FIRST DRIVE | The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is made in SA for the world
The new 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is here. We joined the local launch in the Western Cape to sample the newest compact executive saloon on the market, taking the fight to the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series.
Like its predecessors, it is being built at the Mercedes-Benz plant in East London for markets around the world.
The external styling of the new car is a natural evolution from the previous generation, with a sleek design that features more rounded edges, as well as sharper front and rear lights. The bonnet features two bulges that remind of the previous generation C63 AMG.
The line-up includes the C200 and C220d, both four-cylinder derivatives. A hybrid model and the Mercedes-AMG C43 and C63 versions will be added towards the end of the year.
The C200 sports a 1.5-litre, turbocharged-petrol engine that delivers 150kW and 300Nm. The C220d uses a 2.0-litre, turbocharged-diesel mill producing 147kW and 440Nm. Both variants put the power down through a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The integrated starter-generator, part of the mild hybrid assistance element in both offerings, adds another 15kW and 200Nm.
Performance for both models sees the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.3 seconds, with top speeds just short of 250km/h. The diesel engine offers incredible fuel consumption, with a claimed mixed consumption figure of only 4.7l/100km. The C200 is claimed to do 6.3l/100km.
There are two specification levels on offer: Avantgarde and AMG Line. An immediate way to differentiate between the two is the grille. In Avantgarde guise, the grille uses vertical slats where the AMG Line opts for a honeycomb grid design.
The driving experience is pleasant, with comfort taking priority over sportiness in the current derivatives. The wheelbase has been lengthened by 65mm and the track has been widened by 10mm, which gives it more interior space, specifically for rear passengers, and makes the handling more stable. Driving on a twisty mountain pass where a few bumps are present, the suspension wallowed a bit in the Avantgarde C220d we drove, but the C200 AMG Line in Sport Plus mode didn't exhibit any of this and had very good dampening that inspired driver confidence.
The steering is light but not as communicative to the driver as we'd like. Braking performance is good, although it takes some time to get used to the pedal feel. The first bit of pressure applied charges up the EQ Boost mild hybrid system.
The interior is completely revamped and a large 11.9-inch screen has been incorporated into the centre console to control almost all aspects of the car through the MBUX interface. Despite being touch only, controlling everything from the radio and air-conditioning to vehicle settings is intuitive. The 12.3-inch dash display behind the steering wheel also shows all the information a driver needs in a bright and clear manner.
The general aesthetic of the interior is stylish, but some of the trim panels are a bit on the hard plastic side and don't offer the best tactile experience. As an evolution to the previous generation C-Class, the new car improves on many aspects to make it an attractive prospect for someone in the market for a compact executive saloon.
The pricing might be a bit of a deterrent. In Avantgarde specification, the C200 petrol's base price is R856,000 and the C220d is just shy of R912,000. About R60,000 extra is needed for the AMG Line spec.
This makes it considerably more expensive than the BMW or Audi equivalent. A base BMW 320i is R792,000 by comparison.
The new C-Class is a modern car with the traditional Mercedes-Benz characteristics in place. It is bound to satisfy brand loyalists and new buyers.
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