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mercedes benz c class c 200 preview sometimes displacement cannot be replaced

Mercedes-Benz C-Class C 200 preview: Sometimes displacement cannot be replaced

A 1.5-litre turbocharged mild hybrid engine now sits on the throne previously occupied by a 2.0-litre turbo engine. It might have been a good idea on paper but in reality...

Christopher Ng Photo

Christopher Ng

11 Jan 2019

As far as car facelifts are concerned, the exterior updates on the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class C 200 are subtle. No surprises there, it is logical that no car manufacturer would ever break the mould just for a product update. So you have to look behind the metal to discover the changes, which starts with the lights.

Although the dimensions of the housing remain the same, the front and tail lamps are new in design. To be honest, the new lights’ design looks good, blending in nicely with the Avantgarde kit that brings with it a front bumper chromed in the right place, diamond-patterned mesh air inlets and twin pipe exhaust finished in high-gloss chrome at the rear.

The interior received some updates as well, giving the cabin a visual change. Looking as if it is floating above the dashboard is a 10.25-inch media display with a set of controls placed on either side of the steering wheel. In front of the driver’s seat is the new 12.3-inch digital meter cluster that allows you to change its colour and layout in the three styles of Classic, Sport and Progressive. Even the safety features get a boost in the form of the Blind Spot Assist, something that you never knew you needed until you have it.

Still, these updates are pale in comparison to what is beneath the bonnet. Gone is the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and in its place a smaller displacement turbocharged engine assisted by a mild hybrid system. 

To be specific, the new C 200 is now powered by the company’s new 1.5-litre turbocharged inline-4 that has in its arsenal an EQ Boost 48-volt belt-driven alternator/starter system that injects another 13hp and 160Nm into the drive. It happens only when the situation requires it, especially during initial acceleration where the turbo is often found spooling, eliminating turbo lag altogether. The new powertrain delivers similar output to the larger, now-replaced engine — 184hp and 280Nm of torque.  

In practice, the C 200 moves around town and city with good road manners, poise and sublime silky shifts courtesy of the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission. The engine is powerful enough to execute short bursts of acceleration to overtake slower vehicles. Over in the back-roads, the saloon handles with enough accuracy and speed that will give you a sense of satisfaction cruising from one narrow bend in the road to the next. The C 200 performs as it should with no marked differences from the pre-facelift model.

But the C 200’s 1.5-litre engine has its limits. On highways, the saloon will get up to the national speed limit without complaint but go faster, and the engine starts gasping for breath. It is somewhat difficult to hit the upper reaches of the speedometer, but it will get there eventually. The same can be said if you’re attempting to drive up to a highland resort in quick time. The delivery of more horses and torque from EQ Boost can be delayed, especially in situations where the incline increases tremendously after a slow corner, taking some shine off from the drive.

But I wouldn’t write-off the C 200 as yet. The car was tested on a drive up to Cameron Highlands, which uncovered more of the engine’s performance shortcomings rather than its advantages than was intended. However, the other C-Class cars present at the event — C 300 and C 43 — were busy having fun. The C 200’s performance suggests that it is tuned for fuel economy more than excitement. And a full bore review will bring to the front the C 200’s better qualities... yes?