Mercs have always had to deal with the love/hate relationship from the consumer market. They love the look, but hate the price or they love the comfort but hate the aged interior, or they love the sound but hate the old-man stereotype. It would seem that something big has changed back in Stuttgart as this new C-Class is breaking away from all the major Merc trends its predecessors may have suffered from.
The Test Drive
Lets be frank about the C200, its not the C-Class’ most exciting model, but every range has to start somewhere. And any brand that can make a half decent base model will generally end up with a very good and exciting high performance model, just like the C63 AMG. The main thing that makes this car a bit different is that it does not look cheap like a base model usually does; it doesn’t have nasty trim where there would be body coloured paint on the more expensive variants. I personally really like the front three quarter view, but am not sold on the same view of the rear, bit soft for my taste. All in all the C200 looks and feels very expensive, and nowhere is that more true than when you sit inside, where you will see the biggest change over the previous C-Class range.
Once inside the new C-Class you can hardly believe that this is a base model at all, it feels very high end, and very modern. Two things I can’t say I have ever said about any of the Mercs I have tested before, as they have always had some old-man features or wood panelling style to them. Thankfully I could not see any of that – it was fine leather, aluminium and soft touch plastic, all centered around the impressive and very shiny centre console. Sadly the interior is let down by one thing: the optional command console screen. Not a cheap option either at $2990, but for some reason, among all of the well thought out curves and designs it’s slapped onto the dash like an afterthought. The other optional extra onboard this C200 is the Vision Package, a $3990 option which is a combination of two of the oddest options I could think of. This package includes the dashboard heads-up display system and the panoramic sunroof, neither of which you can get separately. I can only guess at why these two are combined in one package. Perhaps they sell a lot of sunroofs and they have thousands of heads up displays sitting around in a warehouse somewhere. Very odd I thought. Regardless, the interior of the C-Class is a very comfy and pleasant place to be. And height wise it was surprisingly spacious for tall drivers. My only frustration was that the dead pedal was very very small, and only big enough to rest the side/half of my foot onto.
Driving the C200 felt like it had undergone as much of a transformation as the interior had. I expected it to be a bit awkward, sluggish, hard riding, and generally underpowered. It took me less than half an hour to realise I was not going to experience any of these things. The comfort was almost equal to the E Class I had tested two weeks before, the only difference being the overall size. The engine itself had a half decent note to it, and delivered more than enough power for the car’s requirements. Getting on the motorway or pulling out of an intersection, it had quick, smooth power delivery. It was hard to believe I was getting 300Nm from a straight 4. Turbocharged of course, but still it’s not long ago where people would have laughed at you for saying something like that. The steering was rather impressive too, very light while being very precise, very easy to guide it through some twists and turns out on the open road, and very manageable in and around town. What never occurred to me until I moved on to test another car was how effortless the car was to live with. It looks the part, very easy to use, it did what I asked of it, and all while being a rather good price. The starting rate for the C200 is $71,900 NZD, and the model I was testing was $79,870 NZD. It really did set a new standard for me in terms of base model Euro cars.
One thing that really shocked me was that this C200 was equipped with Mercedes-Benz LED Intelligent Light System, with automatic high beam assist as a stock option. This is the same system that was launched last year on the S Class, Mercedes’ flagship model. BMW and Audi both have similar setups, and are both optional extras which will cost you in the region of $3K -$4k. After a while all of this equipment started to confuse me – not in its complexity, but in how they can now offer all of this to you the customer for the price of the competition’s base models, which generally come with nothing fancy at all. It took another 12k-15k to get some of the other brands to the same spec as this C200. At this point it was fairly safe to say that if you’re not mad enough to fork out the cash for an AMG, but like to feel a bit flash while doing the daily A-B, this car is starting to look like a no-brainer.
What it’s up against.
The mid-size high end market is never lonely, with the big German brands always centre stage. But the standard options on the C200 give it a big advantage over the other brands. They are all around the same price, but not spec’d as well as the Merc as standard. Even the VolksWagen CC starts to get very close once you spec it out with the same options.
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Fuel L/100km||Luggage Capacity||Price High to Low|
|Lexus IS 250||2.5 L V6||153 kw / 252 Nm||9.2 L /100km||480 Litres||$73,995|
|BMW 320i||2.0 I4||135 kw / 270 Nm||6.0 L / 100km||480 Litres||$74,300|
|Mercedes-Benz C200||2.0 L Turbo I4||135 kw / 300 Nm||5.6L / 100km||480 Litres||$71,900|
|Audi A4||1.8 FSI||125 kw / 320 Nm||6.0 L / 100km||352 Litres||$69,900|
|VolksWagen CC||2.0 L I4 TSI||130 kw / 380 Nm||5.2 L / 100km||452 Litres||$65,250|
What do we think ?
The new C-Class is not a perfect home run for Mercedes, but it’s a massive step in the right direction. The new interior feels more like an S-Class, and has thankfully lost a lot of that old-man look and feel to it. The exterior does not live up to the interior’s drastic change, the rear still needs some tending to, but we must remember it’s just the base model. We cannot deny that the standard array of options is mind-blowingly impressive, some of which are several thousand dollars on other brands. The main thing for me was that this car does not feel or look or handle like a base model should. Mercedes have really stepped up and shown they can offer you a high end product, that’s good value for money too.
Rating – Chevron rating 4.0 out of 5
Mercedes-BenzE 300 BlueTEC HYBRID
|Vehicle Type||Front Engine, RWD, 4 Door Mid Size Sedan|
|Starting Price||$ 71,900 NZD|
|Tested Price||$ 79,870 NZD|
|Engine||2.0L Inline 4, Direct-Injection, Turbo Charged|
|Transmission||7G-Tronic Plus – 7 speed automatic|
|0 – 100 kph||7.3 seconds|
|Kerb Weight||1465 kg|
|Length x Width x Height||4686 x 1810 x 1442 mm|
|Cargo Capacity||480 Litres|
|Fuel Tank||50 litres|
|Fuel||Urban 7.2 L/100kmMotorway 4.7 L/100kmCombined 5.6 L/100km, 131 g/km CO2|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Stars out of 5|