Mercedes-Benz C 200 Lives Up to Top Billing in CKD Package

By Lee Pang Seng

THE Mercedes-Benz C-Class is said to be the best-selling model series over the last 10 years in Malaysia. Since it first took shape as the Mercedes-Benz 190, the German premium carmaker says more than 10.5 million of the C-Class were delivered globally since 1982. With the latest C-Class generation, Mercedes-Benz is confident it would continue to appeal strongly with its established standards.

After a weekend with the C 200, which is available as a CKD (complete knock down) model since August 2022, we note that the confidence is not misplaced. For us, this was supported by our first acquaintance with the current generation C-Class two years in early 2022 when it was introduced to the market as import models.

That took in a drive to Desaru from the Klang Valley in the C 300 (which is now replaced by the C 350 e plug-in hybrid) and the return drive on the following day in the C 200. Our urban drive experience was pretty limited back then. That was balanced by the recent acquaintance with the CKD C 200 in a mainly urban driving experience.

Having a C 200 W204 in our garage gave us a chance to make some dimensional comparisons, even though the models are two generations apart. For starters, we noted that at a glance, there is very little difference in body dimensions. In any case, the C-Class has grown substantially from the 190 days and Mercedes-Benz has come to a point where its body dimensions is about optimum for this model category.

Nevertheless, there are dimensional differences that are not immediately obvious to the eye. Against the previous model (W205), the new C 200 is 65mm longer in overall length at 4751mm and 10mm wider with overall width of 2033mm. The wheelbase is longer too, by 25mm, at 2865mm, while retaining the short front overhang and long rear overhang for a sporty impression.

Although the latest C-Class is slightly lower by 9mm than the previous model at 1438mm, you don’t notice that inside the car. Mercedes-Benz has provided better room for occupants with the longer and wider body; better elbow room front and rear by 22mm and 15mm respectively, greater headroom of 13mm and improved kneeroom by 35mm.

Body design changes are made to carry the latest generation C-Class for a few good years. This comes in a more expressive ‘face’ with the restyled Mercedes-Benz hallmark radiator grille and headlamps. At the rear, the lamps are presented for the first time in the C-Class in a two-piece design, with the functions divided between those on the sidewall and boot lid lamps.

We like the two ‘power ribs’ on the front bonnet, which are also seen on the E 200 we had a go at recently. They are subtly designed to add some ‘agro’ and flow well with the overall body styling. Along with the elegant trim strips in high-sheen aluminium and chrome as well as the five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, the latest C-Class is about as sporty as it could look without losing its premium elegance. Body aerodynamics are unchanged over the previous generation at 0.24 (Cd).

Getting into the C 200, we were immediately acquainted with the latest generation MBUX (NTG 7) with MBUX Navigation Premium. The driver-focus aspect of the dashboard fittings to provide a sporty touch sees the 12.3-inch instrument panel and 11.9-inch central display slightly tilted towards the driver by six degrees
We were awed by the large touch control central display during our first acquaintance two years ago and are continued to be impressed by it. For sure, it is a BIG change from our C 200 W204 that has a rather small central display, which was typical of the trend back then. And having a GPS guide to find the best route to our destination was another big help.

We learnt later how some functions of the equipment in the car were selected via the correct channels on the touchscreen central display. One was the auto folding function of the door mirrors each time we turn off the engine. The door handle button only fold and unfold manually.

We deduce the reasoning for that in the light that the door mirror throws on the road with the Mercedes-Benz logo. This is useful during the night or in dark parking areas when walking towards or away from the car. However, if the door mirrors are folded, this light function is not activated. Thus, the choice for auto folding and unfolding is left to the driver.

The second function is that for the rear windscreen sun screen. It is electronically raised and lowered, and you select this function via touchscreen controls on the central display. We figured that this was a good way to avoid having function controls placed all over the dashboard or central console. The result is a clean and uncluttered ambience.

The C 200 is not wanting in the engine department even though it comes with a 1.5-litre engine. Turbocharging technology has made it possible to extract more than decent power from small displacement engines. And we enjoy this aspect of turbo power via our C 200 W 204 that comes with a 1.8-litre turbo.

It did blow our mind somewhat two years when we learnt that the latest C 200 had an even smaller engine displacement at 1496cc. Any reservations were quickly dispelled when we drove the C 200 from Desaru to the Klang Valley back then. While it might not have as many horses as the C 300, the C 200 was every bit an autobahn car when you put your foot to the accelerator pedal.

After all, its power output is nothing to be sneered at. There is 150kW (204hp) peaking at 5800 to 6100rpm and a whole lot of torque at 300Nm coming in early at 1800rpm and holding till 4000rpm. This output would easily carry the car’s 1650kg kerb weight to very fast speeds and acceleration. Mercedes-Benz says the C 200 would spring from 0 to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds and do a top speed of 246km/h; impressive by all accounts for a 1.5-litre turbo sedan.

We continued to enjoy the C 200’s power in urban driving, relishing that extra bit of acceleration when we needed to pass some other cars on clear stretches. And with a full load, the power output was more than adequate for urban mobility with no lack of punch for quick getaways and making light work on short cruises in between townships.

The nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission also helped to keep fuel mileage within expectations. Two years ago, we managed the Desaru-Klang Valley drive on half a tank, with fuel left for more than 200km to go. Now, in mostly urban driving, we covered almost 150km in just under a quarter tank. This is slightly better than what we average with our C 200 W204.

In suspension design, there is a new four-link axle in front and a multi-link axle at the rear that’s mounted to a subframe. During our Desaru-Klang Valley drive in early 2022, we found the rear end a bit nervous when driving through sweepers fast. During the few low-speed corners that we covered in the urban setting, this car’s dynamic qualities were better enjoyed.

This impression with the C 200’s dynamic performance now but we still noted a slight nervousness at the rear when pushimg it through our favourite corners. We were right at home taking to these same corners at a higher speed with our C 200 W204 but held back a bit with the current generation model because of that nervous feeling.

It could be that we are used to the dynamic character of our C 200 but it must be said the latest generation C 200 came to us with almost 14,000km on the odometer. That means it would have covered more than its fair share in mileage and the dynamic peculiarity we experienced two years ago is still there. The tyres fitted to the current C 200 are Bridgestone Turanza 245/40 R 18.

Nevertheless, we found the suspension system well up to mark in ride comfort, even with a full load. Its low ride height was, however, all too familiar. We had to go really slow over some speed bumps, just like our own C 200 W204, to avoid scraping the under panel. We could approach the speed bumps diagonally but narrow roads and heavy traffic dictated otherwise.

We enjoyed driving the latest generation C 200 for its quiet but strong power and comfortable ride. For one, the stop-start feature when we come to a stop worked much better than that in the E 200 we drove recently. The system restarted the engine with hardly a shudder most of the time and that’s how we expected it to be for a premium sedan.

At RM292,888 on the road without insurance, the locally assembled C 200 carries a price that matches its premium status. It remains competitively priced to make it an attractive purchase among the senior executive circles.