The C-Class is no longer about sportiness, but simplicity and elegance
Ever since the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was introduced back in 1993 to succeed the W190, it was all about dynamism and sportiness, as its main rival was the BMW 3 Series. With every generation, the model was getting sportier and sportier until it came to a point few years ago when we were struggling to tell the difference between the C300 and the C43 AMG.
All along, it was a battle between the C-Class and the 3 Series to see which model was more dynamic, until the fifth generation C-Class which we’re looking at here, came into the picture.
While many were expecting to see a C-Class that looked more ‘garang’ than the W205, Mercedes-Benz pulled a surprise 180-degree handbrake turn and changed the approach completely as the new fifth-generation W206 C-Class looks rather conservative and simple.
Realising that there is an equal amount of demand for elegance and simplicity versus sportiness and dynamism, it was a very sensible decision by Mercedes-Benz to change what it was bringing to the table with the C-Class.
Plus, it is safe to say that the 3 Series was always a step ahead when it came to offering a more exhilarating driving experience. So, why focus on offering something your rival is very good at, when you can offer something else? After all, not every buyer who wants a car in this segment is about sportiness.
Launched last year, the W206 C-Class is available in two versions in Malaysia, namely the C200 Avantgarde we’re looking at here which is priced at RM288,334, and the higher-spec C300 AMG Line which is priced at RM330,681.
Looking like a baby S-Class, the new C-Class measures 4,751 mm long, 1,820 mm wide and 1,438 mm tall, making it 65 mm longer, 10 mm wider, and 9 mm lower than the outgoing W205. The length of the wheelbase has also grown by 25 mm to 2,865 mm.
There is nothing much to shout about the exterior of the C200 Avantgarde which is the base model in the lineup. Key features include a pair of slimmer and sharper LED headlights and taillights, a front grille that is slimmer than the outgoing model, as well as a set of 18-inch twin five-spoke wheels. Overall, it is safe to say that the C-Class looks significantly less muscular and more matured now, appealing to a more matured group of buyers.
Modernized all round and enhanced with sporty design elements, the new C-Class features a short front overhang, long wheelbase, rear overhang as well as a sleeker bonnet with power domes that accentuates this urge of forward motion.
The windscreen and passenger cell have been moved to the rear for these classic proportions known in the industry as “cab-backward design”. All models also feature a central star, with the design and character of the radiator grille differing in the details.
The simplicity of the exterior is carried over into the cabin as well, as the designers have kept the overall design simple and classy. Gone is the long dual-screen display which covers half of the dashboard, replaced by a completely new dashboard that is divided into two sections.
While the upper section houses the newly designed air cond vents, the bottom half features a new 11.9-inch central touch-screen display which reminds us of what you get in a Tesla. The touchscreen also features a fingerprint scanner which can identify you quickly and conveniently.
This is because your personal data, such as profiles or even office functions, are protected. When you touch the scanner, the system then grants the user access. This is secure and additionally more straightforward than entering a PIN.
Complementing the central display is a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel which comes with various themes for the driver to choose from, showing all the necessary information regarding the car and its surroundings.
Since everything is digital, there is little to no buttons or switches to fiddle with, except the ones you get on the steering wheel. Other than that, the cabin is more spacious now compared to the outgoing model. To be more specific, rear occupants get 13 mm more head room and an additional 35 mm of knee space. Boot space however, remains unchanged at 455-litres.
Although it says that there is more space in the specifications sheet, it was barely noticeable in real time. The level of plushness, comfort, and refinement were all top-notch, unmistakably Mercedes-Benz. On the upside, the Artico faux leather seats provided good level of support, but the blacked out colour theme here looks rather dull.
So, if you want the cabin to look more luxurious and visually appealing, you can opt for either brown or brown/black combination upholstery. If comfort is your priority, the C200 here is the model to go for as the C300 actually comes with a slightly firmer sports seats.
Where practicality and convenience is concerned, there is a wireless charging dock and a USB Type-C charging port in front, and a lot of space to store your belongings in the form of the door pockets, and the storage compartment in the centre console. On the downside, there are no charging ports for the rear occupants, only air vents.
Powering the C200 Avantgarde here is the new M254 1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and a new 48V mild hybrid system, replacing the belt driven starter-generator with a new integrated starter generator setup.
While the engine produces 204 PS and 300 Nm of torque, the ISG motor provides another 20 PS and 200 Nm of torque, enabling the C200 to do the century sprint in 7.3 seconds with a top speed of 246 km/h. Paired with the engine is the 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic which is as smooth as butter.
A 1.5-litre turbo engine may not sound great on paper but the C200 here is anything but slow. Thanks to the 48V mild hybrid system and turbocharging, the C200’s performance is identical to what you get in a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre car, which is more than adequate for Malaysian roads. It doesn’t pounce when you floor the accelerator but power delivery is very seamless. In fact, we didn’t feel like we need more power even once throughout our stint with the car.
While all the bumps, lumps, and uneven surfaces were absorbed and tolerated respectably, corners were also negotiated in an impressive manner with little to no body roll. If we are to compare it with the BMW 320i, the latter feels sharper and more composed, but the C200 is still a capable car around corners. A little fidgety, but still capable.
Last but not least, the list of safety and driving assistance features includes seven airbags, active lane keeping assist, cruise control, active blind spot assist, active brake assist, a lane tracking package, a tyre pressure monitoring system, and an active parking assist with Parktronic. The only thing the C200 doesn’t get is a 360-degree panoramic view. Instead, you only get a reverse camera.
Overall, the C200 Avantgarde here is still unmistakably a C-Class, which is luxurious enough to be a status symbol for a young executive who is on the way up the corporate ladder. At the same time, thanks to the new design approach that is more elegant or conservative (however you want to look at it), it also suits a more matured group of buyers.
Unlike the BMW 3 Series which still emphasises sportiness and ruggedness, the C200 here now looks calmer and more elegant than most of its predecessors. So, if you’re not someone who is all about living life in the fast lane, it is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the market for a sedan with a budget of about RM290,000.
W206 Mercedes-Benz C200 Specifications
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol, turbocharged
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Electrification: 48-Volt Integrated Starter Motor mild hybrid system
Max power: 204 PS at 5,800 rpm
Max torque: 300 Nm at 1,800 rpm
0 to 100 km/h: 7.3 seconds
Top speed: 246 km/h
Price: RM288,334 on the road without insurance