Cars > Driven

Mercedes-Benz C180 Avantgarde: Sadly amiss

What went wrong for this luxury car staple?

If luxury had a face, this would be it. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Many refer to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class as a “true baby S-Class,” and to a certain extent, that’s true.

Nothing—and I mean nothing—gives you the same amount of imperiousness that you get in a S-Class, and the same is true of this entry-level C180 Avantgarde. The experience of being in the C180 is otherworldly. It makes you feel important. Like you’re a bigger deal than you actually are.

As you step out of the car, you can see people stare and think: “Wow, naka-Chedeng!”

You would think this was the S-Class from afar. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

This W206-generation C-Class is beautiful, elegant, and sophisticated both inside and out. Its compact dimensions mean it has beautiful proportions.

The S-Class may look the same, but by sheer virtue of its size, it gets bigger panels with stretched planes that can look unflattering when viewed from certain angles. The C180 is graceful and classy as it should be.

With 455L of cargo capacity, the C-Class will easily swallow your S&R haul. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

The interior is beautiful as well. If we’re talking pure glitz and aesthetic appeal, Mercedes hits the mark with its interior design. Buttons are minimal in this space, and anything that can collect clutter is concealed. At night, the dashboard turns into a mesmerizing display of lights and shapes.

Ergonomically, it just fits its occupants. The seats are infinitely adjustable and well-bolstered for maximum comfort. Space is typical of the segment, with the passengers sitting low to the ground and the rear legroom in short supply.

A blend of new and old in the switchgear. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

The column-mounted shifter is intuitive and easy to get used to. The old handbrake release is below the headlight switch just as it has always been since the 2000s. The capacitive trackpad on the steering-wheel controls can be a little finicky, but, well, these are the times we live in.

If you are ever in one of these, push your knee against the center tunnel pictured here. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Sadly, though, the C180’s interior has one big downside: It’s creakier than the floorboards of a haunted house.

Most people would pour gasoline all over a modern Chery and light a match under it for interior build quality like this, let alone a Mercedes-Benz. The interior is so creaky that blasting Taylor Swift songs through the fantastic hi-fi system is your only chance of respite from the irksome squeaking.

The expansive shrouding hides a teeny four-cylinder. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Belting Shake It Off will also save your ears from the doleful whirr of the C180’s 1.5-liter turbocharged mild-hybrid gasoline engine. Its power output of 170hp (with 250Nm) seems decent, but it feels about as exciting as a washing machine.

It seems that there’s no upside to the downsized engine, too, with an average of 6.5km/L in the city during testing. The nine-speed automatic is of no help either. Shifts are sluggishly harsh with plenty of lugging especially at low speed.

I hate to say this, but 1.5-liter engines can be done well. The new Honda CR-V is proof of this. The Merc’s, though, feels more like it has been done by the Chinese. You get the same peakiness, the same rough judder at idle, and the same gutless low end.

Mercedes knows how to tune its ride for comfort, at least. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Other than that, the C180 behaves reasonably well. The steering is light, the ride quality is impressively comfortable, and its size yields itself well to city driving.

Great NVH levels insulate you from the sound of jeepneys and straight-piped underbones, allowing you to focus your attention on the awful creaking. But I digress.

Hustling the car is uneventful and deeply unsatisfying, but it will certainly perform well enough for its target market of first-time Mercedes-Benz owners who are just after the luxury experience.

The Merc has luxury going for it. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Yet even just as a luxury experience, the C180 is a bit of a hard sell. It’s unique and luxurious in a way that only a Mercedes-Benz can be, but looking at its competitors, it’s tough to justify.

The BMW 318i Business retails for P400,000 less at P3,590,000 with better interior build quality, a more satisfying driving experience, a smoother 2.0-liter petrol engine, and a badge that is just as prestigious.

Not to mention that most Filipino luxury buyers are now looking to Lexus as their number one pick. The IS300h Premiere is even cheaper than the BMW at P3,528,000, and gets cheaper still if you opt for the base Executive trim that rings the register at a mere P3,268,000. It blows the competition away with a more powerful and tried-and-true hybrid powerplant and a legendary track record for reliability.

The C180 is at least P400,000 more expensive than the equivalent BMW or Lexus. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

We have a lot of respect for the C-Class and its heritage, but the compact executive sedan segment is an extremely competitive space. Granted, the Mercedes is the more luxurious of the three, but that is its sole advantage.

And as much as it pains us to admit, the C180 Avantgarde falls short. While it has most of the makings of a good one, it’s not a great one—especially for the price. Realistically, the three-pointed star is the biggest draw here, and I’m not sure that’s enough to pull buyers in.


Engine1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline with 48V mild-hybrid system
Transmission9-speed automatic
Power170hp @ 5,500-6,100rpm
Torque250Nm @ 1,800-4,000rpm
Dimensions4,751mm x 2,033mm x 1,440mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideImpactful design, luxurious ride, and impeccable ergonomics.
Downside“Engineered like no other car in the world” seems to be nothing but a forgotten Mercedes-Benz slogan.

Simonn Ang

Simonn is just a regular guy who happens to love cars and motorcycles. He also loves writing about them, too.