Small cars go upscale: The rich person's small car has arrived in Canada. We've covered extensively the increasing popularity and availability of small cars in North-America (here and here), so it was no surprise to learn that Mercedes is bringing the relatively small B-Class lineup to Canada, and if history is any indication, it should appear in the US in the next few years. We're not quite sure how to rate the B-Class, though. Should we applaud Mercedes for taking a step in the right direction by downsizing (a move that could attract luxury car fans to smaller vehicles), or is it an "almost" car because the fuel economy isn't quite as good as it could be?
Lets have a look at some of the car's specifications:
-B 200 model: 2 liters, 134 hp/136lb-ft torque
-B 200 Turbo model: 2 liters, 193 hp/206lb-ft torque
-5 or 6 speed manual
-Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic
Curb weight: 1,295 kg/2 854 lbs
-City 9.2 l/100km / 25.5 mpg
-Highway Manual: 6.7 litres, Automatic 7.2 l/100 / Manual 35, Automatic 32.6 mpg
-B 200: CAN$30,950/US$~26,500
-B 200 Turbo:CAN$34,950/US$~30,000
From a green perspective, we think that the engine is the weak link that keeps this car from being really what it should have been. It seems fairly unsophisticated (2 valves per cylinder, no mention of variable valve timing or direct injection, etc) and without a turbo its power/displacement ratio is not very impressive. There's also no mention of the emission rating, so we assume it's LEV (usually automakers are proud enough to put it on the webpage when they achieve ULEV). The 8 airbags are nice, and kudos to Mercedes for the CVT (they are more efficient than regular automatic transmissions). It's a bit sad that Toyota didn't bring its CVT to North-America in the Yaris...
Some constructive suggestions for Mercedes: The obvious way to make things better is of course to use a more high-tech engine and to downsize it. The best results could probably be achieved by making the turbo standard on a small displacement engine so that a 1.4 or 1.5 liters engine can produce around 140 hp (which is a good power to weight ratio for such a small car and enough to appeal to the luxury crowd) yet have a fuel economy rating of at least 10 to 15 miles per gallon more than what it has now - Mercedes could have its cake and eat it too!
We can still hope that in a couple of years, when low-sulfur diesel is widely available in North-America, Mercedes will sell a version of the B-Class with a diesel engine (to be used with biodiesel, of course!).