First drive: Mercedes-Benz CLC

* Face-lifted CLC * Cleaner engines * More equipment...

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Barnaby Jones
30 June 2008

Don't fall for the marketing spiel. The CLC is not a new car - it's the old Sports Coup with new front-end styling, fresh head- and tail-lights, some cleaner and more powerful engines, and new equipment.

Being virtually the same as an old car isn't necessarily a bad thing - if the old model is a good starting point, that is.

The Sports Coup was competent, but nothing more. Those changes had better be mighty effective if they're to save the CLC from a similar fate.

Most impressive of all are the updated engines. The two four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are more economical, and lower CO2 emissions make them cheaper to run. There are two V6 petrols for those with deeper pockets, but they're expected to sell in tiny numbers.

Performance is fair from the lowest-powered petrol, which remains quiet as long as you don't rev it too hard. The diesels aren't quite as impressive. They're smooth, but the exhaust note is an old-school diesel rattle, albeit hushed.

Driving the CLC is a mixed bag. It's generally comfortable, although you feel large bumps too much, and it's quiet at speed. It isn't much fun, though; body control is good, but you feel detached from the action.

At least you won't want for space. There's plenty of room for four adults inside and the boot is a good size and shape.

Things aren't so positive when it comes to interior quality. The buttons and switches are dated, and some of the plastics are hard and unappealing, especially lower down the dashboard - it's best not to let your friends' eyes drop too far south when you're showing off your new car.

There's an undeniable appeal to owning a Mercedes coup for less than £20,000, but you'd be better spending your money on one of the CLC's many better rivals.

• The Mercedes-Benz Sports Coupe is on sale now from £19,920.