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B180 bigs it up in size ( and cost!

Byline: By Peter Keenan

First things first ( the Mercedes-Benz B180 is an excellent family car. But, in the highly competitive mid-range people carrier sector it inhabits, the fact is, that ( priced at pounds 20,000-plus ( it is expensive.

So is the B180 worth the extra cash?

Well, undoubtedly many will come to the conclusion that it is ( reasoning that the luxury and quality associated with Mercedes, plus the cachet of having one on the drive, is worth paying for.

Others will shake their heads and look at cheaper options that they believe offer better value for money.

As for the car itself, a cursory inspection reveals that it has much in common with the smaller A-Class.

The design is taller and better filled-out than its little brother, but lots of the styling details are shared.

The cabin is impressively spacious and airy, helped by the large windows ( but there is none of the noise sometimes associated when lots of glass is used.

And the B-Class is particularly quiet on the motorway, with only a touch of wind and road noise and, when around town, silence is the order of the day.

It has only five seats but there's plenty of space to fill them all with adults, as the head, shoulder and leg room are excellent.

The boot also impresses by swallowing a vast amount of shopping and luggage.

There are also plenty of cubby holes for the odds and ends that a family tends to accumulate in a motor, allowing the storage of mobile phones and house keys out of sight.

The SE specification guarantees a host of goodies, including electric central locking, electric windows, air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers ( that I have to confess don't work very well when it's drizzling ( and a radio/CD player which is neat and produces a very good sound.

Smart alloys and sportier exterior trim are also included, as are chrome bits around the cabin.

And, behind the wheel, it is easy to get comfortable.

The controls all shout quality, are logically sited and easy to use.

The cruise control stalk can be mistaken for the indicator stalk as one is slightly above the other ( but, in time, you get used to their respective positions.

The Autotronic transmission, combined with the diesel engine, can make for a sluggish getaway ( but, once moving, the gear changes are barely noticeable.

The two-litre power unit in the B180 CDI is the pick of the range, providing plenty of pulling power ( even when fully loaded.

Like most modern diesels, it is a refined beast and it is easy on the juice, returning close to 47.9mpg.

It's fine to drive but it couldn't be described as scintillating.

The ride is smooth enough as the suspension soaks up the majority of punishment dished out by the nation's roads.

But it doesn't tempt the driver to throw it into corners.

Instead, you find yourself sailing sedately around them in a kind of a trance.

Mercedes makes much of the safety features included on the B-Class.

The 'sandwich floor' pays dividends in a front-end crash ( the engine sliding underneath the passengers.

There are six airbags fitted as standard, electronic anti-skid and anti-lock braking systems, active head restraints and clever seatbelts.

When it comes to catering for the needs of a family, the B180 ticks all the right boxes.

But that excellence does come at a price.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 28, 2007
Words:568
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