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Mercedes-Benz CLC-Class 2008 review

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Benzs were driven by well off old blokes in tweed jackets who were happy to pay big dollars for the privilege of having that famous three-pointed star on their bonnet. Luxury came at a cost.

Not any more.

Fast forward to 2008 and the average age of a Benz owner, now dressed in a Boss suit, has fallen to 52, largely thanks to the C-Class models which were deliberately pitched at a more youthful market.

And along with the drop in age there has been a steady rise in Benz's value for money. Want to buy a classy mid-sized Benz for under $50,000? Certainly, what colour would you like?

Enter the latest addition to the Benz family, the CLC Sports Coupe, a two-door, four-seater which comes into the market this week with two of the three versions sneaking under the luxury car tax of $57,180.

The entry model has been sharply priced at a cucumber sandwich and latte under $50,000 at $49,990. And that makes the CLC one of the best new car buys of the year.

It may look like the current award winning C Class, but the CLC sits on a seven-year-old chassis of the previous and smaller C-Class. Will buyers care? Probably not because the older C-Class wasn't such a bad thing apart from its dated and hard riding suspension.

So forget the underpinnings; this latest CLC has been cleverly honed into a very likable, very driveable and desirable made-in-Brazil mousetrap.

Benz has predicted it will draw in even more younger buyers, and importantly for a brand dominated by male owners, more females to the fold.

Like the outgoing version, the CLC is immensely important for Benz as an entree model. It is expected to win over buyers from other brands _ Benz predicts conquest sales could be as high as 70 per cent — and once they are in the Benz family about 40 per cent of them will probably stay loyal to the brand.

Drivetrains and variants

Benz is serving up three rear-wheel drive versions, all with the same 135kW four-cylinder supercharged engine and fitted with a five-speed automatic, although a six-speed manual will be available as a no-cost option.

There is no diesel, which is a pity because the 2.2-litre version tested in Europe earlier this year was impressive.

The CLC 200 Kompressor opens the batting at $49,900. Standard equipment includes eight airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, rear park assist, lowered sports suspension, 17-inch alloys, dual zone air conditioning, cruise control, multi-function display, sports seats with manual adjustment, Artico fake leather and cloth upholstery, rain sensing wipers and fog lamps.

Next comes the 200 Kompressor Evolution at $53,900. It gains different alloy wheels, bi xenon head lamps, Benz's clever direct steering system, paddle shift for the automatic and full fake leather upholstery.

Top of the line up is the 200 Kompressor Evolution Plus at $58,988. It adds front seas with electric adjustment and memory settings, automatic climate control air conditioning, huge glass sunroof and maple wood trim.

Lower spec models can be optioned with the sun roof, satellite navigation, real leather upholstery, alarm system and AMG alloy wheels. Benz is predicting it can sell 1200 CLCs a year.

Driving

I drove the CLC when it was launched in Austria earlier this year and came away more than impressed at its road manners, less so about it disjointed styling.

The one proviso — I wanted to confirm its slightly hard ride would work on rougher home roads and it has lived up to that expectation.

This C-Class pretender doesn't have the same crisp handling and precise balance of the latest generation C-Class but it's still impressive anyway.

The styling is a less than happy marriage between a new C-Class front and old C-Class rear and the rear view is seriously diminished by the letter box rear window, making the car's electronic parking assist a necessity. The previous version had a second lower window in the tailgate, but that has been sacrificed in the restyling.

Where the CLC does impress is its ability to tackle with aplomb our poor excuse for rural roads, covered in potholes, undulations and broken verges. City driving is easy once you get used to the blind spot at the rear. A rear camera would help here but it is missing from the equipment list.

The badges say sports coupe but the 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine doesn't quite deliver sports performance and is handicapped by the car's weight. Instead the motor provides perky rather than firecracker outcome, and at times more torque than the 250Nm available would be desirable. Fuel consumption at 8.2l/100km is a plus however.

The base model gets conventional linear steering while the top versions get a steering assist system which reduces the amount of turns needed to tackle the corners. It takes a little getting used too; you tend to overseer at first, but the reduction in steering effort is welcome. It's a simple mechanical system, designed in Australia, which uses a change in gearing ratio on the steering rack, which reduces steering effort by up to 25 per cent.

The cabin, with generous and comfortable seating for four — a rarity in this market — is spacious enough, although tall passengers will find rear head room is tight. Boot space is good thanks to the fitment of a deflated space saver tyre.

Has Benz developed a sufficient mouse trap to lure first time buyers into the fold. The simple answer is yes, and I suspect most will be more than happy with what is on offer. An honest coupe, if you can live with two doors, which is quiet, offers reasonable performance and has terrific road manners and balance.

Pricing guides

$11,205
Based on 8 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,888
Highest Price
$15,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
CLC200 Kompressor 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,700 – 11,880 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC-CLASS 2008 CLC200 Kompressor Pricing and Specs
CLC200 Kompressor Evolution 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,200 – 12,760 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC-CLASS 2008 CLC200 Kompressor Evolution Pricing and Specs
CLC200 Kompressor Evolution + 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $9,300 – 14,080 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC-CLASS 2008 CLC200 Kompressor Evolution + Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$9,888

Lowest price, based on 5 car listings in the last 6 months

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