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New Mercedes C-Class review: A shocking change of heart

It appears to be a case of continuity on the outside, but the facelifted Mercedes-Benz C-Class has had a striking change of both mind and heart.

Mercedes-Benz C 200 Elegance

The hybrid system is recharged by braking or slowing down. It allows coasting with the engine shut off at cruising speed.

The hybrid system is recharged by braking or slowing down. It allows coasting with the engine shut off at cruising speed.

Moselle Valley, Germany

THE facelifted Mercedes-Benz C-Class is here, and it appears to be very much a case of business as usual. By "here" I mean Germany. In Singapore the new C-Class will arrive at the tail end of 2018.

It hasn't been confirmed which variants of the new model are headed for Singapore, but it's very likely we will receive the same lineup as before: C 180 and C 200 in sedan, coupe, and cabriolet versions. The high-performance Mercedes-AMG C 43 model will also be available in sedan and coupe variants.

It might not look like the cosmetic surgeons did much, but there is quite a lot going on under the surface. And one change to the C 200, a popular version in Singapore, delivers a mild shock.

The current car debuted in 2014, and is now in the middle of its planned life cycle, hence the facelift. As expected, the styling updates are of the minor sort, a headlight cluster here, an air intake section there.

It makes the C-Class, dubbed the "Baby Benz" when it first appeared 1982, look even more like its big brother, the S-Class luxury limousine.

The C-Class probably has the widest visibility and target audience for any Mercedes model. Since the first one (the W201 model) appeared, Mercedes has sold 9.5 million of them around the world. In Singapore, the C-Class remains a strong seller, accounting for approximately a third of official Mercedes cars sold locally.

Across the model range, there has been a raft of big changes. Yet, the most interesting of the lot is the relatively humble C 200 sedan, which gains a brand new engine, as well as mild hybrid technology.

A newly-developed 1.5-litre turbocharged unit replaces the current model's 2.0-litre turbo engine, but it makes the same power as before thanks to the inclusion of a twin-scroll turbocharger and improved heat management.

A belt-driven starter-generator adds 14 horsepower of boost, it's connected to a small lithium-ion battery located in the boot. It only assists the engine and can't power the car on its own, which explains the "mild" label.

From behind the wheel, the C 200 behaves exactly as it does before, and it seems Mercedes has made it a point for the hybrid system to be unobtrusive.

At a standstill, the engine shutoff/restart is now seamless, and the way the electric motor adds extra boost is likewise imperceptible, so the car simply behaves like, well, a classic Mercedes sedan.

There is also the latest nine-speed automatic gearbox adding to the experience, as it's smoother and more efficient than the extant seven-speed unit it replaces.

And if anything, the hybrid system heightens that feeling, as it allows for even more peace and quiet when stopped.

Power is delivered in a smooth, gentle swell, and the new engine makes less vibration than the old one, with the suspension and handling equally tranquil.

The hybrid system is recharged by braking or slowing down, and also allows for coasting, where the engine entirely shuts off at cruising speeds.

These measures mean the new C 200 will almost certainly be more efficient than before, but stricter testing procedures mean the quoted figures are higher now, at 6.2l/100km, versus 5.5l/100km.

Mercedes itself is also embracing the electric charge, having announced earlier this year that it will see plug-in hybrid versions of its cars in Singapore in 2018, one of which will be this new C-Class.

As a harbinger of that, the C 200 is proof that conservative Mercedes buyers shouldn't worry about electrification. Hybridisation only adds to the draw of the Baby Benz, and takes nothing away from its essence as a Mercedes.

In fact, Mercedes-Benz has always been a technical innovator. True fans would know that. To them, a new-fangled mild hybrid system would never come as a shock.

Mercedes-Benz C 200 Elegance

Engine 1,497cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 184hp at 5,800-6,100rpm
Torque 280Nm at 3,000-6,100rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
0-100km/h 7.7 seconds
Top Speed 239km/h
Fuel Efficiency 6.2L/100km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Price TBA
Available Q4 2018

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