2005 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Sedan
Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Bob McHugh

Don’t let the three-point star scare you – yes, you can buy a Mercedes-Benz and still keep the house. The C-class may be an entry level Mercedes, but it’s also a great value in a German sports sedan. It has a tight-as-a-drum chassis, drive-to-the-rear wheels, quality fittings, and a dynamic character that drivers who love cars, love to drive.

Depending on the depth of your pockets you can pay as little as $36,450 for a C230 Coupe or as much as $72,600 for the new ‘king of the hill’ C55 prepared by AMG. The C55 replaces C32 also prepared by AMG as the high-performance version in the C-range.

The popular C-class line also includes the C240, a sedan or wagon with a 2.6-litre V6 engine, plus all-wheel-drive versions. Further up the line is the C320 with a 3.2-litre V6 engine. It comes as a coupe or a sedan and the sedan also comes in an all-wheel-drive version.

The test car was a base C230 Kompressor, a 4-door sedan powered by a supercharged 1.8-litre engine. Including a few options, it had a price-tag of $43,041 and the ‘Sport” version of it starts at $43,790.

It’s not a major redesign, but there are some significant changes to both the exterior and interior of the ’05 C-class. The greasy bits also got a mild re-work with increased front and rear axle track width, suspension enhancements, a more direct steering ratio and a retuned transmission.

Although priced a little higher than a base BMW 3 Series or an Audi A4, the C230 comes with leather upholstery and a higher level of standard equipment.

The Looks

2005 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Sedan
Click image to enlarge

Like the larger cars in its product line the C-class styling is classic Mercedes. Nor do its compact dimensions hide a camouflaged version of a cheaper car, this is the genuine article from stem-to-stern. Made in Germany, assembled by Mercedes, the leather is real and the wood trim (if fitted) is real wood trim.

The styling changes are subtle and basically the base sedan looks more like last year’s sport version, and this year’s sport version looks more like last years AMG version.

The unique quad-oval headlights have clear lens and the shape of the tail lamps have also been revised. The base sedan has a black mesh grille on the lower front fascia, the side sill is lower and it has pronounced fender flares to match its wider track.

The sedan and wagon versions have an up-standing hood ornament and the coupe has the three-point star in the grille. An optional ($890) new paint technology imbeds microscopic ceramic flakes in the clear coat finish. It increases its resistance to chipping and degradation over time.

The Inside

2005 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Sedan

2005 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Sedan
Click image to enlarge

Improvements within include seats with heavier bolstering, a restyled instrument panel (with four instead of three gauges), new trim and chrome accents, a new three-spoke steering wheel, a new centre console and a new six-speaker audio system with a CD player (M-B has finally abandoned the tape deck).

The seats are firm, supportive and very comfortable and an adjustable lumbar support is new for ’05. I loved the new steering wheel, which has buttons that allow the driver to operate the audio system, the IP trip computer and a telephone (if fitted).

The centre console has a new pop-up cup-holder and the clever-design storage box lid that opens (hinged) in three different directions. The front seatbacks have knee indents for rear passengers and legroom isn’t bad but still limited. Another clever feature is a switch on the dash that drops the rear head restraints down so that the driver has better rear vision.

Trunk space is little bigger than a BMW 3 Series and smaller than an Audi A4. The hinges are concealed and a split-folding rear seat is an option ($790), to expand the sedan’s cargo capacity.

Safety Equipment

The impressive list of standard passive safety features includes eight air bags. The side air bags are door-mounted and are in the rear as well as the front. It’s rated as a “Best Pick” in its class by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on crash test performance.

However, the electronic stability system called ESP is my safety highlight. Mercedes-Benz made it standard equipment in all its cars in 1996 and this is the latest version of the system. It makes poor drivers look good and good drivers look even better, by reducing oversteer (fishtailing) and understeer (ploughing), especially on slippery roads.

The Drive

The weather conditions were diabolically cold (for the wet coast) during most of my time in the C230 sedan. The standard “performance” all season tires were good in the wet but broke traction on icy or snow packed roads too easily.

It had been a while since I drove a rear-drive car on slick roads and wasn’t relishing the challenge. However, the C230 is a beautifully balanced car, very predictable and easy to recover – some ESP assistance may have helped. Proper snow tires would have made a big difference.

Acceleration is brisk and Mercedes claims the C230 sedan can reach 100 km/h in under eight seconds. I really like its small supercharged motor, which develops 189-horsepower and is a very willing worker. There’s a slight delay before you hear the blower whoosh into action when you push hard on the accelerator. But the engine makes a delightful howl at the upper end of its rev range.

The new six-speed manual transmission now has a more precise shift rod (instead of the previous cable and rod). It has shorter gaps between the gear ratios to allow quicker off-the-line acceleration.

The test C230 car came with the five-speed automatic with “Touch Shift”. By tapping the gear lever toward the left to down-shift or right to up-shift while in the ‘Drive’ position the driver can move to a manual mode. If you hold the gear lever to the left, the transmission selects the best gear for maximum acceleration, which may be two or even three gear downshift.

The Competition

  • Acura TL: $41,000 – $45,300

  • Audi A4: $34,985 – $65,125
  • BMW 3-Series: $34,950 – $83,950
  • Cadillac CTS: $37,800 – $70,700
  • Infiniti G35: $39,600 – $42,700
  • Jaguar X-Type: $41,195 – $44,995
  • Lexus IS300: $37,775 – $39,450
  • Saab 9-3: $35,495 – $59,800
  • Volvo S60: $36,995 – $61,495

The Score:

The Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor is a high-quality sports sedan in the Germanic tradition – only its price is below expectations.

Technical Data: 2005 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Sedan

Base price $37,950
Options $3,496 (5 speed auto., split rear seats, day/night mirror)
Freight $1,495
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $43,041
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel drive
Engine 1.8-litre, supercharged 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 189 @ 5800 rpm
Torque 192 lb-ft @ 3500-4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic (std. 6-speed automatic)
Tires 205/55HR-16
Curb weight 1488 kg (3280 lb.)
Wheelbase 2715 mm (106.9 in.)
Length 4348 mm (171.2 in.)
Width 1728 mm (68.0 in.)
Height 1407 mm (55.2 in.)
Trunk capacity 345 litres (12.2 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 9.9 L/100 km (29 m.p.g.)
  Hwy: 6.7 L/100 km (42 m.p.g.)
Warranty 4 years/80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/120,000 km

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