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Entry-level Merc C-Class tested

2008-06-10 12:50

The C-Class is a worthy bearer of the three-pointed star and the latest "Baby Benz" is a showcase of class and status.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
Model C180 Kompressor
Engine 1.8-litre petrol
Power 115 kW @ 5200 r/min
Torque 230 Nm @ 2500-4200 r/min
Transmission 5-Speed Auto
Top Speed 223 km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.8 litres / 100 km (Claimed avg)
Price R297 000 (+R13 000 for Auto)
Rivals BMW 320i / Audi A4 1.8T

Wilmer Muller

What's it about

There’s no doubt that the latest Mercedes C-Class is the most distinctive yet and locally it seems too be quite popular so far too. Naturally it is pitched as an upmarket sedan, but pricing is steep, even for the so-called entry-level model. 

Starting at R297 000, the entry-level C180 Kompressor isn't cheap. Our test car came with the Elegance package, which adds R7 500 to the price tag, and if you opt for the sportier Avantgarde trim it boosts the price by R18 000.

Our C180 Kompressor also came with a 5-speed auto transmission which means an extra R13 000. Then there is also vast list of other options which will hike the price even further.

However, in Merc's defence, its two premium German competitors are also offering expensive optional extras. Therefore one could argue that this is probably the nature of this segment…

However, the only rival that isn't guilty of this practice is Lexus with the IS250 range, which comes pretty much full-house and has a "value for money" tag.

So, does this mean buyers should give the C180 Kompressor a skip? Well, it is still a Merc product, which means it is exclusivity at its best, and the C-Class certainly lives up to these premium expectations.

From its scaled-down S-Class looks, good fit and finish to that three-pointed star on the nose, the C-Class has the genes to take on the 3 Series, A4 and the IS250.

With its classy design features and big wheelarches, there is nothing wrong with the baby Benz's styling either. Although we prefer the more distinctive Avantgarde package, Merc traditionalists will love the Elegance styling which gives the C-Class a classic Benz look.

Also, this compact executive sedan appears less conservative than before and deserves thumbs up for its design.

But what is really significant about the latest C-Class is what is happening under its skin. Merc is particularly proud about the C's safety credentials and the Stuttgart carmaker apparently crashed 100 cars to test safety and impact protection.


Although the interior isn't as crisp as that of the new A4, the C-Class certainly feels the executive part. The dashboard is straight-forward and made of good-quality materials throughout providing a posh feel.

Ergonomics are excellent and all the switchgear, buttons and dials are easy to use and well-presented. Merc's optional COMAND system, which includes the sat-nav, is easy to operate too and more user-friendly than BMW's iDrive setup.

Space is plentiful upfront too and there is enough head and leg space for the rear passengers as well. Bootspace is generous at 475 litres, however, it is a shame that fold-down rear seats is an optional extra at R2 500.

Standard equipment includes leather trim, multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control, climate control, semi electric seats and an audio system with MP3 and iPod capabilities.

Under the skin

As before, the C180 Kompressor model has a 1.8-litre petrol engine but power is up from 105 to 115 kW and there is an increase of torque from 220 to 230 Nm.

According to Mercedes the latest C180 Kompressor consumes 0.3 litres per 100 km less fuel than before with the combined fuel consumption now at an impressive 7.8 litres per 100 km.

The C180 Kompressor model is also fitted standard with the Merc's AGILITY CONTROL, which automatically alters damper response to match road conditions and cornering force. The end result is that the C-Class has better composure while offering better body control and stability.

The C-Class boasts a five-star European NCAP crash test rating. It comes with all the usual passive and active safety features, but special Mercedes technologies include ADAPTIVE BRAKE as well as the carmaker's preventive occupant protection system PRE-SAFE.

Occupant protection is based on an intelligently designed bodyshell, 70% of which consists of high-strength and ultra high-strength steel.

Driving it

The C-Class is more refined and lively than its predecessor. It’s 13% stiffer and its standard Agility Control ensures excellent body control and stability. What's more is that the car boasts confidence while keeping its composure under most conditions.

The supercharged four-cylinder engine is competent, smooth and quiet. Power is there when you need it and it delivers the necessary refinement.

This engine also gives the sensation of comfort as there is minimal noise intrusion from the unit. Furthermore this is complimented by suppressed road and wind noise. The steering is also more direct than before.

One has to compliment the C-Class's ride quality too and the adaptive dampers do a great job of ironing out uneven road conditions. Overall the ride is not only relaxing but swift too.

And while the optional five-speed automatic transmission could be more responsive, it does shift smoothly.

In typical Mercedes fashion the new C-Class still comes with the old-school foot-operated parking brake. Although it is okay to use if the car is mated to the autobox, it is a pain with manual transmissions.


So, does the C180 Kompressor still add up? Well, despite being expensive it is good at being an executive sedan. Overall the C-Class gives you the impression of good-quality and durability.

Premium car buyers should consider it as it is offers ingredients such as poise and refinement. The C-Class is smooth and it rides well, which will make it a satisfying car to own.  It is also roomy, comfortable and composed. Furthermore the C-Class's safety credentials deserve recognition too.

The C-Class is without doubt a worthy bearer of the three-pointed star and the latest "Baby Benz" is a showcase of class and status.

- Design
- Safety
- Drive

- Pricey
- Auto transmission could be better


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