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Mercedes-Benz C180 review (2000-2007)
Engine: 2.0 16v in-line 4-cyl
Fuel type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: June 2002
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What is it?
Quite simply the C-Class is the entry level to the real Mercedes Benz experience - forget the A-Class. The C-class is a compact executive saloon competing with the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Recognised the world over for its blend of class, style and longevity, it virtually invented the sector. The C-Class has a long and respected lineage of models, and the current car is getting ever increasing numbers of customers behind that three-pointed star on the bonnet. The C180 is somewhat misleadingly named: it’s not a 1.8-litre under the bonnet, but rather a 2.0-litre engine.
Where does it fit?
Slotting beneath the fantastic new E-Class and super-luxury S-Class the C-Class is Mercedes’ volume model. It’s the first real step up the ladder to the captain-of-industry's S-Class. For the middle executive the C-Class has everything you want, but it faces stiff competition from its rivals. The Jaguar X-type also has its sights set firmly on the C-Class.
Is it for you?
The C-class is intended for everyone. Mercedes hopes it will tempt people out of their upper range Ford Mondeos and Vauxhall Vectras, as well other prestige cars. The C180 is a superbly able car, the 2.0-litre engine producing 129bhp - more than enough to keep it up with the competition. It comes as standard with a six-speed manual transmission, which, like all Mercedes manuals isn’t quite as satisfactory to use as rivals. By contrast, the automatic gearbox will blunt the performance slightly, and isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth having.
What does it do well?
The Mercedes C-Class is a long established compact executive saloon. Unlike many of its forbears it’s now able to compete more readily in the sporting stakes, as Mercedes developed the car with the younger driver in mind. The C180 may have the smallest engine in the range but it’s more than capable of providing the C-Class with entertaining performance. Inside and out there’s no denying the appeal of the Mercedes badge. The car maintains its value well, should you wish to sell it later.
What doesn't it do well?
Sadly the days when cost was no object when developing a Mercedes has long gone. Quality used to be a byword in when mentioning Mercedes but, although they're still extremely well built, rivals have caught up, and some have even bettered the quality feel of Mercedes’ interiors. Rear legroom isn’t the most generous - but again that’s something that blights just about every competitor in this class. Mercedes has yet to master manual transmissions, despite getting just about everything else right, though in fairness its automatics are undoubtedly the best in the business.
What's it like to live with?
The C180 is unlikely to be anything but an enjoyable ownership proposition. Utterly classy - regardless of engine size its appeal is enduring - that badge still has a lot of clout where it matters. The 2.0-litre unit is an able enough engine, but if you can afford more there’s an extensive range incorporating everything from a supercharged version of the C180’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder through to a 3.2-litre V6 in the AMG version. The engines the diesels are definitely the ones to go for, though in all honesty we’d be pretty content with any C-Class on the drive.
Would we buy it?
Without a doubt we’d buy a C-Class. For the sporting driver the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 offer that bit more, despite the front/four-wheel-drive layout of the Audi, but the Mercedes still has plenty of appeal. Mercedes dealers will treat you with the same high regard as someone who’s spent £80,000 on a CL, and when the time comes to sell on your C-Class then you’re almost certain of a good return. It has a solid feel that you’ll only experience in a few other select marques, and for some, having the three-pointed star adorning their bonnet shows that you've made it… quietly of course.
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