Fleet News

Mercedes-Benz C230 K estate Avantgarde SE Auto

Mercedes-Benz

Review

PREMIUM cars have evolved over the past few years to cater for the changing needs of the market. No longer can they be gas-guzzling barges, as a vast number of their drivers pay company car tax and look towards diesel or more fuel-efficient petrol motors.

Mercedes-Benz was initially slow to react on the petrol side of the business, but a few years ago made significant improvements in fuel consumption and emissions with their four-cylinder petrol engines.

Last summer, when the C-class was given its first major revision since it was launched in 2000, the company dropped the six-cylinder 2.6-litre C240 from the UK line-up.

The result is that all the four-cylinder petrol C-class models are now powered by the same 1.8-litre ‘twinpulse’ engine with supercharger attached, offering a choice of 143bhp, 163bhp and 192bhp power outputs.

The 192bhp model comes courtesy of the C230 Kompressor, until last summer only available in the Sport Coupe model, but now on sale in both saloon and estate.

This motor fills the gaping hole in the range following the departure of the 170bhp C240, and does it with obvious benefits to company car drivers.

Using four cylinders instead of six, the C230 Kompressor offers lower carbon dioxide emissions and better fuel consumption than the outgoing 2.6-litre V6. The compromise is that you don’t get the silky smooth engine note and syrupy response of a six-cylinder car. But the market would suggest that many drivers have gone for the lower cost option.

There was nothing ‘low-cost’ about the C230 Kompressor estate we had on test. The Avantgarde SE model, with five-speed automatic transmission, was priced at £27,990 on-the-road, about £2,000 more than the equivalent Audi A4 Avant. Mercedes-Benz has traditionally been a little more than its premium rivals but has normally made up lost ground through strong residual values. Changes to the C-class last summer have resulted in significant improvements in perceived quality and a more dynamic looking exterior.

Clear lens headlamps and revised bumpers make the difference on the outside, while inside there are revised instruments and an updated dashboard centre with new switches. The Avantgarde SE also comes with sporty aluminium trim, which some drivers (including me) will prefer to the wood-trimmed Elegance SE model.

The C-class has never lacked boot space compared with rivals. A useful 470 litres is available up to window height and 1,384 litres up to roof height with the rear seats folded – 200 litres’ greater capacity than an Audi A4 Avant.

The C-class has never quite measured up to the BMW 3-series for driver appeal, although Mercedes-Benz has improved matters for the latest version of the C-class. Our test car came with the optional ‘sports package’ priced at £630, which includes, along with a few cosmetic changes, lowered sports suspension.

The C-class can appeal to driving enthusiasts, with virtually roll-free handling, plenty of grip and a firm but still smooth ride. The supercharged engine is quick to respond to throttle inputs and when the automatic gearbox kicks down the car feels lively. However, the engine note lacks emotion – Audi’s 200bhp 2.0 T FSI engine has a superbly sporty note despite also having four cylinders.

Three rivals to consider:

  • Audi A4 Avant S Line 2.0 T FSI Multitronic
  • BMW 325i SE Touring auto
  • Jaguar X-type estate 2.5 V6 auto

    P11D Price
    IT’S no surprise that the Mercedes-Benz is most expensive in this category, but the price gap raises a few eyebrows. The BMW is closest to the C-class on price, although choosing the Sport (which has sports suspension and M styling kit as standard) would have made it the most expensive. The Audi is the most powerful car in the comparison, but is second only to the Jaguar for P11D price. The Jaguar has four-wheel drive as standard and is under £26,000.

    Audi £25,977
    BMW £27,022
    Jaguar £26,592
    Mercedes-Benz £27,792

    SMR Costs
    THE C230 Kompressor is expected to cost £2,346 to maintain over three years/ 60,000 miles, ahead of only the BMW 325i, which would cost £2,670. Unlike previous road tests that include diesel 3-series models, there is no free servicing on petrol derivatives, so it’s unequivocally last in this comparison. The Audi would cost about £150 less than the Mercedes to maintain over the same period, while the Jaguar’s SMR bill is £1,896 – more in line with a mainstream car.

    Jaguar 3.16ppm
    Audi 3.66ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 3.91ppm
    BMW 4.45ppm

    Fuel Costs
    FOUR cylinders has a significant advantage over six when it comes to fuel consumption, and Audi’s use of fuel-saving FSI technology, turbocharging and a fuel/CO2 neutral Multitronic automatic transmission gives it a clear advantage over the C230. The Audi’s advantage over the C230 Kompressor’s fuel cost over 60,000 miles of £7,740 adds up to £684 over 60,000 miles based on the combined fuel consumption figure. There is a £504 gap between the C-class and 3-series, while the 325i and X-type are separated by £606.

    Audi 11.76ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 12.90ppm
    BMW 13.74ppm
    Jaguar 14.76ppm

    Depreciation Costs
    WITH the exception of the Jaguar, all of the others have CAP Monitor residual values of about 37-39% over three years/60,000 miles.

    However, the Audi’s lower front-end price gives it a £1,200 saving over the BMW and nearly £1,700 over the Mercedes-Benz. The Jaguar has a CAP Monitor RV of 34% so, despite having the lowest list price, it cannot keep its advantage in the depreciation battle.

    Audi 24.67ppm
    BMW 26.68ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 27.47ppm
    Jaguar 27.59ppm

    Wholelife costs
    THE Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Avantgarde SE scores a comfortable margin over the BMW 325i SE and the Jaguar X-type 2.5 V6 Sport, but is still more than £2,500 more expensive to run over three years/60,000 miles than the Audi A4 Avant S-line 2.0 T FSI. The A4 is effectively 10% cheaper than our C-class, which would certainly have an impact on a company’s balance sheet where these cars are available to user-choosers.

    Audi 40.09ppm
    Mercedes-Benz 44.28ppm
    BMW 44.87ppm
    Jaguar 45.51ppm

    Emissions and bik tax rates
    FOR a petrol car producing more than 190bhp, the C-class makes a decent fist of its CO2 emissions. However, the Audi does better and its P11D price is £2,000 lower. The result is that a 40% taxpayer in the Mercedes-Benz would pay £278 a month in BIK tax, compared with £225 a month for the same driver in the Audi. Both the BMW and Jaguar are costlier for drivers, with monthly BIK bills of £297 and £310.

    Audi 199g/km/26%
    Mercedes-Benz 216g/km/30%
    BMW 232g/km/33%
    Jaguar 249g/km/35%

    Verdict
    FEW Fleet News road tests have such a definitive result. The Audi’s running cost advantage is so significant that, even if it was a mediocre car, it would snatch the win from the C-class. The fact that the A4 is highly competent only underlines its advantage. The C-class is a strong second, however, looking a more desirable prospect against a 3-series Touring about to be replaced and a thirsty Jaguar.
    WINNER: Audi A4 Avant

    Positive

  • Smart appearance
  • Decent boot
  • Competitive fuel/CO2

    Negative

  • Not that roomy in rear
  • Flat engine note
  • A4’s cost advantage

    Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor estate Avantgarde SE auto
    Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £27,792
    CO2 emissions (g/km): 216
    BIK % of P11D in 2005/6: 30%
    Graduated VED rate: £160
    Insurance group: 14
    Combined mpg: 31.0
    CAP Monitor residual value: £10,900/39%
    Depreciation 27.47 pence per mile x 60,000: £16,482
    Maintenance 3.91 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,346
    Fuel 12.90 pence per mile x 60,000: £7,740
    Wholelife cost 44.28 pence per mile x 60,000: £26,568
    Typical contract hire rate: £527

    All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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