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While it may not look like a dramatic upgrade, the engineers at Mercedes-Benz have been busy decking the C-Class out with a raft of modern hybrid technology.
The latest 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class now represents even better value for money thanks to all of the gear they have crammed under the body. But, does it still drive like a C-Class should?
Kicking off from $63,700 (plus on-road costs), the new C-Class cops an $1800 price increase, but brings with it some pretty cool technology that I'll run through below.
Visually, the styling update is a welcome one. While the C-Class was never a bad-looking vehicle, this latest round of styling enhancements gives it a fresh look and helps it stand out in comparison to the outgoing model. Exterior changes come in the form of new headlights, a revised lower air dam and changes to the tail-light design.
It's inside the cabin that the C-Class has seen the biggest change. A 10.25-inch screen replaces the smaller screen of the outgoing model. It sits atop the dashboard, and while it's not the latest MBUX infotainment system seen in the new A-Class, it's a welcome step forward. It also brings with it Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment. Ahead of the driver is a full 12.3-inch display replacing the analogue gauges used in the outgoing C-Class.
One of the most pleasing parts of the interior is the new steering wheel. Gone is the cruise-control stalk behind the steering wheel, and instead it's replaced by steering wheel-mounted buttons like most other cars on the market.
As with the pre-facelift C-Class, there's adequate leg and head room in the second row, but it can get pretty cramped if the front row decide to push their seats back.
In the second row you'll find air vents, along with a centre armrest that folds down and contains two cup holders. ISOFIX points are mounted on the two outboard seats. Unfortunately, you won't find any USB charging points in the second row for your passengers. They'll need to run their cables in the centre bin in the first row.
Cargo capacity comes in at 435L, which is 45L down on the outgoing model due to the mild hybrid equipment that takes up space beneath the cargo floor. You won't find a spare tyre under there either, with the C200 using run-flat tyres.
But forget all the technology you can see. What now makes the C200 incredible value for money is the 48V high-tech mild hybrid beneath the skin. You'll be hearing a lot about 48V hybrid technology in internal combustion cars in the years to come. The 48-volt technology works alongside a regular 12-volt system to provide efficiency gains in the form of energy retention and more advanced computer systems.
A 48V system allows the mild hybrid unit to sustain the vehicle's operation while the car is switched off. Plus, it allows a temporary boost in torque when the driver needs it.
So, for example, the stop/start system can operate from around 22km/h, and the vehicle can also switch the engine off entirely at cruising speed while still retaining full control of the vehicle's powered features (such as steering, infotainment, braking, etc).
In addition, it can provide an additional 10kW of power and 160Nm of torque on demand by utilising an integrated starter generator, which acts as both a starter motor and hybrid assist motor.
The end result of this technology is more performance out of the miserly 1.5-litre engine, less fuel use, and an ability to ditch the conventional 12V battery, which saves weight and removes a service item.
This all means the turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet regularly produces 135kW of power and 280Nm of torque (boosted by up to 10kW and 160Nm by the mild hybrid system), which makes it good for a 0–100km/h dash of 7.7 seconds.
Combined fuel consumption comes in at 6.4 litres of fuel per 100km. Torque is sent to the rear wheels using a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
All of this technology is a welcome addition, but it has resulted in a significant weight gain, and only a small reduction in fuel consumption. Tare mass is now up from 1421kg to 1598kg (a 177kg increase) with fuel economy down from 6.5L/100km to 6.4L/100km.
You'll notice this weight gain the most when you find a set of corners to punt the car through, with body roll fairly evident as you push on. With that said, 99 per cent of C200 owners couldn't care less about cornering prowess, so it won't be an issue.
More importantly, in and around town the ride is excellent. We've found that past C-Classes with bigger wheels can sometimes crash over bumps and feel uneasy with mid-corner imperfections. This car rides on 18-inch alloy wheels with 45/40 (front/rear) profile rubber that allows the car to deal with road imperfections with ease.
Out on the highway there's an apparent lack of noise. The sound deadening offers exceptional NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) benefits on smooth roads. Even as you approach coarse-chip surfaces at highway speeds, there's no noticeable degradation in cabin noise quality.
An aspect of the vehicle I thought would require the most getting used to is the idle stop/start system. The name needs to now be thrown out the window because it's no longer only activated at idle. As you approach a stop, the vehicle will switch off from around 20km/h until you're ready to move off again. It's an intelligent system, too, because it won't spark the engine back up again if you ease off the throttle, which people will commonly do when rolling to a stop.
When the engine switches on again it's virtually imperceptible. That was the biggest issue with idle-stop systems of the past: you would always feel a harsh vibration through the cabin as systems would switch on and off. That's not an issue with the new C-Class.
Steering feel is okay, but nothing to write home about. Again, it's not an issue in the entry-level C200 variant, so most importantly it's light around town and makes parking a breeze.
Disappointingly, Mercedes-Benz and the other German manufacturers it competes with only offer three-year warranties. Some would suggest it shows a lack of confidence in the product – especially when Kia can produce a sub-$15,000 vehicle with a seven-year warranty that eclipses Mercedes-Benz's three-year, unlimited-kilometre job.
On the positive side, you can pre-purchase three years' worth of servicing for $2000, which covers three 12-monthly, 25,000km service intervals.
The revised Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers a comprehensive tech upgrade from its predecessor, and builds on sound driving dynamics with a punchy four-cylinder engine backed by a high-tech mild hybrid system.
There are now two distinct types of products in the circa-$65,000 luxury sedan segment. BMW and Jaguar have both gone with a dynamic and sporty style of offering, while Mercedes-Benz and Audi have erred on the side of luxury and grand touring.
Either way you cut it, there's an option for all buyers in a segment that has provided better bang for buck than ever before.