> READ: C-Class wins 2015 World Car of the Year award
> C-Class now locally assembled
The C-Class has been a bread-and-butter model for Mercedes-Benz.
Still is today, just as the 3 Series rival is to BMW, as they expand merrily into all sorts of niches in the pursuit of mo’ money.
Where once it was the entry model for those aspiring for a little luxury in their lives, the Stuttgart car maker has since diversified to offer the world a trove of other models below the C-Class as it casts a wider net to capture a bigger base.
Following the C-Class debut in 1993, other smaller models have popped up, with a brief to sally forth and be the multiple conduits to profitability. Mercedes-Benz has since gone on to introduce the A-Class and B-Class, as well as the CLA and GLA models.
The recent renaming of its line-up has been well publicised as Mercedes went about knocking some sense into its expanding fleet. Under the new order, core models – the A, B, C, E, S classes – are complemented by offroaders, 4-door coupes and roadsters.
With the C-Class being the golden goose that keeps on giving to the coffers, it’s no surprise that Mercedes-Benz will fuss over it to ensure every iteration is set up to be as enticing as possible.
So here we are with the C-Class dolled up in the RM285,888 Avantgarde form.
It’s one of three fully imported variants available locally today, the others being the RM314,888 C 250 Exclusive (otherwise known as Elegance previously) and the RM339,888 C 250 AMG Line. Expect the locally assembled C-Class to be out soon.
As tradition dictates, the Avantgarde/AMG Line are the sporty ones, marked out with a big star slapped onto a twin-louvred grille; the Exclusive carries the more sedate appearance with a smaller star on top of the bonnet.
Line up the Mercedes sedans and notice the uncanny similarities between them and the flagship S-Class.
It’s the common identity that all car makers strive to achieve in the hope such associations will rub off on the cheaper cars and convince prospects to open their wallets.
It’s not far from the truth to describe the C-Class as a downsized version of the S-Class that still has much going for it in terms of equipment and performance.
On the outside, the C-Class certainly looks the part of a premium sedan, sleek and attractive especially as night falls and the lights come on.
The DRL “eyebrows” lend a nice flourish to the all-LED headlights, while the intricate LED strips in the taillamps, alongside the stretched lower chrome strip simulating exhaust tips at both ends, make the pert derriere stand out.
Adding to the overall good looks of the C 200 are snazzy 17-inch alloys.
The attractiveness is accentuated further by precise lines and sculptural surfaces that create progressive light and shadow effects.
Note that the test car was an earlier example that was brought in before launch last September. Unlike the units now sold, it does not have a reverse camera, Garmin map in SD card, ambient lighting and illuminated door sills.
In keeping with the Avantgarde motif, there are paddle shifters and the interior has generous slabs of brush metal finishing that cut a swathe across the dash and all doors, contrasting with the dark leathery trim and high gloss panels.
The meter cluster is straightforward with twin dials separated by a hi-definition colour LCD multi-info display bar.
A tablet-size LCD infotainment screen looks like its suspended in the air above the air-cond vents.
Aesthetics-wise, it would have been better to design the 7-inch screen with thinner bezels. Tell that to your supplier, Mercedes.
A new touchpad integrated into the handrest above the controller on the centre console looks hi-tech albeit gimmicky. The touchpad works like a smartphone screen, allowing for letters, numbers and special characters to be scrawled on it.
Like the CLA and higher-end Mercs, the C-Class comes with a gear shifter stalk behind the steering wheel…this is a way to free up space in the centre console for other uses but is a controversial move that doesn’t quite gel with the concept of a compact sporty car.
Frankly, we like it the usual way and not on a stalk but we reckoned the brand cachet and other nice bits will make most prospects shut up and buy the car all the same.
One photo here shows just how much legroom there is for a tall fella in the back seats; we are suitably impressed as we can’t recall the last C-Class as having that much space.
Elbow room is similarly gratifying for two.
The roomy interior is made possible because of an 80mm longer wheelbase; the car is also wider by 40mm than before.
Bigger adults may wish the rear bench had better thigh support and more headroom; front seat occupants are better off with extensible thigh rests that enhance comfort.
In spite of the few things we are not pleased with, it has to be said that Mercedes-Benz has done a fabulous job with the cabin revamp, making it look fresh, modern and refined.
Out back, the 480l boot is big and deep so no complaints about capacity.
The C 200 and C 250 share the same 2.0-litre engine albeit in different states of tune. The C 200 cranks out 184hp at 5,500rpm and 300Nm of torque at 1,200-4,000rpm. This allows the car to sprint from 0 to 100kph in a decent 7.3s, accelerating onwards to a top speed of 235kph.
Mercedes says the W205 C-Class is up to 100kg lighter, the result of extensive use of aluminium – nearly 50% more than its predecessor.
The rear-wheel drive car sits lower as well.
The steering is spot-on but light, and the brakes are initially grabby until you learn to modulate your foot on the brake pedal.
On-road behaviour is revealing with the car defaulting to being a quiet ride at highway speeds, and noise seeping in only at high triple-digit speeds.
There’s an elastic well of torque that allows for quick overtaking; one can skip gears on changing down to summon an immediate rush to get past, say, the dodgy motorcyclist or timber lorry.
We enjoyed the acceleration in Sport and Sport+ modes, which hold the lower gears longer and make the steering heavier without losing the natural feel especially when powering through corners.
The 7-speed auto is able to keep pace with driver demands, staying abreast when push comes to shove.
A firm suspension ensures the lightweight chassis maintains its balance and poise.
Don’t get too enthusiastic in going over speed breakers though. Although the rebound is well dampened, we felt an unsettling thud when the body quiets down.
There’s Auto start/stop to save a bit of fuel in a jam but it can be disabled if it gets annoying.
While prodding the car’s abilities and limits, we were reassured that it has a long list of safety kit to keep us out of trouble such as seven airbags, Attention Assist, electronic stability control, adaptive brakes and Pedestrian Protection with active bonnet.
Overall, Mercedes-Benz has put together a well stacked C-Class, offering the signature comfort and adding more value with the level of kit onboard.
What’s also welcome is performance that’s no longer a subject of sniggers.