For 2005, Mercedes-Benz’s entry level C230 Kompressor coupe, sedan and sport sedan undergo several minor changes. The coupe receives a redesigned, perforated grille and more aggressive styling, while the sedan receives a new three-rib grille design. Inside, a single-disc CD player is standard equipment, the dash has been redesigned, and the climate control system receives larger controls. The rear track is wider, there are new standard wheels, and a revised steering ratio drops the lock-to-lock from 3.3 turns to 2.8 turns.

All 230 models use a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder that boosts horsepower to 189 with an intercooled supercharger, and come with a short-throw, six-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a five-speed automatic with manual mode. The C230 series shares its platform and engineering with the C320, but with a different engine.

The coupe includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, heated washer nozzles, lines and reservoir, front and rear fog lamps, automatic headlamps, driver-programmable Smart Key, multifunction tilt/telescopic steering wheel, front power windows, cruise control, height-adjustable centre armrest, cargo cover, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40 folding rear seat, cloth upholstery, and CD player.

The sedan adds four power windows, driver’s side power height adjuster and leather seat inserts.

The sport sedan adds 17-inch alloy wheels, blue-tinted glass, puddle lights, sport seats, three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel, leather-trimmed shifter knob, aluminum pedals and interior trim, auto-dimming mirror and integrated garage door opener.

The Kompressor is a pleasure to drive, with responsive steering and a handsome new interior that’s marred only by a plastic wheel, in the two lower models, that doesn’t quite match the upscale accoutrements surrounding it. Aluminum trim is replaced by ash wood on the sedan, but both are handsome. The supercharger makes the most of a compact engine, providing smooth and instant acceleration that you’d normally only get from larger displacement, and its broad powerband allows for effortless passing and comfortable cruising.

Front-seat room is generous, although rear-seat passengers make do with tight legroom. Should you be transporting small children in the coupe, make sure you can reach all the way back to buckle their seatbelts easily; even with its rear-seat easy-entry system, it’s still awkward.

Several options are available, including bi-xenon headlamps, panorama glass roof (on the coupe), power driver’s seat, leather upholstery and a digital surround sound system, but expect the final price to rise very sharply.

Comparing Mercedes to its arch-rival BMW, the coupe is a bargain: while the 325ci, BMW’s least expensive two-door, puts out 185 hp to the C230’s 189 and is practically the same size, it’s $6,250 more. In sedan form, BMW has the edge. Its entry-level offering is the 320i, which makes 168 hp but is $3,000 less than the C230 sedan. The 325i, at 185 hp, is $3,890 less than the C230 sport sedan. The BMW also has a slight edge in road manners; while the Mercedes is no slouch, the 3 Series’ handling is just that much sharper.

The C230 is built in Sindelfingen, Germany.

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