Does a facelift keep the Mercedes C-Class fresh in the face of revamped rivals?
SINGAPORE — Babies tend to have perfect skin, but here’s one that’s just had a facelift. The tyke of the three-pointed star family was updated last year, thus giving us the chance to kick off 2019 with a drive of the freshly revamped Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
All three versions — that is, coupe, cabrio and the sedan you see here — have had a facelift, and as is so often with these things they’ve been given rejigged styling, new features and some fresh stuff in the engine department.
At the moment, only two versions of the C 180 are on sale, the ever-popular Avantgarde spec for S$182,888 with Certificate Of Entitlement, and this fancier Exclusive variant for S$3,000 more.
The former has been a traditional heavyweight in the market, but the more regal-looking Exclusive model is the one that’s visually closer to the baby Benz tradition of taking the stately elegance of a Mercedes limo and tastefully shrinking its proportions. Its three-pointed star stands atop the radiator grille, where it belongs.
Whichever you choose, the C-Class is in for a fight this year: its chief rivals have been revamped, too, with a facelifted Audi A4 due for launch and an all-new BMW 3 Series around the corner (although the smaller engined variants that make up the bulk of sales are only arriving late this year).
Has the facelift done enough to keep the C-Class a fresh player in a market full of revitalised offerings? Read on to find out.
Facelift? Got meh?
Got! Admittedly it’s hard to suss out just what’s new, but apparently there are resculpted bumpers and new lights, front and rear. The headlamps are probably an easy giveaway, with LEDs providing the main illumination now.
Over at the rear of the car, there are new taillights, too. The twin hairpin lighting signature back there is gone, with a simpler lamp design in its place.
Still, Mercedes says more than 6,000 components of the C-Class have been changed, which makes this a pretty heavy revamp. Most likely, the looks have stayed similar because no one has ever had reason to complain about them.
Then what’s new?
Well, the C 180 has a carry-over drivetrain, so the 1.6-litre turbo and nine-speed auto remain the same as before. That’s no shame, because it’s a plucky engine and when you put your right foot down the Mercedes picks up speed pretty smartly.
It feels at least as punchy as, say, a 2.5-litre non-turbo V6 engine. Unless you’re revving it to the redline, you won’t hear much of the four-cylinder, either.
But the new 1.5-litre turbo in the C 200 ought to be way more interesting, not least because it has a starter/generator that can feed in plenty of instant torque when you accelerate. This mildest of mild hybrid systems also gives much smoother engine starts, so we can’t wait to try it out in local conditions when a test car becomes available.
Ok, but what if I want to stick to a C 180?
Then you’ll find the new stuff not under the bonnet but inside the cabin.
Many of the upgrades have filtered down from the pricier S-Class and E-Class models, so expect digital instruments, a 10.25-inch widescreen infotainment display and touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel.
The digital dials are pretty crowd-pleasing, not least because they welcome you into the C-Class with a fairly snazzy show.
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You can of course choose from a number of skins or display schemes, and effectively tailor the dashboard to your liking.
64 colours for the cabin lighting give you even more scope to make the interior your own, and just to keep things slightly more fresh, there are new trim materials, such as the open-pore wood in our test car.
Bottom line, if you think Mercedes is getting its cars’ design right these days, the brand has really sussed out its cabins, too.
Everyone has Apple CarPlay these days. How about here?
You’ll be happy to know that CarPlay is present and accounted for, and it’s a pleasure to use even though there’s no touchscreen.
If you happen to hate the Cult Of Jobs, then you’ll be chuffed that Android Auto works with the C-Class infotainment, too.
What’s surprising is that the facelift didn’t bring the new touchpad system or Siri-like MBUX interface that you can get in the A-Class. Oh well, let the young have their toys for now.
So, this is a car old people?
No, it’s just more family-oriented than an A-Class. In some ways, more so than its rivals, too. For one thing, the back seats offer plenty of space, with a generous amount of head- and legroom for lanky teens.
For another, the C-Class does a credible impression of the larger Mercedes sedans. It doesn’t ride as plushly over bumps, but it has a similar sense of calming refinement with a cabin that offers a soothing environment.
Even the C 180 models pull this off nicely, making the C-Class the smallest Mercedes that feels like a Mercedes. It may have gotten a facelift, but there’s no mistaking who this baby’s parents are.
Mercedes-Benz C 180 Exclusive
|Engine||1,595cc, turbocharged in-line 4|
|Power||156hp at 5,300rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1,200-4,000rpm|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Price||S$185,888 with COE|