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Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200 2014 Review

EXPERT RATING
10
C-Class is here. Finally. On first acquaintance in Europe, we praised everything from its quality to a starting price of $60,900 and rating it an early contender for Car of the Year. After our first local drive, it's a shortening favourite. After 250km of very mixed motoring, from inner-city Melbourne tram tracks to a

C-Class is here. Finally. On first acquaintance in Europe, we praised everything from its quality to a starting price of $60,900 and rating it an early contender for Car of the Year. After our first local drive, it's a shortening favourite.

After 250km of very mixed motoring, from inner-city Melbourne tram tracks to a stretch of muddy forest road, there is barely anything to fault. It's a five-star car for me, a very rare honour.

The new C-Class gets better fuel economy than a Toyota Camry, costs the same as a fully loaded Chrysler 300, is about to outsell the Mazda6, has more standard safety than cars that cost more than $150,000, and is available as a miserly hybrid.

A reversing camera is standard, it will brake automatically in an emergency — earning a 15 per cent discount from some insurers — and it has wipe-down vinyl seats that are family-friendly.

Yes, it's a Mercedes-Benz, and that must go against it. We mark hard because we expect the world's oldest car maker to do good work and because we know there is a bias against the brand.

But the world has turned from the time when only super-rich people could afford to park a three-pointed star in the driveway. These days, thanks to starting prices as low as $35,600 — the same as a Holden Commodore — there are more Mercedes in Middle Australia than ever before and people are shopping the star against a VW Golf or top-end Ford Falcon.

It still busts most budgets despite that relatively affordable bottom line, and it's easy to romp past $80,000 for a C250 with extras, but it's a lot of car for the cash. It drives like a much costlier car and you could happily live with the no frills C200. For a very long time.

VALUE

The C-Class starting price is up by $1000, a rare rise in a time of red-pen pricing A basic petrol C200 starts at $60,900, with the flagship C300 BlueTEC Hybrid at $74,900 for deliveries next year. In the middle ground, the petrol C250 starts at $68,900 and the cheapest diesel, the C200 BluteTEC, from $62,400.

What's significant is that all five of the C-Class sedans are priced below the luxury car tax threshold — although the belter V8-powered C63 AMG will bust that barrier next year — and Mercedes-Benz Australia claims a $9000 improvement in standard equipment. 

The list now runs to power seats, LED lights, 18-inch alloys, auto braking and satnav. To give some pricing perspective, a basic BMW 320 costs $60,500 and a Chrysler 300C Luxury starts at $51,000.

TECHNOLOGY

Most of the good stuff in the compact C-Class comes from the S-Class flagship, from the automatic safety braking to electric window switches that don't feel remotely cheap. It's a car that's loaded with safety stuff but also benefits from a new generation of engines with stop-start and turbocharging.

In the C200, performance is almost a match for the outgoing C250 yet its claimed fuel economy is 6.0L/100km (I saw 5.7L on my preview drive). It uses old-school rear-wheel drive for refinement and driving enjoyment, with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

The new body is bigger but nearly half of the panels are made from aluminium, which cuts weight by up to 40kg. The hybrid in the C-Class is a diesel job, claiming 4.0L.

DESIGN

The body follows Benz's latest styling direction, which is more aggressive than the outgoing car, but the interior has been modernised without losing its effectiveness. There's a large touch screen — 7 inches to start, 8.4 with an infotainment upgrade — and old-school dials with an optional head-up display. Paddle-shifters are standard.

Deft touches include a choice of interior lighting colours and an "agility" switch for the engine/transmission/steering computer. Smart work inside the bigger body enhances usable space, particularly in the back where the outgoing C-Class was upright and cramped. The boot is also bigger at a claimed 480L.

SAFETY

The C-Class earned five stars from ANCAP, no question. The basics are right, from the body structure to nine airbags. The extra gear — including automatic emergency braking that initially flashes you a noisy warning — and even a fatigue reminder set the C-Class up for a maximum score.

DRIVING

It's crunch time as I slide into a C200 for a loop that goes out and about from Melbourne central. It's cold and wet, ideal to find any flaws. But the car feels solid, composed and sensationally refined. Within 10km, I know I could happily drive for 1000, thanks to everything from well-shaped seats and a sports-style wheel to great headlamps and a chassis that copes easily with everything nasty I can find. It's very, very quiet, too.

After an hour, I'm searching for things to dislike. There is the lid on the centre console, which feels a bit flimsy, and also looks from other drivers which are anything but envious.

This C200 also has a couple of extra-cost options and I can't see the point in the sunroof, although the head-up display is brilliant and I also like the full-sized infotainment screen and creamy Burmester sound. But it's the basics that do it for me, and make a five-star rating an easy decision.

The car copes so easily with bumps and lumps, and even potholes are dispatched with none of the bump-thump of the previous C-Class or the latest 3 Series and Audi A4. There is nothing nasty in the handling, which is generally neutral in all corners, and it cruises quietly and effortlessly on the freeway.

I return to Mercedes-Benz and jump into a C250 with more power and equipment. It also has an AMG package with good-looking wheels and hugging front bucket seats. It's nice but not nicer enough for me at $68,900 plus options — I'd take the C200 every time.

I haven't been as impressed by any new arrival since my first run in the Golf. The C200 will some beating come COTY time.

Pricing Guides

$34,990
Based on 232 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$20,888
Highest Price
$93,880

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
C180 1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $22,990 – 29,900 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C180 Pricing and Specs
C63 AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $79,860 – 91,850 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C63 AMG Pricing and Specs
C63 AMG Edition 507 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $74,990 – 93,880 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C63 AMG Edition 507 Pricing and Specs
C250 CDI 2.1L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $29,260 – 35,310 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C250 CDI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
10
Pricing Guide

$21,500

Lowest price, based on 77 car listings in the last 6 months

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