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.