The B-Class Electric Drive has a three-mode operation. Economy Plus – designed for constant steady-speed journeys – reduces the output of the motor to just 83bhp and top speed to 68mph. Economy reduces output to 132bhp and Sport offers the motor’s full 179bhp. However, the two Economy modes can be overridden and full power and torque accessed by the driver using the kickdown function.
If the ‘Collision Prevent Assist Plus’ system is added as an optional extra, this B-Class acquires a very neat radar-assisted recuperative braking system. Using information from the radar about the state of traffic ahead, the car can use battery-charging braking to slow itself or, when the road ahead is clear and/or downhill, switch to ‘sailing mode’ which doesn’t use any battery power.
Fully recharging the B-Class via a 16-amp home wall socket will take around nine hours if the battery is empty. Using a 400-volt three-phase electricity supply (rather more common in Asia than Europe), the car can be recharged in just three hours.
It's very impressive indeed. In terms of all-round refinement and pace, the electric B-Class is far better than its internal combustion engine sister cars. Indeed, the car’s effortless torque and near-silent progress puts it in a category of its own.
This car has the refinement that would shame some luxury models and the kind of effortless overtaking ability that would trouble some hot hatches.
What’s most disorientating is that these two sides of motoring excellence are delivered in a humble-looking baby MPV. It’s hard to work out why, but even the steering response and ride quality of the electric B-Class is markedly better than what we experienced with the all-wheel-drive B 220 d and the petrol-powered B 200.
On the wider issue of the facelift, there’s no doubt that B-Class looks much better. The somewhat melted appearance of the original version has been fixed thanks to a much more taught front bumper design and wheels that now properly fill the arches.
It’s also a handy size, well-packaged and nicely finished inside. The big, tablet-sized screen on the dashboard might look a little clunky, but is ideally placed and the graphics and presentation of Mercedes-Benz's sat-nav system is first rate. There is even two trim levels to choose from - Sport and Electric Art. The entry-level Sport models get a decent level of equipment including 17in alloys, climate control, cruise control, a reversing camera and smartphone integration, while the range-topping Electric Art merely adds the luxury of leather and velour into the interior, bigger alloys and dual-zone climate control.
There’s no doubt this is a delightful car to drive, genuinely enjoyable and satisfying. The downside, of course, is the limited range of the electric B-Class and – without a supply of industrial three-phase electricity – the lengthy recharge time.
True, being able to replenish the battery overnight would be fine for anybody whose daily mileage is less than 100 miles.
The price of this car (post government grant) is just about that of a B 220 diesel with an automatic transmission. In terms of driving pleasure it is leagues ahead.
As odd as may seem, any lover of driving ability will love the B-Class, regardless of its market position as a truly ‘green’ MPV.