We were recently loaned the latest Mercedes-Benz C200 by MB SA. Here are some of our thoughts on the newcomer after spending a week together. 

We must admit upfront that we have long been fans of the smallest Mercedes sedan (that is before the A-Class came to be). This was strongly influenced by the racing antics of the very first of its kind the 190E, internally dubbed W201. On track adventures against the likes of the BMW M3 and others were the stuff of legends.

However, it must have felt like a bit of gamble when the company known for producing large, luxurious sedans took a step ‘down’ to create a smaller version. The venture into that segment paid handsomely and 10,5 million units of the W20X series have been sold since 1982. As a result it is the single biggest-selling model for Mercedes-Benz worldwide. 

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Sleek new prospect

Through six generations, if you include the 190E, the C-class has evolved into the sleek new shape you see in the pics above. Now, more than ever, it echoes the design traits that were first introduced in the latest S-class. You can see and read more about the S-Class by clicking here.

The front and rear lights are quite close in execution to the largest sedan in Mercedes’ portfolio. This helps give the new C a premium and more grown up appearance. Our loan unit looked particularly stylish with a set of optional 19-inch alloys and front grille that has myriad Three-pointed Stars in a discreet pattern. The latter flanks LED headlamps, with adaptive brightness activation, as standard.

The new C-Class is also considerably larger than its predecessor. Overall it is 4 751 mm long (an increase of 65 mm) and 1 820 mm wide. The wheelbase has been extended 25 mm to 2 865, which results in more legroom for occupants. Only the height remains unchanged.

High-tech inside

The W206 also closely mimics the S-class’ interior treatment. Most occupants first clapped eyes, and commented, on the massive touchscreen tablet in the centre of the facia. This ‘free floating’ infotainment screen, that measures 11,9-inches, was first seen in the S-class and now carried over to the smaller saloon. 

The touchscreen interface handles most major functions, including the climate controls. Initially it seems distracting to have such a large, brightly lit display within the driver’s eye-line, but one quickly gets used to its presence. A convenient side-effect of its size is that all the icons are also scaled up, making them quicker to spot with a quick flick of one’s eyes. There is also the “hey Mercedes” voice prompt system for completely hand-free usage.

This system offers Android Auto and Apple Carplay as standard. In addition there is dual-zone climate control, a standard item along with the display for the standard parking sensor system. Niceties such as satellite navigation remain on the options list. There is also a digital display ahead of the driver. Both screens can be tailored in their appearance. There are three display styles (Discreet, Sporty, Classic) and three modes (Navigation, Assistance, Service). 

Space-y

Sitting in the front chairs one feels as though you are cocooned by the large centre console, so each front passenger has their own ‘mini’ cabin as it were. By eye, it all seems very upmarket and posh, particularly at night when the ambient lighting is in play. Poke around and you can find a few scratchy plastics, but these are not on any touch points. The soft-touch leather wrapped steering, for instance, feels great in one’s hands.

On one occasion we had to run a few family members to the airport. Both oldies were not happy to drop down onto the rear bench of the low-slung sedan. However, they enjoyed the luxurious nature of the rear cabin as well as the cushy ride. In addition, the voluminous boot swallowed all their luggage for an extended stay abroad.

Engine options

There are two engine derivatives available as at the time of writing. These are the C220d and the car loaned to us, a C200. Incidentally, all versions of the W205 C-class will be fitted with inline four-cylinder engines. Even hot AMG versions will have four-pot motors. In the case of the range-leading C63 it will boast a heavily electrified drivetrain and all-wheel-drive. 

You can read about the Mercedes-AMG C63 drivetrain here and you can see the upcoming model in action at this link.

Regardless of size or output, each engine is mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission. In the case of the Mercedes-Benz C200 the engine displaces 1,5 litres and features a turbocharger. Peak power is rated as 150 kW along with 300 N.m of torque. 

Little engine that can

A 48-volt battery and integrated starter/generator motor supplements the petrol engine. This element recoups energy usually lost under braking, using it to start the engine and when accelerating. This small-ish motor has power and torque on tap, there’s no doubt about. Even so, it sounds a little rowdy when you really ask a lot of it.

It isn’t brisk off the line, but has plenty on tap when overtaking. Mash the throttle and the noises that emanate from the engine bay are at odds with the stylish exterior and posh interior. It seems as though the silky noises made by a V6 would be more befitting. At this point it is worth noting that the new C-class is extremely quiet on the road. The bulk of the sound entering the cabin depends largely on the road surface and wind rushing around the side mirrors.

Of course, the advantage of employing a small engine is a reduction in fuel consumption. The quote figure for the Mercedes-Benz C200 is 6,6 L/100 km/h. We achieved a more realistic 7,8 during our time together – still an impressive figure for a petrol-powered luxury car.

On the road

The Mercedes-Benz C200 rides on an all-independent suspension arrangement, as has been tradition. The front features a four-link set-up and there are multi-links at the rear. The latter is mounted to a subframe to isolate occupants from unwanted noises and road imperfections.

In terms of its ride the W206 excels. Its primary ride allows it to waft along serenely on the open road. Sharper ridges are felt, but not harshly so. The optional 19-inch wheels on ribbon sidewalls must be responsible. Cars with smaller diameter rims must be even more pliant. The upshot of the 15 mm lower suspension and wider footwear is an unexpected abundance of grip.

Our loaner Mercedes-Benz C200 was fitted with the optional rear-axle steering. This system turns the rear wheels by up to 2,5 degrees. The direction depends on the road speed. Below 60 km/h the rear and front wheels turn in opposite directions. In essence this reduces the turning circle by 430 mm to 10,64 metres. It is quite noticeable from the driver’s seat, too. When speeds rise above 60 km/h the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts to virtually lengthen the wheelbase. This results in more stability and surefootedness at speed.

Summary

Mercedes-Benz must spend lots of time and expend resources honing the C-class. Its place within the company’s portfolio calls for maximum effort to ensure the newest car does not mess with the extremely successful recipe. All the hallmarks that have made the C-class a top-seller have been retained and honed to an exceptional new level, we are glad to report. Now if we could just see it in race action against the likes of the latest BMW M4 and Audi RS4 we would be very happy.

Model: Mercedes-Benz C200 

Price: R849 000

Engine: 1,5-litre inline four, turbopetrol

Transmission: nine-speed automatic, RWD

Max power: 150 kW

Max torque: 300 N.m

0-100 km/h: 7,3 sec

Top speed: 246 km/h

Fuel consumption: 6,6 L/100 km