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Mercedes-Benz C200 CGi Sport

 

Are you sitting down for this? Supercharged Mercedes are no more.

As a former technician for the brand and a huge enthusiast, this comes as a major blow, err, no pun intended.

Because a supercharger robs some of the engine’s energy to put energy back in, this doesn’t sit well with the effciency police at Benz, and certainly not befitting of what they have envisioned for their most energy optimising models. Hence this new C200 CGi Sport model employs BlueEFFCIENTCY innovations which, among other fuel-saving tech, swaps blowers for turbochargers in the range’s most frugal petrol model.

Fair enough. I don’t mind being green, I just don’t want it at the compromise of a good drive. Despite coming equipped, as standard, with a very tasty AMG styling and suspension package, the C200 CGi Sport Edition isn’t quite there yet.

With just a 1.8-litre capacity, performance is a bit asthmatic. Sure, the supercharged predecessor didn’t exactly shred the rear tyres either, but at least the supercharger acceleration was enough to give a reassuring jab to the kidneys from time to time. Here the performance is a little mundane. The 135kW / 270Nm mill has to be pushed hard to extract a sense of urgency expected from a $76,900 car with such sporty aesthetics. I’m also not convinced it’s the golden bullet Mercedes were looking for - the heavier throttle needed to get around negates the clever efficient technology the engine’s endowed with. A generous mid-sizer of the C-class’ stature deserves more gusto.

It does, at least, suffer in silence. Even at the upper echelons of the rev range the engine is barely audible, cruising along the motorway is as hushed as piloting a panic room, which says as much about the engine refinement as it does about the typical Mercedes noise, vibration and harshness levels.

The economy efforts aren’t helped by a five-speed transmission either. As slick and clever as this one is (it’s been specifically tweaked to maximise economy and shift feel), it’s also been around for a long time. And five-speeders aren’t the realm of luxury brands anymore; need we be reminded a Hyundai i45 offers a six-speed auto now?

Given the BlueEFFICIENCY badge on the car’s flanks, an extra cog or two seems an unusual omission. Appreciated, Merc’s coveted seven-speed 7G-Tronic transmission is an expensive addition to a base model car, but the additional spread of gearing could have made a big difference to real-world performance and economy benefits. The factory claim economy is 7.2 l/100km, but on my long-haul motorway commute from Waikato to Auckland each day I couldn’t get lower than the eights.

This chassis and AMG-enhanced suspension however claw plenty back in terms of driver satisfaction; the lightweight four-cylinder over the front axle delivers laser-like precision and a responsiveness I love. You can chuck it about confidently, almost forgiving the lack of serious oomph on a windy road. It’s not quite as sharp as a 3 Series, but we’re talking the same ballpark at least. And it rides far better. Brilliant.

It’s all pretty acceptable inside as well, you’d want that for a Mercedes wouldn’t you? Let’s face it, a poverty pack C-Class is still a C-Class after all. The family can rest assured in the safety technology employed within the spacious cabin and safety structure, and you’ll be fairly well catered for with dual-zone climate AC, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth and reversing sensors. The 4.9” multi-info display and controls are refreshingly simple to navigate.

Dark hues on the “Artico” (synthetic-leather) upholstery impart a typical Germanic snugness to the cabin. It might be comfortable enough for the family duties, but light and airy it’s not.

But essentially you’d be crazy not to look at the diesel-powered C220 CDi BlueEFFICIENCY instead of this small capacity petrol. Yes, Transport Minister Steven Joyce continues to look utterly inept for not simply introducing a pay as go tax on the diesel pump to cover road user charges, but the diesel equivalent would still be my pick over this car. It’s genuinely eco-friendly, more enjoyable to drive, and only ups the price a couple of grand.

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