Road Test

Mercedes-Benz CLC 220 CDI

Mercedes plays the name game: The CLC is the latest addition to an already baffling collection of model monickers. But the marketing men's shuffling of the letters has resulted in a classy product

Mercedes car names: the final frontier. Just when you were thinking every combination had been exhausted, here's the new CLC. That's a snappier name than C-class Sports Coupé, which is what this car was in its previous life.

What previous life was that? Is this car not a compact, hatchback coupé derivative of the relatively new C-class range, then? Marketing-wise, yes, just as the Sports Coupé propped up the previous-generation C-class. But perception and reality aren't quite the same. Last time around, Mercedes positioned the Sports Coupé as an alternative to a Golf GTI. This time, such a suggestion is received with a smidgen of sniffiness; rather, the CLC is the entrance to the world of the "proper" Mercedes-Benz (that is, not an A-class or a B-class).


Model: Mercedes-Benz CLC 220 CDI

Price: from £22,260 (range £19,920-£27,240), on sale June

Engine: 1,798cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbo-diesel, 150bhp at 4,200rpm, 251lb ft at 2,000rpm

Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Performance: 139mph, 0-62 in 9.7sec, 47.9mpg official average

Carbon dioxide: 156g/km

There used to be an SLC, which was a third-generation SL with a fixed coupé roof and a pair of rear seats. So does the final C stand for coupé? Not necessarily. We already have a CL, which is effectively an S-class coupé. We have a CLS, a four-door coupé. We have a CLK, which is a C-class coupé (yes, two cars fit that description) but which is obviously shorter than a CL (the K suffix stands for kurz, which means short).

The Mercedes naming system has gone anarchic in much the same way as the Mercedes numbering system has done. Once it denoted the engine size, but now it denotes what the engine size should be were the hierarchy more transparent. Thus the new CLC 230 has not the 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine of its forbear, but a 2.5-litre V6. The 350 is the right size, though.

All the engines are up-to-date. They include two 2.2-litre turbo-diesels, with a feeble 122bhp (CLC 200 CDI) and a livelier 150bhp (220 CDI). Then there are two petrol-fuelled, 1.8-litre, four-cylinders, both supercharged; one makes 143bhp (CLC 180), the other 184bhp (CLC 200). And finally come those V6s, of 204 and 272bhp.

I tried that last one first, a cultured but feisty thing which makes an interesting alternative to a BMW 135i Coupé. At least it does in the six-speed manual form sampled, but UK buyers will be denied it and allowed only the seven-speed automatic. That transmission is optional in the CLC 230, and was fitted to the example I tested. That frees your left foot to operate the ludicrous parking brake, and once you've got used to the plethora of ratio choices you can enjoy quite an alert, positively acting manual mode controlled by tabs on the steering wheel.

Fine. But would you want to be in this conceptually compromised car at all? Maybe I'm being too purist. From the outside it looks properly modern, the old Sports Coupé's delicate curves ousted by a tougher, squarer look for the nose and tail. Just the doors and roof remain of the old car's outer panels.

Inside, the update is just as convincing. Most shapes are as before, but the quality of the materials has rocketed. The new seats are especially good when trimmed in tan leather, contrasting with the charcoal grey elsewhere, but it's a shame they are mounted too high. You should sit low in a coupé – feel part of the car. The charcoal makes the rear cabin gloomy, too.

Finally, I tried the CLC 220 CDI, the livelier diesel with a six-speed manual. This is the one to buy: rapid, effortless and economical. With all that torque you can enjoy the feeling of being pushed through a corner that only rear-wheel drive can give, and a steering system taken from the current C-class saloon, plus revised suspension settings, give a firmness and precision the old coupé never quite had.

This car may be a marketing-led agglomeration of existing ingredients, but it feels a proper quality product. And, expensive as it is (from £19, 920) next to more powerful opposition, it looks a heck of a lot more enticing than BMW's dumpy rival.


Alfa Romeo Brera 2.4 JTDM: £26,995

That extra money buys you dramatic concept-car looks and a tuneful five-cylinder, 210bhp turbo-diesel with fabulous energy. Think of it as a heart-driven purchase.

BMW 120d: from £22,220

Curiously un-sexy looks belie a great driving experience – crisp, eager and always involving. Brilliant fuel efficiency despite 175bhp output makes you feel even better.

Volvo C30 D5: from £19,495

Is it a coupé? A hatchback? The C30 is a bit of both, and the most heartwarming Volvo in years. The five-cylinder, 2.4-litre turbo-diesel has 178bhp and effortless pace. Good value too.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

    Early Years Educator

    £68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

    Nursery Nurse

    £69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

    Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam