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Mercedes C-Class review: A face-lift you can hardly C
WITH a car like the C-Class, it was only ever going to be a case of whether Mercedes would mess up a good thing.
After all, it's ubiquitous here and pretty much everywhere else. And if you count the petite 190 E model from the 1980s as the first C-Class, Mercedes-Benz has managed to sell almost 10 million of the little sedans.
One wonders if that's the reason the scalpel was wielded so gingerly for the car's recent face-lift. The differences are so slight that trying to discern the new one from last year's model would have stymied Sherlock Holmes himself.
But since changing the shape of metal body parts tends to involve costly retooling, it's the bolt-on bits that are new on the C-Class. That being so, it gets new lamps front and rear, along with reshaped bumpers. Elementary stuff, as Holmes might have said.
Yet, Mercedes says thousands of parts have been changed or updated, so one has to look inside to discover many of them.
Sure enough, heave yourself aboard and you'll find a bunch of new features, many of them fresh migrants from the larger E-Class and S-Class models - a wide, 10.25-inch infotainment screen, virtual instruments that are endlessly customisable, and tiny touchpads on the steering wheel that give the itchiest of fingers no shortage of ways to control every last, non driving-related thing about the car.
The Mercedes also now has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, thereby catering to just about every corner of the smartphone world.
While the cabin of the C-Class has become something of a shining digital playground, it still offers proof that Mercedes has mastered the art of building a soothing space.
Even in the C 180, the lowliest model in the range (and currently the only version on sale), things are generally placid on the move, and there's a general air of sumptuousness to the interior itself.
The C 180's 1.6-litre turbo is a carryover from before, and unless flogged brutally, it does its work with quiet dignity.
But later in the year the C 200 version joins the range, and it has a brand new 1.5-litre turbo engine that comes with mild hybrid drive. It has a starter/alternator that should make it feel more energetic by feeding in jolts of immediate torque, and because it's roughly 10 times more powerful than a normal starter motor, it rouses the engine from sleep far more smoothly and readily.
Whether that's worth waiting for is almost moot, since the C 180 has never sold on the strength of its engine anyway. Come to think of it, for similar money there have always been larger, better-equipped or sharper handling cars than this.
Instead, the C-Class' appeal lies in how it manages to put across the ineffable qualities of Mercedesness in such an elegantly compact package. It's a tradition the face-lifted C-Class upholds, with new features that mean Mercedes took a good thing and made it better.
Mercedes-Benz C 180 Exclusive
Engine 1,595cc, turbocharged in-line 4
Power 156hp at 5,300rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1,200-4,000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
0-100km/h 8.5 seconds
Top speed 226km/h
Fuel efficiency 6.6L/100km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Price S$185,888 with COE