Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - C200
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Luxurious interior, slick digitalisation, sharp turn-in, well-balanced ride, punchy turbo-petrol performance when on song
Room for improvement
Frustrating transmission calibration, EQ Boost doesn’t fully account for turbo lag, expensive options add up, same-again styling
Looks can be deceiving as Mercedes-Benz’s C200 Sedan is all change under its skin
26 Nov 2018
WHEN your sales are double that of your nearest rival, you must be doing something right. Case in point: The Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class Sedan and Estate. This pair has been running wild since its fourth generation was released in 2014. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s time for a very large mid-life facelift.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking the new model for its predecessor, but Mercedes-Benz claims that about half of the C-Class’ 13,000 components have been changed. While this is a staggering effort, do these ‘subtle’ upgrades make that much of a difference? We test the C200 Sedan to find out.
Price and equipment
Priced from $63,400 before on-road costs, the C200 Sedan is $1500 dearer than before, but buyers are compensated with a longer list of standard equipment, including dusk-sensing headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and power-folding side mirrors with heating.
Inside, it has a 10.25-inch touchscreen Comand infotainment system, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, two USB ports, dual-zone climate control, Artico leather upholstery, piano-black and aluminium trim, a black roofliner, power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, a Nappa leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle-shifters, keyless start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and LED ambient lighting.
Our test car is finished in $1154 Selenite Grey metallic paintwork, while the $1769 Comand (Wi-Fi hotspot and a 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system), $692 Seat Comfort (heated front seats with memory functionality, and a power-operated steering column), $2846 AMG Line (bi-colour 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in mixed run-flat tyres, front ventilated disc brakes, a bodykit, stainless-steel pedals, extended black Artico leather upholstery, Black Ash open-pore wood trim and front sports seats) and $4846 Vision (adaptive LED headlights, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a windshield-projected head-up display) packages have been optioned alongside $1077 Dynamic Body Control suspension. As such, the price as tested quickly inflates to $75,784 …
“Honey, I shrunk the S-Class!” – a Mercedes-Benz interior designer, probably. The C200 Sedan knocks it out of the park inside. While its exterior styling is very same-as-before, the entry-level variant’s cabin is pure excitement … but our impression of it is heavily influenced by the aforementioned long list of options. Either way, buyers are unlikely to be disappointed.
Artico, of course, is Mercedes-Benz for artificial, so take the extensive use of ‘leather’ upholstery with a grain (pun intended) of salt. Our test car is almost covered from head to toe, with its seats, dashboard, door shoulders and armrests all exuding a sense of premium. Where Artico is not found, soft-touch materials are employed liberally. In fact, hard plastics can be found sparingly.
The interior layout is familiar, carrying over from the pre-facelift model. This is not a bad thing, with the simplified centre-stack design lending itself to ease of use. Above it, a larger, 10.25-inch display now resides, powered by Mercedes-Benz’s Comand infotainment system. While this still works well, the facelift misses out on the next-generation MBUX software that moves the game on.
However, the C200 Sedan does take a step forward with its new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which has three customisable themes; they’re big, bright and useful. Meanwhile, our test car’s optional head-up display completes this technological tour de force, but the information projected onto the windscreen can be hard to read due to its disappointingly small size and low resolution.
Measuring in at 4686mm long, 1810mm wide and 1442mm tall with a 2840mm wheelbase, the C200 Sedan provides 435L of cargo capacity, but this can expand when its 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench is stowed. Rear legroom is ample behind our driving position, but headroom in the second row is impacted by our test car’s attractive but intrusive dual-pane panoramic sunroof.
Engine and transmission
The C200 Sedan is motivated by a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 135kW of power at 6100rpm and 280Nm of torque from 3000 to 4000rpm. This is supplemented by Mercedes-Benz’s EQ Boost mild-hybrid system that consists of a 10kW/160Nm 48V belt-driven electric motor that provides electric boost under hard acceleration and extends idle-stop operation.
With a nine-speed torque-convertor automatic transmission exclusively sending drive to its rear wheels, Mercedes-Benz claims that the 1598kg C200 Sedan can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 7.7 seconds, on the way to its top speed of 239km/h. In reality, the range-opener offers fairly brisk performance, but it is dependent on being in its strong but fleeting band of maximum torque.
The availability of Sir Isaac’s best down low is usually the highlight of a blown engine, but not here. Instead EQ Boost is tasked with accounting for the void between idle and the turbocharger spooling up. The issue is, though, if you didn’t tell us it was part of the powertrain, we wouldn’t know. When electric boost is engaged, it’s almost imperceptible. Is this iteration a step forward?
However, the C200 Sedan’s biggest problem is the calibration of its nine-speed transmission, which insists on it rolling away from a stop in second gear. The 1.5-litre already doesn’t have much to offer at low engine speeds, so immediately putting it on its backfoot is not great. This issue also occurs during low-speed cornering, where it remains in third gear and provides no punch upon exit.
All of this occurs in the default Comfort driving mode, but there are four others – Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual – for the driver to play with while on the move. The sports-focused pair negate most of these problems by employing a more playful transmission calibration. However, its issue is not knowing when the spirited driving has ended and several downshifts are required.
Claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres for the C200 Sedan, while its carbon dioxide emissions have been tested at 145 grams per kilometre. During our week with it, we have averaged 10.3L/100km over 400km of driving skewed heavily towards urban commutes. Of this total, EQ Boost has contributed 15km of zero-emissions driving via idle-stop.
Ride and handling
It’s hard to get a real feel for the C200 Sedan’s ride and handling, as our test car is equipped with the optional Dynamic Body Control independent suspension with three-stage adjustable damping, and Sports Direct-Steer power steering. However, what we can say is the price leader has some pretty strong foundations to work with, proving to be a fun to drive around the city and on the highway, although it doesn’t quite reach the dynamic heights of some of its key rivals (see below).
The suspension is great over smoother surfaces, ironing out most lumps, but the rear end can catch the tail end of speed bumps and react sharply. Similarly, deeper potholes are dreaded. Naturally, this is an occupational hazard of our test car’s sports-focused setup, which sacrifices some comfort to deliver a higher level of performance. Nonetheless, compared to its competitors, the C200 Sedan delicately maintains its luxuriousness, albeit with an edge that will please enthusiasts but not others.
Conversely, the speed-sensitive steering system is bang on, proving to be well weighted and direct. At lower speeds, the C200 Sedan is highly manoeuvrable, while it feels very composed at high speed. Meanwhile, its chassis is so communicative, offering the driver a clear indication of what the front wheels are up to at any given time. Engage the Sport or Sport+ driving mode and extra heft and sharpness is introduced. This is a well-executed electric setup that should please all drivers.
This combination delivers impressive handling, with the C200 Sedan exhibiting sportscar-like traits. Being a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, a hint of oversteer is naturally encountered when cornering, but this makes for razor-sharp turn-in. Even at speed, bodyroll is kept to a minimum, while the tyres just grip and go. It may not be the largest passenger car on the road, but this four-door feels even smaller to drive. Again, with these foundations, it’s easy to see why the AMG C63 S exists.
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded most C-Class variants, including the C200 Sedan, a five-star safety rating in July 2014. Overall, they scored 36.46 out of 37 – or 98.5 per cent – with perfect scores coming from the side impact and oblique pole crash tests. Whiplash and pedestrian protection were both rated as ‘good’.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the C200 Sedan extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring (BSM), driver attention alert, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, cruise control and a manual speed limiter.
The aforementioned Comand (traffic sign recognition) and Vision (high-beam assist and surround-view cameras) packages expand this suite, but lane-keep assist is still missing when it should be standard at this price point. Adaptive cruise control is also not available.
Other standard safety features include nine airbags (dual front, side, curtain and window, plus driver’s knee), anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist, and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.
As with all Mercedes-Benz models, the C-Class comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty that includes three years of roadside assistance. Service intervals for the C200 Sedan are every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever comes first.
Don’t be fooled; our experience of the C200 Sedan is not entirely indicative of the vehicle you may drive out of the dealership. Then again, in the luxury market, most reviews aren’t due to the vast array of options available. Case in point: Our test car is loaded with $12,384 worth of extra gear.
Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why the C-Class dominates the segment it plays in. It offers luxury, technology and dynamics that appeal to the majority of new-vehicle buyers. Just do yourself a favour and opt for the more potent, better-equipped C300 Sedan. At $71,400, it’s definitely worth it.
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