Review by Bob McHugh
North American car of the Year, AAA Car of the Year and a bevy of other awards were bestowed on the 1994 C-Class Mercedes, during its first year in Canada. A replacement for the 190-series, the C-class not only looked better, it was bigger and more powerful and yet the original showroom price was about the same. Market demand quickly out-paced supply.
Although an entry-level Mercedes in Canada, the C-class is smaller, lighter and more nimble than most Mercedes sedans, yet still has traditional Benz sedan personality traits. These include; a smooth, robust engine, but not particularly quick off the line; a firm, but compliant and quiet ride; well balanced and supremely stable handling characteristics and an on-centre steering with good road feel that inspires driver confidence – yes, this is a polished automobile.
The ’94 C220 came with a 148-horsepower, 2.2-liter DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder engine and the C280 a 194-hp inline 6-cylinder engine. The 2.2 litre engine has a highly commendable 10.3/7.6 litres/100 km. – city/highway fuel consumption rating.
Although the C-class design may look conservative to most observers, followers of the “form follows function” Mercedes design studio credo probably think it flamboyant. Up-front there’s a familiar-looking grille and a prominent hood emblem, but the rest of C-class is a stylish rendition of the traditional Mercedes soft-cornered brick-like shape.
What’s under a car’s skin is what really matters anyway and the C-class comes with sophisticated active and passive safety features. Dedicated to passenger safety, Mercedes conducts its own crash tests and even does real-world investigations of highway accidents involving its vehicles.
Large doors make it easy to enter and exit its luxurious, highly-functional, but no-frills interior that is quite roomy – although leg room in the rear is a bit tight. Some only-in-a-Mercedes items include a first-aid kit in a compartment on the rear shelf, and rear seat head-restraints that fold flat with the flick of a dash mounted switch to allow better rear vision.
The C-class line-up remained unchanged until ’96 when the C36 sports sedan, with a 3.6 litre DOHC 24-valve inline 6-cylinder, rated at 268 horsepower, was added. The security system was also improved that year and an interior upgrade included a new dash panel and extra cup holders.
The C230 replaced the C220 in ’97. It has a slightly larger 4-cylinder engine and a bit more power. The ’98 model year brought side air bags, a baby-smart feature to the air bag system and brake assist, a feature that applies full brake force in a panic braking situation. A same displacement V6 engine replaced the 2.8 litre in-line six in the C280 and the C36 was dropped from the line.
In 1999, a supercharger was used to boost the 4-cylinder engine output to 185 horsepower and the C230 was renamed the C230 Kompressor. A new sports sedan the C43, with a 4.3 litre V8 (302 horsepower) was also added to the line. The AMG-prepared C43 probably has collector potential as it was dropped in 2000 after a one year stint. This was also the year the Xenon headlights, a 5-speed automatic transmission and a stability control system were made standard on C-class cars.
The only official safety recall on the C-class was for a faulty hood latch on the 1994/95 models. If the hood latch area gets bumped in a minor frontal impact it may not function properly.
If you’ve always wanted one but didn’t think you could afford one – think again! An affordable, pre-owned and very classy C-class Mercedes-Benz might look very nice in the driveway – don’t you think?
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.