Driven - Mercedes-Benz CLC 200K Evo Edition

This is the Evo Edition version of the long running small Mercedes coupe. That means, it's loaded with goodies including the panoramic glass sunroof, attractive 18-inch AMG alloy wheels with low-profile tyres and dark tinted 'privacy glass' at no extra cost. Which at $65,900 for the 2-litre supercharged coupe is a pretty attractive price.

The CLC began life an automotive generation ago with a different name and different styling at its extremities. As the Sportcoupe launched in 2001, it was based on the previous C-Class (nothing wrong with that) but as the C-Class changed completely, this car has been upgraded without benefiting from the wholesale changes that the completely new C-Class saw.

Certainly the update makes a far better looking car of it. The dynamic front end styling suits the pronounced wedge shape of the car better than in the earlier version. It's at the high back of the car where its biggest problem now lies. The earlier model had a small, secondary vertical window built in to the tailgate. With the update, this has been deleted, and while it may look sportier and more modern now, it means the CLC has appalling rearward vision. You can't see much out of the raked rear window - you can see the roof of a car a few car spaces behind, provided it's not a low sports car. And the poor view out the internal rear-view mirror, more than 50% of what you see is the interior of the car - and not much out the slot-like rear window. It makes lane-changing a risky proposition. A classic case of form over function.

That criticism aside, it's a pretty likeable car. Inside is pure Mercedes-Benz, meaning well laid out controls, with logical operation, easily readable instruments and a good quality feel of solid construction. The front seats are a bit odd, in that the base is too flat and unsupportive of your thighs, but the backrests are beautifully formed and body hugging. The 2-tone upholstery materials in the car we drove was very nice too. It's of a material called Artico, which Mercedes-Benz describes as "man-made leather". Remember, that this company has a decades long history of making extremely good quality artificial upholstery materials. The rear seats, hard to get to for an adult as with any coupe, are adequately comfortable, and allow almost enough headroom for a 6-footer. The rear section of glass roof helps alleviate any feelings of claustrophobia.

There's a decent size boot, flip down split rear seats adding to the flexibility. Even the two-tiered glovebox is quite spacious.

On the road, be assured the CLC 200K is not a sports car. It handles well enough, the roadholding via the low-profile tyres is excellent, but the car just doesn't engender a feeling of sportiness - it doesn't make you want to throw it around a corner, do any late braking or rev the engine especially high... Performance from the engine is reasonably good - there's a rich stream of power there, but it's not a blast of acceleration. The 0-100km/h time of 8.7 seconds supports this.

The ratios of the 5-speed automatic transmission can be accessed by paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, but they give pretty slow response and really add nothing to the sporty nature of the car. Left in auto, the transmission changes smoothly and kicks down quickly enough.

Loaded with ABS, ESP and Brake Assist as well as a full suite of airbags the well-equipped CLC also boasts parking proximity detectors front and rear, automatic headlights, cruise control and a decent 'multi-media' system.

This car's natural enemy would be the BMW 332i Coupe, with similar power (the BM has 5kW more), torque (the Merc has 20Nm more) and performance, and while the BMW may be a bit more sporty, the Mercedes is a bit more chic - and significantly in the MB's favour, it's around $15,000 less than the less well-equipped BMW.

Engine type: 1796cc 4-cylinder supercharged
Power: 135kW
Torque: 250Nm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic with paddles
Price: $56,900 at time of review
Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)