- We like...Looks, roomy interior
- We don't...Not sporty enough
New three-door Merc is well-priced and attractive. But it's not sporty enough to driveYour first Mercedes. For a good chunk of its buyers, that’s just what the new CLC will be. And at first glimpse it’s a mouthwatering prospect, fully living up to what many soon-to-be owners have dreamt of for years.
It’s a handsome car, fully in line with how most of us want a ‘proper’ Mercedes to look – solid, purposeful, thoroughly engineered and just hinting at power and aggression.
The CLC replaces the C-class Sports Coupe. It has the bigger grille and single-unit lamps of its big brother, the current C-class saloon. But otherwise it is much as before, which is no bad thing, although the tail is higher and the rear screen is shallower. Underneath, the car uses an updated version of the Sports Coupe’s running gear and not, as you might expect, a version of what sits underneath new C-classes. And that’s a shame because the latest C saloon is so much quicker to respond than the old, while it’s neater and more composed, too.
Prices are as before, meaning that you’ll get one and see a wallet-ful of change from £20,000. But pick an auto gearbox, a bigger engine, or one of the Sport models and the invoice will quickly soar to above £22,000.
What do you get for this? A spacious, four-seat cabin. The back bench looks wide enough for a third passenger but, frustratingly, there are only two safety belts. And if you clamber back there, your head may rub against the roof lining if you’re long in the body.
The dash is carried over from the Sports Coupe, so it’s pleasingly rounded where that in the current C-class is square and slabby. The instrument dials and centre console buttons are, however, new and smarter than what went before. Choose between SE or Sport models. The cheaper of the two, the SE, looks good, offering air conditioning and a sports steering wheel among its standard items. At one time, Mercedes could be stingy about what it fitted as standard, but the CLC comes reasonably equipped, although the extras list is long and many are costly. An auto gearbox is £1050 extra, which is about as you’d expect, while heated seats are a snip at £250. But metallic paint is pricey at £620, while a hands-free phone kit costs a cool £385.
The boot is big and well shaped. And, because, it’s a hatchback where most of the competition have a fixed rear screen and a boot, it can transport bicycles or other big or awkward loads, should you drop the rear seats.
But in the change from Sports Coupe to CLC, it’s lost the two-piece back window that gave an extra chink of where-see when reversing. As a result, it’s now a pig to back into a tight space. No wonder Mercedes now fits parking sensors as standard on all CLCs.
We’ve driven a CLC 180 and the CLC 220 diesel, with auto and manual gearboxes respectively. The 180 is the smallest, pumping out 143bhp, but feels fully up to the job, smooth, quiet and free-spinning. But, point it at a steep hill and it feels breathless. The 220 diesel has only 7bhp more but feels gutsier. It’s noisy after the petrol, and kicks up more din from its tyres, but is otherwise a much more natural partner for the car. Both ride firmly, and are choppy over the worst bumps at town speeds.
Pick the Sport over the SE and the promise is of tauter steering and a more involving drive. But despite Mercedes’ for us neither model delivered a sporty drive: think of the CLC as a classy three-door hatchback and you’ll be nearer the mark.
The CLC’s rivals are the Audi A3 and the BMW 1-series. Model-for-model, there’s nothing to pick between them on price, but we’d just have the BMW for its sweet, economical engines and fine drive. But it’s cramped in the back: if you need to use the back seats regularly, though, the Merc is the one.
And, if the CLC’s your first Mercedes, you'll be happy enough.
- Engines1.8 petrol, 2.1 diesel
- Power143bhp, 150bhp
- 0-60 mph9.9sec (180 auto) 9.
- Economy39.2mpg, 4
- CO2g/km186 (180 auto), 159 (220 CDi manual)
- Insurance groups15
Motors.co.uk value verdict: