by Brad Leach - 11/12/09
First impressions count and as the price-leader of the C-Class sedan range, for many new car buyers, the C200 KOMPRESSOR is often their first Mercedes-Benz.
Beautifully styled, sharp to drive, nicely built and oozing quality inside, the C 200 KOMPRESSOR certainly delivers the trademark 'Benz appeal and is sure to impress.
Powered by a 1.8-litre supercharged four cylinder engine, driving through either a six-speed manual or - as tested by Car Showroom - a five-speed automatic, the C200 KOMPRESSOR is a mid-size four-door sedan which might be the price leader but still highlights Mercedes-Benz technology and quality.
With its sub-$60K price tag, the C200 KOMPRESSOR certainly challenges the BMW 3-Series for value and sharp driving dynamics.
With 135kW and 250Nm, Mercedes-Benz' 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine eclipses BMW's naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre (115kW/200NM). Covering zero to 100km/h in 8.8 seconds and returning combined cycle fuel economy of 8.2l/100kms, the 1.8-litre demonstrates why Mercedes went the supercharged route - the performance of a six cylinder with the fuel economy of a four.
The relatively lightweight of the four-cylinder with reduced mass over the front axle also pays dividends in the ride and handling department.
As you would expect, calibration to the five-speed automatic is first-class with the C200 KOMPRESSOR delivering spirited acceleration around town and relaxed freeway cruising.
Despite its 'Price Leader' status, inside the C 200 KOMPRESSOR still has the typical Mercedes luxury feel with high quality trim fabrics, nicely sculptured seats and an up-market tactile feel for the steering wheel and other controls.
The flip-up center screen displaying details for the CD sound system is a good idea - easy to read and navigate, it can be folded away when not required.
A further luxury touch is the brushed-aluminium appearance of the instrument panel. As usual with Mercedes-Benz, the instruments are large, simple, easy to read and well laid-out.
Climate control is mounted on the center console for easy access by driver or front seat passenger.
This is the largest C-Class ever with 40mm more front shoulder room than its predecessor and a rear seat that is surprisingly spacious.
Mercedes-Benz' focus on safety is well-known and in developing the current C-Class, the German giant undertook some 100 simulated crash tests. Eight airbags are standard - including two large window bags, which deploy between the A and C-pillar in a side impact.
The front head restraints are a new design called NECK-PRO and in a rear impacts they move early to cushion any whiplash.
In every dimension, the current C-Class is larger than its predecessor - 4581mm long overall (+55m), it is 1770mm wide (+42mm) and the wheelbase is 45mm longer at 2760mm. It's a modern wedge-like design that is undeniably stylish.
We like the new, modern grille with the large Mercedes star and the aggressive front-end styling with large headlights. And the 'cutouts' in the side mirrors, which contain the indicator light repeaters, are a stylish execution.
The curvy rear end with waistline sculpturing is contemporary and prestigious.
Mercedes' clever packing delivers a large boot which is nicely finished inside (again this looks anything but 'Price Leader').
Jump into the drivers' seat, adjust the steering wheel (for rake and reach, naturally) and use the trademark 'Benz electronic seat adjustment and in no time you have an excellent, supportive driving position.
The supercharged four cylinder is nicely responsive through the gears and city maneuvering is easy.
At the front, Mercedes employs a three-link independent front suspension with anti-dive coil springs while the rear is a complex multi-link design.
There is standard ABS anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist plus Electronic Stability Program.
With the same basic chassis architecture used for the V8-powered AMG C63, you expect the C 220 KOMPRESSOR to be sharp and it is.
Over our mountain roads test route it was superbly balanced, taut and responsive. Under pressure the supercharged 1.8-litre did slip down a cog or two to provide the required acceleration but it was always smooth and refined.
Mercedes is sticking with its stalk-operated cruise control which works fine but we know other systems which are easier and more user-friendly.
'Mercedes might call the C 200 KOMPRESSOR its price-leader but by any measure this is one of the world's best mid-size sedans.
Beautifully styled, loaded with high-tech driver aids and luxury features, it represents great buying and highlights the true strengths of one of the world's great automotive brands.
The BMW 3-Series (naturally) but Audi's A4 is also well-credentialed and you should also consider the Alfa Romeo 159.
A lot of car for the coin; 'Benz quality; superb on-road dynamics
Stalk-mounted cruise control
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