS, ESP, brake assist, traction control and a tyre pressure warning system. The B-class maybe a small Merc, but there’s no stinting on safety equipment or features.