► 2018 Mercedes C-class driven
► New mild hybrid 1.5-litre engine
► Prices from £33,180, on sale now
The Mercedes-Benz C-class is big business for its maker. In 2017, the company managed to sell 415,000 saloons, coupes, estates and cabriolets globally - in many ways, it's the cornerstone of the brand. And in order to maintain this status quo in the battle with the Audi A4/A5 and BMW 3- and 4-series, Mercedes has rolled out this mid-term facelift. The question is: is it enough to keep this popular D-segment junior exec at or near the head of the pack?
Although the new standard C-class looks little different from what came before, Mercedes-Benz chief of C-class vehicle development, Christof Kuhner, vows ‘this is the largest update in the history of the C-class.’ The company says no fewer than 6500 components have been replaced or modified to create the 2018 version – despite the fact it looks fundamentally similar to before.
Of course, there is a lot going on under the skin of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-class. For a start, it introduces a raft of new tech to the franchise, most of which has been imported straight from the range-topping S-Class, with 80% of the electronics being all-new. This policy of rapidly cascading new tech down the range from the top is ingrained in the culture of Mercedes-Benz, which explains why its smallest cars tend to be technological leaders.
So, what’s new under the skin of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-class saloon?
The biggest news is the arrival of an all-new engine in the C200 model pictured above. It’s a 1.5-litre four-cylinder with twin-scroll turbo and a mild-hybrid system known as EQ Boost. Based on a 48-volt electrical architecture, EQ Boost is a powerful integrated starter/generator (ISG) designed to boost low-down torque and power.
The EQ Boost system first appeared in the CLS Coupe, and works very effectively on that car. It provides an additional 10kw of power under hard acceleration, filling in the hole in the torque curve before the turbos spool up. It also enables coasting mode (or ‘sailing’ as Mercedes-Benz amusingly calls it), an extension of Merc’s ‘sailing’ mode, where the engine shuts down temporarily to save fuel.
In terms of numbers, the C 200 delivers the goods – maximum power is 182bhp and torque is 207lb ft, and although it’s the model range’s entry point, a maximum speed of 147mph and 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds are more than adequate. The claimed combined fuel consumption of 46.3mpg and 140g/km (on WLTP measurements) are decent and reflect good real-world potential.
How does the Mercedes C 200 drive?
As before, your impressions are dominated by the pleasant interior and the aerodynamic styling. Our car features the optional 12.3-inch digital instrument display and 10.3-inch infotainment system, which lift the interior ambiance. It’s all driven by the centre console-mounted Comand scroll wheel and touch pad, which remain as delightful to use as ever. It’s a £2795 option, but worth it if you have the budget.
Once underway, it’s best to describe this engine as a provider of adequate performance and excellent potential fuel consumption. Most of the time you’ll be unaware of the assistance you’ll get from the EQ Boost system, instead it just delivers decent, if noisy, acceleration from low- to mid-revs, accompanies by a disappointingly anodyne engine note. Otherwise, it’s well insulated, but hardly nice to listen to.
It’s the same with the engine shut-off system, which most of the time, you’ll be completely unaware you’re coasting. Like all C-Classes, the C 200 feels most at home on motorways, with a relaxed demeanor and planted feel. It’s biased towards pliant ride quality, which is situation normal. On back roads, the responsive transmission and decent mid-range punch, mean it’s quick enough between corners. The neutral handling and inert steering comprise to deliver corners without you remembering it.
What other changes do you get?
Other than that, this 2018 facelift is very much a range tweak. Driver-assistance systems have been improved by the fitment of more radars and cameras, while the visual tweaks are limited to new bumpers and lights, and a selection of updated alloy wheels. This is not groundbreaking stuff. Mercedes-Benz is proud of its new LED headlamps – which in top form offer the maximum legal brightness, and a range of up to 650 metres.
Inside, it’s business as usual. The infotainment screen is wider and flatter than before, and there’s the option of a new 12.3-inch digital instrument display for the driver. This is crisp, clear and very configurable – and more than a match for Audi’s virtual cockpit set-up. There’s also a new steering wheel, and northern nightclub-style ambient lighting.
Beyond the new 1.5-litre petrol C 200, the engine line-up doesn’t change significantly. Diesels are still in the mix, but are receding in importance – in the saloon and estate, you can choose between a 1.6-litre (C 200 d, 158bhp) and 2.0-litre (C 220 d, 192bhp), with the latter available with 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Verdict: Mercedes-Benz C 200
As an all-rounder, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was very near the top of the junior executive class, ceding overall honours to the Audi A4, with the BMW 3 Series remaining the default choice for keen drivers. This facelift hasn’t done anything to overturn that result, so much as being it level pegging with the Audi.
Given that, it’s a supremely capable car to live with. Positive points are its refined, relaxed demeanor and how easy it is to drive. The updated tech make it an even safer, and more connected choice. The C 200 is an interesting alternative to diesel, and we’re expecting it to sell well, although like all of the four-cylinder C-Class models, it sounds disappointingly gruff.
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