You might know about the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive. It’s a small hatchback powered by Tesla, designed by Daimler and sold to almost nobody. Like most obscure electric cars, the B-Class exists to a tiny group of Americans who, for the most part, live in California.
Engine: 2.0L Turbo four-cylinder makes 208 hp, 258 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Price: $33,500 and $43,100
Estimated fuel economy: 10 l/100 km city, 7.5 l/100 km highway
The Land of the Ice and Snow
If you head due north – or just north in general – you will eventually reach Canada and an unusually polite border guard. If you press forward, there’s a chance you might see another version of the B-Class. In fact, to most of the world, the B-Class Electric Drive would be “the other version of the B-Class” including Canada.
That’s because they have access to the five-door baby Benz and have for several years. In fact, Canucks got their first crack at buying one in 2005, but if Mercedes has its way, the B250 will gain new traction in 2015 both literally and figuratively.
Affordable All-Wheel Drive Tri-Point Transportation
Starting with this model year, the city-sized Merc is available with 4Matic all-wheel drive. In other words, the B-Class is finally a viable option for virtually everyone in the country with a car budget between $33,500 and $43,100. In the U.S., that’s almost exactly what you would pay for a GLA, but not in Canada.
Previously, the B 250 could only power the front wheels, which is a problem for big parts of the country where winter driving is depressingly unavoidable.
Thankfully, things are looking up.
Mercedes’ front-wheel drive based 4Matic system defaults to sending most of the engine torque forward until it detects slip. At that point, it is capable of sending up to half of the power rear in an effort to re-gain traction. The system is also able to distribute torque from side-to-side to segregate slipping wheels from the engine’s power. It isn’t a particularly aggressive approach to all-wheel drive, but it creates more than enough traction to climb a steep road during a snowstorm.
In Canada, the front-wheel drive B 250 accounted for seven percent of MB’s 2014 sales volume. Proportionally, that’s almost the same as CLA volume in the U.S. In other words, it’s already successful, but it’s poised to improve in 2015 even with the GLA 250 4Matic beside it in showrooms.
As you probably know, the GLA-Class and B-Class are siblings. In fact, they’re like fraternal twins. The B 250 is a little shorter and not as cool, but it’s also less expensive and equally capable. If the GLA is the cheer captain, this is Taylor Swift sitting on the bleachers.
I would go with option B and this is why.
Practically a No-Brainer
It has equal rear storage with all the seats raised, but it has roughly 25 percent more cargo space if you set the second row down. Equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive, the B250 is about 110 lbs lighter than the GLA so it will probably be more fuel-efficient. Remember, it sits lower to the ground and uses the same powertrain as the GLA 250.
Despite that, it’s still heavy enough to feel like it has solid footing in snow.
The engine makes 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty in this application. It has a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that could be smoother at low speeds, but that’s true of both vehicles.
Mercedes calls the GLA an “SUV” and that’s more of a stretch than the downward dog. It’s as much an SUV as I am a bodybuilder for casually visiting a gym. I know my way around a weight room, but I’m no athlete and neither is the GLA, but it still pretends to be an “SUV” instead of what it really is: a tall hatchback. of course that excludes the steroidal GLA 45 AMG, but I digress.
Meanwhile, the B-Class is an unapologetic five-door that is finally capable of handling almost any weather. It isn’t sporty, and it isn’t trying to be.
Its relatively flat roofline gives it more hospitable rear seat headroom than the GLA and if you have access to one, it’s also less expensive. The only disappointing part is knowing that there is virtually no change Mercedes will make it available in America. On the plus side, Mercedes sells the GLA 250 for roughly the same starting price in the U.S. as it does the B-Class in Canada.