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Mercedes-Benz C200 CGI review

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    Both the C200 and C250 share their turbocharged engines but the C250 gets a higher start of tune at 150kW/310Nm.

Neil McDonald road tests and reviews the Mercedes-Benz C200 CGI.

THE Kompressor is kaput.  In a drive to more efficient engines, Mercedes-Benz has dropped the volume-selling supercharged Kompressor engine from its refreshed C-Class sedan and wagon lineup.

It remains in the SLK and CLC sports coupe, but as the next-generation models arrive the German carmaker is expected to move to turbocharged engines as part of its BlueEfficiency strategy.  The entry supercharged Kompressor engine has been replaced by a new turbocharged direct injection four cylinder in the C200 and gains the CGI tag, which means Charged Gasoline Injection.

The replacement direct-injection 1.8-litre turbo four develops the same power but more torque, better economy and fewer emissions.  The newcomer delivers 135kW/270Nm compared to the Kompressor's 135kW/250Nm.

Economy has improved from 8.0l/100km to 7.3l/100km and emissions have gone down from 189g/km to 171g/km.  Apart from a new Euro 5 compliant C200 engine, prices across the face-lifted C-Class range remain the same. The entry C200 continues at $57,900.

Equipment levels have been improved, adding between $3000 and almost $8000 in extra value into the cars.  Mercedes-Benz Australia has passed on the 5 per cent January 1 reduction in import tariffs in the form of more equipment.

A driver's side knee airbag brings the airbag count to nine, while the Avantgarde-style grille, new 17-inch alloys, split-fold rear seats, new alloys and front cupholders have been added to the C200.  A new four-cylinder model, the $65,900 C250 CGI, joins the lineup, bringing to 10 the number of sedan and wagon models available.

Both the C200 and C250 share their turbocharged engines but the C250 gets a higher start of tune at 150kW/310Nm. The C250 adds up-scale audio system and Comand navigation, 18-inch alloys and maple interior trim.  Further up the ladder are the V6 and V8s. Buyers have a choice of two V6s – a petrol C300 and the turbodiesel C350 CDI.

The C300 is unchanged, providing 170kW/300Nm from a 3.0-litre V6. Like the four cylinder models it gets more gear.  The torque-rich C350 CDI receives the same upgrades and its 165kW/510Nm V6 turbodiesel carries over unchanged.  The range-topper continues to be the 336kW/600Nm C63 AMG.

Overall, the C-Class remains Mercedes-Benz Australia's most important model.  Last year it sold 6163 C-Class sedans and 394 wagons, comprising 41 per cent of total Mercedes sales.  Mercedes-Benz Australia passenger cars product manager, Zac Loo, says there was a clear agenda to add more value into the range to improve market leadership.

"Since launch we have had market leadership in the segment and we are not going to give that up," he says.

Driving

IF the budget can stretch, go for the C250 CGI. That's not to say the entry C200 is a dog. Far from it.  The base 1.8-litre turbo engine is smooth and frugal but for a little extra performance without too much hip-pocket hurt, the C250 is a better bet.

Its mid-range response makes you think twice that this performance is coming out of a 1.8-litre four cylinder.  The engine is peaky, smooth revving and well matched to the five-speed gearbox.

Unlike the Kompressor engine, the power delivery is seemless and the turbo's variable geometry turbocharger virtually eliminates any turbo lag.  From standstill the C250 has more urge than the C200 and the surge of power right across the rev range will impress.

Like all Mercedes four-cylinders, it does not have the sweet aural note of a BMW four but it certainly matches the 320i for performance.  It's been a while since we've driven the C-Class and it still impresses with its well composed ride, handling and steering.

It is crisp through the corners and like all Mercedes-Benz cars you really do need to take it out on long driver, preferably a windy open road, to appreciate the level of engineering that has gone into a model like the C-Class.  Throw the C-Class into a sharp corrugated corner and you'll see what we mean.

In this situation, the steering remains unruffled and the suspension absorbs the harshest corrugations without transmitting anything into the cabin. It is more than a match for the BMW 3 Series.

Apart from the engines, the visual tweaks to the front are welcome and the cabin remains handsome - if a little bland because of the over-emphasis of black or grey around the interior.  Mercedes has begrudgingly added more gear but metallic paint is still optional, real leather is extra on the C200 and C220 CDI and dealer delivery can be very steep.

To be fair it's not the only Euro importer to gouge customers with high delivery fees.  There is always a price to pay for driving one of the best badges in the business.

Mercedes-Benz C200 CGI

Price: $57,900 (C250 CGI $65,900)
Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Output: 135kW at 5250 revs, 270Nm at 1800 revs (150kW at 3800 revs, 310Nm at 200 revs)
Transmission: Five-speed sequential automatic
Economy, C02 emissions: 7.3 l/100km, 171g/km (7.7l/100km, 180g/km)