2014 Mercedes C200 Bluetec review
The Mercedes C200 Bluetec is the cheapest way into a diesel C-Class, but is it a match for rivals such as the Audi A3 Saloon and BMW 3 Series?...
The C200 Bluetec marks a genuine first for Mercedes: its 1.6-litre engine is the smallest diesel engine ever fitted to a C-Class.
It's unlikely to prove as popular as the more powerful C220 Bluetec we've already tested, but the C200 still has plenty going for it.
Firstly, it's the cheapest way into a diesel C-Class, and the claimed economy of 72.4mpg (and CO2 emissions of as low as 102g/km) make it the most efficient C-Class, too – at least until the hybrid versions arrive later this year.
However, the C200 Bluetec's modest power and torque (compared with the C220 and C250 versions) might put some buyers off, not to mention the fact that there's no option of an automatic gearbox.
It also faces strong competition from outside the C-Class range, in the shape of talented rivals including the Audi A3 Saloon and BMW 3 Series.
What’s the 2014 Mercedes C200 Bluetec like to drive?
Jump straight out of either a C220 or C250 Bluetec diesel into the C200, and the difference in both the pull from low revs and outright performance are immediately obvious.
As a result, you have to make more downchanges when overtaking, although the C200 feels comfortable pulling from around 1500rpm and never feels too short of poke.
The C200 Bluetec is reasonably refined, too; it's engine is hushed at low revs and you feel little vibration through the controls. The manual gearshift is also the best you'll find in any current Mercedes model, if not quite as smooth as, say, an Audi A3 Saloon's.
Our AMG Line test car wasn't fitted with optional air suspension – an £895 option on Sport and AMG Line versions – which we know does a great good job of keeping things comfortable on the motorway.
Instead, our car was on standard steel springs which, in AMG Line trim, are lowered by 15mm. These, along with the standard 18-inch alloys. proved uncomfortable on country roads, while at lower speeds, sharp-edged bumps sent thumps through the cabin.
Even with this lowered suspension, the C200 Bluetec never feels quite as sharp or fun as a BMW 3 Series or an Audi A3 Saloon, and its steering, while precise, doesn’t provide a huge amount of feedback.
We also had the chance to try the SE model, which features softer suspension and with smaller, 16-inch alloys. These changes help take some of the sting out of rougher roads, but the Mercedes' body tends to bounce around a fair bit over undulations.
What is the 2014 Mercedes C200 Bluetec like inside?
Interior quality was never a strength of the old C-Class, but it’s one of this new model's biggest assets. Every surface looks and feels a grade above what you’ll find in a BMW 3 Series, while most of the buttons and switches feel solid and well damped.
Range-topping AMG Line models are classier still, because these have their dashboards wrapped in imitation leather and supportive and figure-hugging sports seats.
All models come with a seven-inch colour screen that’s controlled using a rotary dial and touchpad positioned between the front seats. You can scroll through the on-screen menus using just the touchpad, swiping left and right to cycle through functions, and pinching to zoom in on maps.
Most of the time, though, you’re better off sticking with the rotary dial, which is quicker and easier to use on the move. It’s just a pity that whichever method you use, the on-screen menus aren’t as intuitive as the ones in BMW’s excellent iDrive system.
Even seriously long-legged drivers will have no problem getting comfortable thanks to an enormous amount of front legroom, and there’s plenty of front headroom, too – even in cars fitted with the optional panoramic roof.
The glass roof does impinge on rear headroom, although six footers will still fit and things aren’t that much worse than in the back of a BMW 3 Series. You just have to be careful not to bash your head when getting in though – the swooping roofline makes this easy to do.
Officially, boot space is on a par with a BMW 3 Series (at 480 litres), and the load bay is easily wide enough for a set of golf clubs. Split-folding rear seats are standard on all but the cheapest versions, and lie flush with the boot floor when dropped.
Entry-level SE cars come with 16-inch alloys, manmade leather seats, climate and cruise controls, a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers and a DAB radio.
Sport trim (which adds £1995 to the price) gets you a 17-inch alloys, flashier interior trim, heated front seats, LED headlights, lower suspension, front and rear parking sensors and sports seats.
The sat-nav system on this version is not very well intergrated into the rest of the infotainment system though, and nor is it as intuitive as similar systems in Mercedes' rivals from Audi and BMW. AMG Line cars come with 18-inch alloys, an AMG bodykit, leather-wrapped dash and even firmer suspension.
Should I buy one?
If you're considering running a C-Class as a company car, we'd recommend trying the C220 Bluetec first. It might be more expensive and emit slightly more CO2, but its stronger engine and the option of an automatic gearbox both count in its favour.
However, for private buyers wanting cheap running costs and a high quality cabin, the C200 Bluetec makes a stronger case for itself. Just bear in mind that if handling is your main priority, a BMW 3 Series is a better choice, even though its cabin doesn't feel quite as plush.
An Audi A3 Saloon is also worth considering; it's cheaper to run both privately or through work and features equally impressive materials throughout its cabin. It's also faster and better to drive than the Mercedes.
What Car? says…
Mercedes-Benz C200 Bluetec
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £28,570
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 9.7 seconds
Top speed 135mph
Fuel economy 72.4mpg
CO2 output 102-106g/km