SINGAPORE – This is the Mercedes-Benz C 160. It’s eligible for a Category A COE. With Cat A being known as the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) for less expensive, and the C 160 being the cheapest C-Class of them all, it would have been an instant buy for some in the past.
Wind back the clock a decade, and the previous-gen C-Class also had a Cat A eligible C 180 (W204 model,below), and was one of the best-selling Benzes here primarily for that reason alone.
But it’s now 2020 and the current-day C 160 isn’t a straightforward choice as its predecessor. We’ll explain why at the end of this story, first we’ll tell you what the C 160 is, and isn’t.
Watch our video walkthrough of the Mercedes-Benz C 160 here!
While it’s the cheapest ‘big’ Mercedes (nine-speed auto gearbox, rear wheel drive, lots of passenger space) it certainly isn’t a poverty- or taxi-spec car. Essentially it has everything the next model up the ladder, the C 180 does equipment wise, but for S$5k less.
This is the Avantgarde model, identifiable by the large Mercedes badge inset on the two-louvre grille, and it has 17-inch wheels, same as the C 180, and pretty much the bare minimum for a medium-sized car in this age of 22-inch steamrollers.
The interior, as mentioned, is identical to the C 180’s: A 12.3-inch digital instrument display and a 10.25-inch infotainment display, although the latter is not the latest MBUX system, and hence lacks voice control and touchscreen input. No great loss, since we prefer the less distracting rotary controller anyway.
There’s dual-zone automatic air-con, electrically-adjustable seats and steering, a wireless smartphone charger, auto LED lights and wipers, colour-selectable ambient lighting, an electric tailgate and a reverse camera – again, very clearly not a poverty-spec car.
Where it is basic is in active safety – there’s Active Brake Assist, Mercedes’ front collision warning and mitigation system, while the more extensive safety package (including adaptive cruise, blind spot warnings, lane keeping and more) is an S$8.9k option.
The difference you will feel behind the wheel. The C 160 actually uses the latest 1.5-litre turbo inline 4 found on the C 200 model, it makes modest figures – 129hp and 210Nm – which is why it’s Cat A eligible (the category encompasses cars with engine capacities of less than 1.6-litres and making less than 130hp). Compare, the C 180 which has the older 1.6-litre turbo which makes 156hp and 250Nm of torque (Cat B COE).
From behind the wheel, there’s the classic Mercedes feel of not needing to rush, with gentle steering and controls, and the encouragement of the car to take things easy. Not that you could rush much with this engine, it’s
only 10hp off a the same as the current Toyota Corolla Altis in a larger, heavier machine, and while it is capable of brisk progress, the engine has a gruffer tone than the old 1.6 of the C 180, or even the C 200 (which has hybrid boost) and feels like it’s working hard to get things moving along.
0-100km/h in 10.3 seconds is pretty much a crawl for a German luxury sedan, no matter the brand, but we figure if you’re looking at a C 160, it’s about the show and not the go. At least it’s frugal and easy to deliver a wallet-friendly sub-8.0L/100km figure in real life.
As for refinement, there isn’t much road or tyre noise intruding into the cabin, but the strangely stiff ride quality disturbs the tranquility a little, as does the gruff note from the hard-working engine.
All in all, that means the C 160 isn’t quite a clear choice as the old C 180 was, and even more so because of the current circumstances.
Firstly, Mercedes now has a legion of small cars that, while not Cat A eligible, cost less than the C 160’s S$179,888 with COE price tag.
Take a deep breath:
There’s the A 200 hatch from S$154,888, the A 200 Saloon (shown above) from S$156,888, the B 200 multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) from S$165,888, the CLA 200 four-door coupe from S$175,888, and the GLA 180 SUV from S$162,888 (all prices quoted include COE). If you’re a Mercedes fan and not tempted by any one of those cars then you possibly have no pulse at all.
Secondly, the Cat A label doesn’t mean as much as it used to. The price gap between Cat A and Cat B COEs is currently a mere hundreds of dollars – we explain why in our COE analysis story. If it was tens of thousands as it has been in the past, then the C 160 would be a clear and present danger to your wallet.
But if your mind is set on a ‘proper’ Mercedes, you can look at the S$5,000 price gap to the C 180 in two ways: Don’t go for it you’re saving S$5k. Go for it, you’re spending 2.7 percent extra for quite a bit more power and capability.
That situation may change if the Cat A to B gap grows though, but considering how mature the small Mercedes cars are these days, it’s not such a clear gap from A-Class to C-Class either.
Mercedes-Benz C 160 Avantgarde
|Engine||1,497cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||129hp at 5300rpm|
|Torque||210Nm at 1400-4000rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||C1 / 145g/km|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Price||S$179,888 with COE|
|Verdict||The least expensive C-Class isn’t an automatic choice for those who want more Merc for less dollars|