s anyone who has watched
their kids declare all-out
war on each other over
the relative sizes of their
ice creams knows, sibling
rivalry can be a terrible
thing. And the arrival of a new, smaller
sister explains much of the change that's
taken place in the Mercedes C-Class.
Until very recently, the C-Class was
the smallest saloon in the Mercedes
family, and acted accordingly. It was
sportier than its bigger siblings, and a bit
cooler - pitched against fast-lane rivals
such as the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4,
and given much of the same thrusting
swagger. But last year Mercedes
launched a smaller and cheaper saloon,
the CLA, which has become the brand's
new wild child - leaving the C-Class to
grow up and become more sensible.
This is not a bad thing. Indeed, you
can make a good case that the new
C-Class drives more like the new
S-Class than any of its predecessors.
Mercedes never lets any of its models
stray too far from the clan's visual DNA.
Underneath, the new C is both bigger and
cleverer than its predecessors. Indeed,
size increases between generations mean
it's now the same size as a 1990s E-Class.
It uses a part-aluminum bodyshell to cut
weight and even the most basic version
has a front-looking radar system that
alerts you to an impending crash and will
even apply the brakes automatically if
you do nothing.
On the road, it's
quiet, with very little
road or engine noise
reaching the cabin.
The suspension does
a real magic carpet
impression as well,
defusing bumps and
lling in undulations.
High-speed cruising is
outstanding - on the
motorway it really does feel like it's going
at least 20mph slower than it actually is.
The ipside is an absence of much in
the way of excitement. On twistier roads
the chassis can muster plenty of grip
and the steering is impressively accurate,
but there's no reward in trying to hustle
the C-Class along too quickly. It's just not
that sort of car. Far better to canter at a
graceful pace and enjoy the re nement.
The engines stick with the sensible vibe,
with only more basic versions available
at launch. Most British buyers will opt
for one of the diesel powerplants, with a
2.1-litre four-cylinder engine that's o ered
in both 168bhp and 201bhp states of
tune (badged as C220 Bluetec and C250
Bluetec respectively). There's also a 2.0litre
turbocharged petrol engine in the
basic C200 that produces 181bhp.
All three are decent. The diesel engines
both deliver strong low-down urge and
predictably impressive fuel economy
gures. The petrol motor doesn't have
as much punch as its power output
suggests, but it revs freely and sounds
nicer than the diesels. A manual gearbox
is standard but most buyers will probably
opt for the smooth-shifting, seven-speed
automatic transmission. More powerful
(and more frugal) versions will follow,
including a mighty AMG version with a
turbocharged V8 later this year.
The C-Class can be ordered with a vast
and sometimes ba ing array of options.
But if you can resist the sales patter you'll
nd that the basic
car is great in its own
right - and that's a
sign of a true winner.
of comfort and
Worst bits: Need
to wait for more
not as sporty as
Mercedes has chosen a new path, focusing on
comfort and re� nement rather than sporty dynamics
BMW more or less invented the compact
sports saloon and the 3-Series is far more
dynamically focused than the C-Class - even if
it can't quite match Mercedes for re� nement.
Available with a wide range of engines, from
the basic 316i all the way to the range-topping
335i and 335d diesel. From £23,555
Feeling old compared with the BMW and
Mercedes, but with its age (and impending
replacement) re� ected in some very keen
deals. Most buyers go for diesel versions, but
the 1.8 and 2.0 TFSI petrols are punchy and
impressively economical. Four-wheel drive
is a popular option. From £24,385
Jaguar is going to launch a small model next
year, but until then the only real non-German
player in this segment is the Lexus IS. Handsome
and extremely well equipped, it's an individual
choice without being an oddball. The IS300 uses
hybrid drivetrain to deliver outstanding economy
� gures - on paper, at least. From £26,495
MERCEDES C200 SE
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder,
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Top speed: 147mph
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