Sunday 30 April 2017

Women just love a little cutie

The well-priced, comparatively green and solidly built Mercedes-Benz C-Class may impress the ladies but it fails to really move Campbell Spray

THE WOMEN in my life -- and there aren't many, it really is just partner and daughter -- found the Mercedes-Benz C-Class extraordinarily attractive. It didn't matter if it was out on the road or sitting brooding in the garage, their comments were much the same: "This is really smart, it has real style."

However, as much as I studied the car, I just didn't get the same feelings. Of course, it is now well-priced, comparatively green and solidly built. But for me, there was no little flutter in my heart.

It is like the concept that women have of a man being rather "cute". To me, cuteness is something to be avoided or at least be very wary of. But women have a different take on the word. And it is often the man with the cute looks -- and perhaps attitudes -- who will succeed where the macho monster fails.

I wanted more than cuteness out of the Merc C-Class. I had just given back the very roomy and well-specced Subaru Legacy with its all-wheel drive, and the Merc seemed quite small by comparison. But then it is the descendant of the 190 which was Stuttgart's first compact saloon.

In many ways, its growth hasn't kept pace with its competitors. I was amazed how tight it was in the back and wouldn't be at all comfortable to take five people on any length of journey. In that respect, it compared very poorly with the Subaru. But some might say you are comparing apples and oranges here. The Merc is an acknowledged premium product and the Subaru is an aspirant. Perhaps, and there's no doubt that the C-Class does exude some real prestige -- a sort of noblesse oblige that quite escapes the other marque which would be perfectly happy amid the rough and tumble of a muddy rally.

Mercedes has gone for a real sense of responsibility in the version of the C-Class I was driving recently. Called the BlueEfficiency model, it mated the 200CDi engine to a massive drive to reduce weight, height, increase aerodynamics and tweak a whole bunch of other things, including tyres, gears, rear axle ratio, windscreen glass thickness and even the washer fluid reservoir. This aims to reduce emissions and, of course, prices by pushing the car into lower VRT and road tax brackets. To some extent, this is successful as the range now starts from €36,350 for the diesel and €35,200 for the petrol although another €8,000 worth of extras had been loaded on to the test car.

However, this is the same price as the entry level, very basic C-Class model two years ago. I do trust the build quality of Mercedes far more today than was the case about five years back and the whole C-Class package is authoritative without any touch of bling.

The lower rolling resistance tyres did slightly compromise grip and the speed up through the gears wasn't as smooth as it should be but overall, the BlueEfficiency savings delivered in the positive and you can drive a Mercedes for what a Mondeo would have cost you a few years ago.

The company's Teutonic rivals do have the same sort of car with better driving characteristics but I would wager that the Mercedes' rather subtle lines have more of the cute factor. There is just something a bit more aggressive about BMW and, especially at the moment, Audi. There's even a very green and sturdy Volvo out there. Yet I know which would catch the heart of my women.

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