Published May 23, 2009

Entry-level excitement

Merc's new C180 K has a smaller engine than its predecessor but there's no let-up in power. By Samuel Ee

IT is usually difficult for anyone to get excited about an entry-level model but the new Mercedes-Benz C180 Kompressor should be able to make even the most jaded car buyer sit up and take notice.

The 1.6L C180 K is the first Mercedes saloon to enter the Category A COE segment

For the first time, a Mercedes saloon is entering the Category A COE segment and this is not just a cynical attempt by a carmaker to achieve a lower list price.

The C180 K moniker is not an unfamiliar one as it has been seen on the bootlid of the current C-Class ever since this handsome, third-generation model was introduced in 2007.

But while the original C180 K really had a 1.8-litre supercharged engine (Kompressor is German for supercharger), the new C180 K only has a 1.6-litre engine.

Introduced here last month, this smaller 1.6-litre C180 K replaces the previous 1.8-litre C180 K as the entry-level C-Class. But one immediate question about a downsized engine is always performance.

The new C180's four-cylinder engine still relies on forced induction, as the K denotes. So even with the lower displacement, Merc engineers have been able to tweak the supercharger pressure to produce the exact same maximum output and torque figures as before - 156 hp and 230 Newton-metres.

One difference is that in the bigger-capacity C180, maximum torque is available earlier - at 2,500 rpm instead of 3,000 rpm.

Nevertheless, the new 1.6-litre C180 K still manages to accelerate from zero to 100 kmh in 9.9 seconds, identical to the numerically accurate C180.

On the road, the new C180 K looks just like any other C-Class and drives just as sweetly. Its pace from a stationary start isn't the greatest but it is in no way sluggish.

But like all Mercs, it has excellent elasticity once it gets moving. The power is fed smoothly through the five-speed automatic transmission, accompanied by the trademark supercharger whine.

Apart from allowing this new variant to slip nicely into Category A (for cars 1,600cc and below), what is the point of its smaller capacity, you may ask.

The simple answer is fuel economy and tail pipe emissions. With 1,600 cc, Merc can better meet stringent European carbon dioxide emission and fuel efficiency standards.

Under the combined cycle, the previous C180 1.8L consumed 8.1 litres per 100 km. The new C180 1.6L does it with only 7.1 litres, thus yielding a 12.3 per cent improvement in fuel economy.

So if you can help save the Earth while not compromising on power and performance, why not indeed.


Mercedes-Benz C180 Kompressor

Engine 1,597cc supercharged
Gearbox 5-speed automatic transmission
Max power 156 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Max torque 230 Nm @ 3,000-4,500 rpm
0-100 kmh 9.9 secs
Top speed 220 kmh
Price $138,888 (with COE)
Distributor Cycle & Carriage
Tel 6298-1818