Richard Aucock
03/12/2008 00:00 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport review (2009-2011)



Mercedes-Benz C-Class (© Mercedes-Benz)


What - Mercedes C 180 K Sport
Where - Brooklands, Surrey
Price - £26,270
Available - January 2009
Key rivals - BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Alfa Romeo 159

Summary

Mercedes' first BlueEfficiency model introduces its mainstream green approach. With a strong new engine returning good economy, it is an impressive addition.

We like: Engine response, refinement, sporting drive, real-world economyWe don't like: CO2 and tax rises with trim level and options, BMW 320i is more economical


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First Impressions

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes has joined the green model bandwagon. Its BlueEfficiency models aim to use current engines and gearboxes, but in a more fuel-efficient manner. We have already driven the forthcoming C 250 CDI BlueEfficiency, and found it very impressive. But the first to hit UK streets is actually this - the C 180 K BlueEfficiency. Don't be fooled by the name. 'K' means it has a supercharger, but the 180 part is a red herring. The old 1.8-litre engine has been replaced by an all-new 1.6-litre engine, that's much more fuel-efficient than before. Producing 156hp, it is not short on power, either.

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

Like arch-rival BMW's EfficientDynamics models, this is not an 'eco special'. Rather, all new C 180 K variants will become BlueEfficiency models, from January 2009. They have low-resistance tyres, a lower body height and taller gear ratios. Detail changes include a covered radiator grille, and even the joints on the headlights have been sealed.In time, all Mercedes models will get a BlueEfficiency makeover, improving economy and reducing emissions. In this case, it is 9 per cent more fuel efficient, yet list prices are pretty much unchanged. As the C 180 K is the best-selling C-Class of all, this means plenty of buyers will be getting lower running costs. But is it any good?

Performance

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

This is a very strong engine. Smooth and refined, it revs freely and makes a throaty noise when being driven hard. However, in the dash panel, there is a gearchange indicator. This encourages early upshifts, often before the rev counter has reached 2000rpm. Ordinarily, this would make a car feel lethargic and bogged down.But because the Mercedes has a supercharger, it has lots of low-rev engine 'pull'. In this respect, it is a bit like a diesel, and means you can quickly select high gears and still have good engine response. Not only does this improve economy, it also cuts engine noise further. This is an extremely refined car.

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

In this respect, it is better than rivals using smaller petrol engines. Such models can feel 'under-engined', and a BMW 320i certainly requires lots of engine revs and gearchanging to perform well. The C 180 K is much more relaxed and effortless. Drivers will simply be not aware of its 1.6-litre capacity.The six-speed gearbox is light and easy, while the clutch is also progressive. It is an easy car to drive smoothly. The foot-operated handbrake remains awkward on hill starts, though. An automatic version is available, but this sees fuel economy returns fall.

Ride and Handling

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

The C-Class we drive here was a Sport model. These can be differentiated by the stick-up bonnet badge been replaced by a grille bearing Mercedes coupe-style three pointed star motif. It is well worth doing so, as they are considerably nicer to drive than standard SE models. Sportier suspension gives much more responsive handling. There is less lurch turning into corners, and it rolls less in them. It has a more agile feel - yet the ride quality does not suffer. Indeed, as it is more settled and flatter, it is probably preferable to the standard car. In Sport trim, it is a very satisfying car to drive.

Interior and Equipment

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

Sport guise also brings interior enhancements. The ugly four-spoke steering wheel of standard cars is substituted by a nicer three-spoke wheel. It's a little smaller, too. Behind this sits extremely good-looking instruments, which include the aforementioned electronic gearchange indicator. Amusingly, hold engine revs in second and it sequences through 'advised' gears. '2-6' is a frequent recommendation...Better bolstering on the seats holds the driver in more securely, and there is good-looking silver finishing for the dashboard. Rear space remains so-so but the slightly downmarket feel of standard models is replaced by a greater feeling of substance. Even basic models have climate control and a good haul of electrics.

Economy and Safety

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

The C 180 K uses a 'downsized' engine to produce significant economy gains, rather than BMW's preferred eco headliner, engine stop-start. With an average of 44.8mpg plus CO2 emissions of 149g/km, Mercedes has done a very good job. It's not quite as good as a 320i, but the more useable engine performance compensates. It's not quite that simple, though. Sport models have larger wheels, and it is Mercedes' policy to accurately reflect the extra drag these cause. Such models therefore have CO2 emissions of 158g/km. This imposes an extra tax burden on drivers. The popular automatic is less economical, too, returning 39.8mpg.

The MSN Cars Verdict 4/5

Mercedes-Benz C180 K Sport (© Image © Mercedes-Benz)

This is an understated green model, but a significant one for Mercedes. It is the first production Benz to show that current production technology can produce significant gains; the idea of a 45mpg petrol C-Class is very compelling indeed.Particularly as it is such a useable proposition on the road. The new engine is not an eco-special, but a strong performer that is able to carry off the low revs necessary for good economy. It is also more refined than the engine it replaces, and a better performer, too.

Engines diesel 1597cc
Power hp 156@5200rpm
Torque lb ft 169@3500-4500rpm
0-62 mph secs 9.5
Top speed mph 143
Mpg combined 44.8
CO2 g/km / Tax % 149/17% 

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