From £15,285
Entry-level C-class is lighter, cheaper and more economical

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2007-2014
The C-Class rivals the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series

The Mercedes C-Class marks a return to the company's old-school values of all-round quality and maturity

15 December 2008

What is it?

Mercedes will never admit this, of course, but the C 180 K BlueEfficiency is its attempt to play catch-up.

BMW’s Efficient Dynamics caught Stuttgart a little on the hop, you see, and it’s taken a few years to come up with an alternative to the ‘green package’ that’s been rolled out across so many of its key rivals.

Still, it’s here now, and it has promise. At 1597cc, the entry-level C 180 loses 199cc of its capacity but retains its supercharger. It keeps the same power figure (154bhp), and has 170lb ft of torque on tap between 3000rpm and 4500rpm.

This C-class is lighter, and Mercedes has also fitted low-resistance tyres, an energy management system that turns the power steering on and off as required and smaller side mirrors.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Particularly when even Minis and the humble Toyota Auris have stop-start. But as a result of the tweaks, the C 180’s CO2 emissions fall by almost a fifth, to 149g/km, dropping the car into lower bands for tax and road fund licence.

Mercedes claims an 11 per cent improvement in fuel economy, too, to a combined 44.8mpg.

What’s it like?

From behind the wheel, there’s precious little to suggest that this is a pseudo eco-mobile.

Sure, there are indicators for gearshifts and economy, but there are no ‘green’ logos splashed around the interior, and without the novelty of stop-start the driving experience is remarkably, well, normal.

But not rapid. The 1.6-litre supercharged lump just about copes with the C-class’s bulk, but it’s never going to feel genuinely quick.

Power delivery is linear enough and the engine spins freely to beyond 5000rpm (the gearshift indicator will have gone crazy on you long before then, mind). Away from motorways, the C 180 is happiest to use its mid-range torque in third and fourth gears.

It needs decent amounts of revs at all times, but effective soundproofing keeps the thrum acceptably distant. There’s impressively little road noise from the low-resistance tyres, too.

As for the fuel economy figures, we tried the C 180 over a mixed route that took in country roads, heavy motorway traffic, clear fast-lane running and an urban rush-hour, and it returned just shy of 39mpg.

We’d imagine that regular daily use would nudge that figure towards Merc’s claimed average.

The other C-class strengths are still present, naturally. Even on the new rubber, its ride errs on the side of comfort more than the 3-series’, but there’s plenty of ability in the chassis (even if its entertainment value is a touch short of that of its age-old rival).

And the Merc’s cabin is still a fabulous place to spend time; fit and finish are excellent, the soft-touch materials feel luxurious and the seats are superbly comfortable for long journeys. Even the basic stereo now includes Bluetooth phone connectivity as standard.

Should I buy one?

You could do far worse. Bear in mind, too, that BlueEfficiency models are cheaper by £50 (saloon) and £35 (estate) than the outgoing C 180s; that gives the bread-and-butter C-classes prices and power figures to fight with BMW’s 318i and 320i, without being able to score a distinct victory.

The decision between the two class leaders can scarcely have been more personal, really. And it’s going to get worse; the ultra-rapid C 250 CDI BlueEfficiency, an oil-burner that can return over 50mpg yet crack 0-60mph in around seven seconds, is now destined for the UK, too.

Join the debate

Comments
9

15 December 2008

Total rationality from Mercedes. I wonder why they have avoided stop/start on this one - perhaps reliability issues?

Bring back steel wheels.

15 December 2008

[quote W124] I wonder why they have avoided stop/start[/quote]

Since 9 out of 10 Mercedes are ordered with an Automatic Transmission they may have felt it wasnt worth the investment, as it would only have been available with the manual boxes.

To my knowledge, as yet no manufacturer offers stop/start with an automatic do they?

16 December 2008

Good point. Could it be offered with DSG? As you can nudge it into neutral like you do a manual? Forgive my ignorance - I know bugger all about engineering.

Bring back steel wheels.

16 December 2008

[quote Quattro369]Since 9 out of 10 Mercedes are ordered with an Automatic Transmission they may have felt it wasnt worth the investment, as it would only have been available with the manual boxes.[/quote]

It is doable, using speed sensors and the relevant electronic control on the gear box, but you are right, no one offers it yet.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

16 December 2008

[quote TegTypeR]It is doable, using speed sensors and the relevant electronic control on the gear box, but you are right, no one offers it yet.[/quote]

ZF(Zahnradfabrik) of Friedrichshafen will shortly:

Quickstart With ZF's 8-Speed Automatic Transmission

In the future, a hydraulic impulse storage can be integrated in the new generation of ZF's 8-speed automatic transmissions. It supplies the hydraulic oil that the transmission's shift elements need for starting. When the engine is switched off, it allows for a quick start – as it is required with the start/stop function. Already 350 milliseconds after starting the engine, the vehicle is ready for setting off. With the start/stop function of the hydraulic impulse oil storage, it is possible to reduce fuel consumption by another 5%. Compared with the worldwide most efficient 6-speed automatic transmission by ZF, the newly developed 8-speed automatic transmission saves another 11%.

http://www.zf.com/corporate/en/press/press_releases/products_press/products_detail_7521247.jsp

16 December 2008

[quote horseandcart]Quickstart With ZF's 8-Speed Automatic Transmission[/quote]

Is anyone using it yet though?

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

16 December 2008

[quote TegTypeR]Is anyone using it yet though?[/quote]

No. Was supposed to launch with the BMW 760i V12 I believe in early 2009. Due to go into Rolls Royces, BMW X6, Audi A8/Q7s and so on.

16 December 2008

Prius has stop/start with auto. It's crap, but exists.

16 December 2008

What's the point? Rules for buying a Merc, Buy an auto, Specify leather, Choose either metallic Black or Silver

Problem 1, the car is a 1.6 litre - mate that to an auto box and bang goes your economy and performance (or what's left of it). I'd be surprised in the real world if it does any less mpg than an auto mated to a more power powerful engine.

Problem 2, you can only purchase man-made imitation leather on an SE. You'll have to move up to £24,500 for the next model + add £900 for leather + £600 for metallic.

We're talking £26,000 here for a 1.6 litre which cost's the earth to service. (Merc abandoned the variable servicing on the new shape C Class, not exactly efficient that). So who exactly is this car aimed at? If you can afford to own and run a Mercedes, saving a few mpg is the last thing you'll be concerned with.

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