In search of a family-friendly car that feels luxurious
We pit the 2013 Mercedes-Benz B250 against the 2014 Kia Rondo EX Luxury
I drove a Mercedes-Benz B250 constantly last year (using the Car2Go sharing service) and I loved it. My girlfriend is from Boston and had never seen one before. We're about to have twins and it looks like I can get used B-Class for less than $20,000. Anything similar that would be better at that price? It doesn't need to be a Mercedes, but I like all the bells and whistles. – Heath, Vancouver
Who says Canada isn't exotic? Besides Hickory Sticks and Ketchup chips, we boast three compact people movers not sold stateside.
There's the B250, sold here since 2005 (sold there only as an electric starting in 2017); the Kia Rondo (retired in the United States in 2010 after poor sales); and the Mazda5 (retired in the U.S. in 2015). Think of them as micro-minivans – the Kia has a third row in some models and can seat seven while the Mazda ($16,086 for a 2015) has sliding doors and can seat six.
Since you asked for bells and whistles, we'll pit the 2013 B250 against the 2014 Kia Rondo EX Luxury.
Other options? The Toyota Prius v, Mini Cooper Clubman, Fiat 500L, Chevrolet Orlando, Honda Crosstour, Ford C-Max and Hyundai Elantra Touring.
2013 Mercedes-Benz B250
- Second generation: 2013-present
- Average asking price: $18,137 (Canadian Black Book)
- Original price new: $29,900
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
- Transmission/Drive: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift feature/Front-wheel drive
- Seats: Five
- Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 9.2 city, 6.6 highway; premium gas
We won't complain about getting nice things, but we were a little confused as to why Canada landed the B250 – and America didn't.
"It's hard to understand why, as the B-Class is arguably one of the strongest models in Mercedes' lineup and much more relevant to today's market than, say, a G-Class or E-Class," a Globe Drive review said in 2013. "I think it would sell like gangbusters down south."
We praised the 250's pep – thanks to its 208-horsepower engine – and its practicality.
"Compared to some other similarly conceived models – Mazda5, Kia Rondo, Mini Cooper Clubman, Fiat 500L – it's a road-rocket," we said. "This is an everyday vehicle that is inviting to drive, reasonably thrifty and as comfortable as, well, a Mercedes-Benz."
It came standard with plenty, including cruise control, sunroof and heated front seats. Navigation and a backup camera were extra.
The downside: the electronic parking brake, the steering-column-mounted electronic shifter, a noticeably clunky start/stop system and pricey to replace run-flat tires.
Consumer Reports doesn't have reliability data on the gas B250, but Phil Edmonston's Lemon-Aid rated it average for reliability. Long-term reliability is unknown.
2014 Kia Rondo EX Luxury
- Third generation: 2014-present
- Average asking price: $16,873 (Canadian Black Book)
- Original price new: $32,195
- Engine: 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder
- Seats: Seven
- Transmission/Drive: Six-speed automatic/Front-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.5 city, 7.5 highway; regular gas
When you think of a car that beats a Mercedes for luxury, you probably don't think of Kia. But the Rondo offers, yes, ventilated seats.
"The ventilated-as-well-as-heated driver's seat of the Kia Rondo EX Luxury serves as Exhibit A in this family hauler's move upscale," a Globe Drive review said in 2013. "Whether at the top of the range or the bottom, the new car is a rich ride at a reasonable price."
For $14,491, on average, you can get the five-seat base Rondo, the LX, with a six-speed manual. It started at $21,695 new. All trims have the same 164-horsepower engine.
"The 2014 Rondo cannot challenge the current Benz B250, falling far short in power," we said. "[But] the Kia's interior is richer, more attractive – the warranty is superior, at five years against three years for the Benz."
And, the Rondo is roomy and has plenty of storage nooks – but think twice about taking six adults on a road trip. With its two-seat third-row bench pulled up out of the cargo floor, the second-row seat needs to slide forward, making legroom cramped for everybody.
The base Rondo comes with air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and heated front seats. EX adds leather seats, heated steering wheel, automatic climate control and a rear-view camera. EX Luxury gets you heated rear seats, the previously mentioned ventilation and a panoramic sunroof.
While Lemon-Aid gave the 2007-2012 model poor reliability, the 2014-2017 car has had few complaints.
There were no recalls.
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