From £29,0357
Entry-level C-class diesel proves to be both frugal and powerful enough for most situations

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The C-Class shares a lot of its looks with the new S-Class, furthering its desirability

Can our perennial runner-up in this class finally reach the top spot?

1 December 2014

What is it?

The new Mercedes-Benz C-class has brought engine downsizing to the compact executive saloon class, with Mercedes choosing a small 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine for its entry-level diesel offering.

Actually, there are two versions of this same engine. One is the C 200 Bluetec with 134bhp and the other is this C 180 Bluetec, with a mere 114bhp. As is the case with the smaller diesels in the A-Class range, the engines (and gearboxes, in the case of the manual versions) are sourced from Renault, and here we find the familiar 1.6 dCi.

According to Mercedes, the engine has been modified in exterior detail, allowing it to rotate 90 degrees from its transverse positioning in Renault/Nissan models, to fit into the C-Class’s longitudinal layout.

Furthermore, the software that runs the engine has been changed to alter its character towards a more Mercedes-like attitude. The aim was to achieve a stronger, smoother torque delivery and reduce noise and vibration, while keeping fuel economy high.

Official performance and economy figures are encouraging, the C 180 Bluetec achieving 67mpg on the combined cycle and reaching 62mph from rest in 11.1sec when mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. There’s also the option of a seven-speed automatic transmission. While the power output is lower than the usual application of this engine in Renault/Nissan models, the torque figure is up, from 151lb ft to 206lb ft. This becomes quite obvious once you start driving it.

What's it like?

Pretty refined. On start-up and at idle, there are no serious hints of what kind of fuel is being burnt up front. There's no real clatter and few vibrations get through to the driver, proving that Mercedes has worked hard on soundproofing materials.

The manual gearbox is pleasant to use, with a light action and fairly precise shift. The engine feels willing, but it's not really in the same league as the 2.1-litre unit in the C 220 Bluetec for pace, making the car feel slower than it should. At low revs there's a bit of a flat spot – but maximum torque is available from as low as 1500rpm, so as long as you keep it spinning in its sweet spot, you'll be able to keep up with other traffic without too much trouble.

There are five different driving modes, offering the driver the choice between Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. In each position, four parameters are changed, namely the throttle response, steering effort, air conditioning power and start-stop system. In automatic models, the shift points are tailored to each mode too. In Sport and Sport+ modes, the engine management matches the revs with each downshift, an entertaining – if somewhat pointless – feature on such a frugal, economy-minded diesel.

The limiter cuts in at at 5200rpm, but you'll rarely want to push it that hard, as there are no real gains in peformance at high revs and refinement suffers as the engine strains at these higher speeds. We reached 47mpg in city driving, a bit far from the official figure, but a light-footed approach would soon see that figure rise towards 60mpg.

On the motorway where these cars spend most of their time, the 114bhp engine starts to show its limitations. At higher speeds it needs to work harder and becomes more intrusive, and overtaking moves need to be planned quite far in advance, unlike in the punchier large-capacity diesels in the range.

Grip is decent, even in damp conditions, and the ride on 17-inch alloy wheels and comfort suspension afford a reasonably composed ride, but low-speed bumps and ridges in town will still catch the C-class out and the steering is never quite as faithful or direct as in rivals like the BMW 316d, which is a bit noisier, perhaps, but a much sharper thing.

Should I buy one?

If you want the cheapest diesel C-Class available, this C 180 Bluetec will be your access point into the range. It is expected to start at around £27,000, compared with the £28,570 that Mercedes asks for a C 200 Bluetec, and that puts it very close to being the most affordable version available, petrols included.

It's nicely refined, and the six-speed manual 'box is a viable option, unlike in the C 220 and C 250, which are much better with the optional auto.

However, company car users who often find themselves on the motorway will feel the lack of oomph from this 114bhp model, and despite its decent refinement and high-speed ride, it's not the pick of the new C-Class range, especially considering its 2.0-litre competitors from BMW and Audi can match its 109g/km CO2 output in their larger saloons.

Mercedes-Benz C 180 Bluetec manual

Price £27,000 (est); 0-62mph 11.1sec; Top speed 128mph; Economy 67.3mpg (combined); CO2 109g/km; Kerb weight 1485kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 114bhp at 3000-4600rpm; Torque 206lb ft at 1500-2800rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
20

1 December 2014
Why pay Mercedes prices when this has a Renault engine and gearbox? First the abysmal quality, then the weird retro styling and now the cheapskate engines. Mercedes has a contempt for engineering excellence which its forebears would be ashamed of.

1 December 2014
Norma Smellons wrote:

Why pay Mercedes prices when this has a Renault engine and gearbox? First the abysmal quality, then the weird retro styling and now the cheapskate engines. Mercedes has a contempt for engineering excellence which its forebears would be ashamed of.

You could argue why spend 30k on a diesel Golf if you are talking about 'Mercedes prices'. This has been comprehensively reworked for Mercedes and is the best selling diesel in the world. No-one really bothered that Peugeot powered the Mini. I personally like the dCi engine.

1 December 2014
£27k (estimated) is quite a sum for an entry level car. But then I look at those pics, and I look at the extras and I wonder to myself, how much change would you get from £40k? In 2006, I bought a 3 month old C180 which had already shed £6000 off it's list. Two years later with average miles it depreciated a further £10000 and in the time I ran it, cost a small fortune in servicing. I cannot understand the concept of ultra frugal engines in a Merc because fuel economy is of no significance when it comes to overall running costs. If you're going to by a Merc, buy one with a decent engine and at least get some pleasure for your substantial outlay.

1 December 2014
Photographed next to the clean cut hard edged architecture shows up how inadequate the C class looks. The use of curves and rounded corners may work for a larger model such as the S class but they only make smaller cars such as the C & the A look dumpy. The classy interior may not be a good enough reason to choose this car.

1 December 2014
abkq wrote:

Photographed next to the clean cut hard edged architecture shows up how inadequate the C class looks. The use of curves and rounded corners may work for a larger model such as the S class but they only make smaller cars such as the C & the A look dumpy. The classy interior may not be a good enough reason to choose this car.

Absolutely agree.

The previous gen was a better looking car than this, with too many curves, fussy taillights etc.

And what is with the big grille badge? It makes it look like a badly modified 80s 190.

Give me a 'towel rack' grille and a bonnet ornament over this!

27k for a base model, with a 1.6 diesel out of a Megane, that puts out 110bhp, something a £500 Peugeot 406 diesel could match.

1 December 2014
I don't think the original torque figure quoted of 151lb/ft is correct. The standard 1.6 dCi pumps out 236lb/ft I believe. That aside, £27k is a lot for this car, I hope Mercedes will be discounting it heavily.

1 December 2014
As a private buyer WHY. You spend over 27k to save a few hundred pounds a year. And in that time you're driving a slow noisey Renault Diesel powered characterless car, Enjoy

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 December 2014
They actually offer "Driving Modes" on a 1.6 diesel?!? Regardless of whether they are called Eco-pro/Slowest, Comfort/Slow, Sport/Noisy, Sport +/Noisiest etc this is not an AMG or M Car or indeed any sort of performance car. Having driven a number of BMW F30 320ds and 318ds the drive mode always seemed to make a diesel noisier or more lethargic without ever making it faster or significantly more economical. Perhaps these German manufacturers should concentrate on getting the car right as they did in the past and then deleting this useless driving mode nonsense. Perhaps that would let them reduce the price of the car to a more acceptable level. Probably not.

1 December 2014
I concur with the above comments. This C-Class sums up just how far Mercedes-Benz has moved away from its historical roots as a manufacturer of cars with engineering and design integrity and purity. I fondly remember my 190E, bought new in 1987. It felt as though it was hewn from rock and would last forever. It may have been short on frills, but some of the engineering details were delightful, like the single windscreen wiper that operated with a mechanism that pushed the blade up into each corner of the windscreen as it swept. Ten years later, I had the misfortune to own an early SLK, which was by far the most unreliable car I have ever owned (a list that includes a Lancia and an early Discovery!). It regularly flattened its battery due to a fault the main dealer was unable to detect. The front ball joints wore out after 25,000 miles (and no, I didn't drive it like I'd nicked it!). The main lighting switch and column stalk both needed replacement around the same time. Luckily, I got shot of it when I spotted the first rust blister on a rear wheelarch: take a look at most late '90s or early 00's Mercs you see and you'll know what I mean. I know Mercedes-Benz have put their well publicised quality problems behind them, but I hate the chintzy and overstyled "more is more" look of most of their current range, especially the smaller models. Sticking in a Renault engine is just adding insult to injury. Sorry for the rant!

1 December 2014
Autocar wrote:

The new Mercedes-Benz C-class has brought engine downsizing to the compact executive saloon class, with Mercedes choosing a small 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine for its entry-level diesel offering.

Volvo have been offering 1.6D engined S/V60 and S80/V70 for a number of years now, so I dont believe its Mercedes that has brought engine downsizing to the compact executive market..

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