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

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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

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Citytiger 2 December 2014

Lets not forget, the majority

Lets not forget, the majority of JLR vehicles are powered by PSA/Ford diesel engines, and the customers don't complain about the engines. You are also paying for the showroom and dealership costs as well as the aftercare and warranty, I dont think many C-Class buyers will be taking their car into Renault to be fixed or serviced, just because it will be a bit cheaper. Just as JLR customers dont take their XF's or Range Rovers to Citroen dealers. As has been stated above the mk2 new Mini had Peugeot engines, the mk1 had Chrysler engines.
Oilburner 2 December 2014

We get the cars we deserve

If people wanted to buy the C400 or whatever, then Merc would offer it here. Sadly, the C180 diesel will sell well and that's why they do it.

Add to that the fact that most people will believe it has a Merc 1.8 diesel in it (as does my neighbour with his A180 diesel), then the fact that it's a Renault 1.6 is neither here nor there for most consumers.

Daniel Joseph 2 December 2014

Oilburner wrote:If people

Oilburner wrote:

If people wanted to buy the C400 or whatever, then Merc would offer it here. Sadly, the C180 diesel will sell well and that's why they do it.

Add to that the fact that most people will believe it has a Merc 1.8 diesel in it (as does my neighbour with his A180 diesel), then the fact that it's a Renault 1.6 is neither here nor there for most consumers.

Sadly, you're absolutely right. My earlier post was a lament for the loss of design and engineering integrity at Mercedes-Benz but, commercially, they are simply meeting their perceived market demand. In contrast, with the MINI, BMW have gradually expunged the non-BMW content and the new F56 is much the better for it.

TS7 2 December 2014

Doesn't make sense...

...in this spec. I agree the saloon is poorly styled, particularly at the back. Which, quite apart from practicality, is one reason I prefer the estate. I'd never get a diseasel though; I just wish one could get a rhd C400. It would be around £40K based on a comparison of German-UK C-Class prices. I'd rather have such a car in basic spec than a fully spec'd but under-engined C: tick all the boxes on a C200 and it comes out at ~£43K.