2008 Mercedes-Benz C180

Can C180 overcome past prejudices?

Auto Bakkie Race Legend Tests are selected from our extensive road test archive.
This road test was first published in Cars in Action March 2008.

Mercedes-Benz is clearly chasing the more youthful end of the market with its new for 2008 C-Class. You know, those that wouldn’t go any further than a BMW dealership in the past because they felt that a Merc was a nice car for their father. Or granddad for that matter. 

Just one look at the new C is enough to assert that notion. It manages to look far more athletic without being anything radical or tacky and you’d probably like it whether you were 25 or 65. Our Avantgarde model was regarded as handsome to all that saw it.

I remembered Merc’s boasts that its engineers had changed more than 90 components in its four-cylinder engine. Power output is up to 115kW and this supercharged petrol turns out 230Nm and that does wonders to get the engine spinning properly from pull-off. In everyday traffic, its response from pull-off is just fine. I could easily live with it. 

This C180’s 0-100km/h acceleration sprint of 8.5 seconds makes it quite an athletic car, but we believe a manual version should shave at least a second, if not two, off that time. This engine/gearbox combo does work great in the mid-range though, as it rushed from 80 to 120km/h in just 7.5 seconds, and was quick enpigh further up the range at just over 11 seconds from 120 to 160km/h.

Road holding in one area where the new C has been greatly improved. It’s very balanced and inspires confidence – even the variably-assisted steering system is communicative at high speeds. The days of dropping Merc from your list because it doesn’t handle as well as a 3-Series are over.

The interior is more of a mixed bag. While there’s more space, especially benefitting rear occupants, the feeling of quality is hardly up to what we’d expect from the three-pointed star. Look, it all feels sturdy and well built, but those plastics would be more suited to a Japanese car. 

Even modern Volkswagens have better perceptive quality than this. We also found the design very plain, especially that instrument cluster that looks like it’s lifted off a 1987 230E. At least the light grey upholstery on our test car was trying to be sporty.

On the upside, ergonomics are good, with all the functions and controls proving easy to figure out and use. But at just under R300K, this C-Class is expensive. We feel the better-performing manual model could be the sportier candidate — possibly even the pick of the range. – Jason Woosey

LEGEND TEST: 2008 Mercedes-Benz C180 Avantgarde
Engine: 115kW 230Nm 1597cc supercharged petrol I4 
Drive: 6-speed automatic RWD
TESTED (2008)
0-100km/h:              8.49 sec 
400m:                         17.5 sec @ 126km/h
80-120km/h:            7.58 sec
120-160km/h            11.62 sec
Vmax:                      220 km/h
Fuel:                         7.6/100km
CO2:                               183g/km
NEW PRICE 2008    R297K
NEW PRICE TODAY:    R641K (C200)
RATED:                           77%