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).

SPECIFICATIONS

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.

THE RIVALS

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.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

    Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Day In a Page

    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions