Mercedes C-Class Sports Coupe review (2001-2008)
The Sports Coupe may be ageing, but it remains competitive. However, as with so many Mercs, it's simply too expensive.
Driving The Merc handles well thanks to its rear-wheel-drive set-up. There's plenty of gip, minimal body roll and it's precise in corners. However, the steering is too light and the ride much firmer than rivals' - although in fairness, our test car was a Sport Edition, running on lowered suspension and big wheels. More mainstream models are much more compliant, in our experience. The supercharged four-cylinder petrol engines are also torquey and, while a bit throbby, they're refined at a cruise. It's a pity the diesel engines aren't up to the same standard. The 2.1-litre is noisy at start-up, and lacks the urgency of smaller units from rivals. Offered with two power outputs, CDI models are also beaten by competitors at the test track - though the blame for this can be laid at the door of the Sports Coupe's heavy 1,515kg kerbweight.
Marketplace The C-Class Sports Coupe boasts far more aggressive styling than the C-Class saloon. Gone is the bonnet-mounted three-pointed star, replaced by a larger Mercedes emblem on the slatted grille, which itself gets an aluminium finish rather than a plastic one. But we don't think the proportions work that well. Viewed side-on, the three-door seems nose heavy and stunted at the back. What's more, the spoiler cutting across the tailgate glass is fussy and hampers rear visibility. It does have a sport, coupe-like stance, however, with a low roofline and smooth curves. But it's beginning to show its age alongside rivals such as the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Volvo C30.
Owning The Mercedes is long, with a large wheelbase, so it's a surprise the boot is small and blighted by a narrow opening. It's rear passengers that benefit from the extra length. The Merc provides excellent rear seat space, and offers easy access too, thanks to the clever sliding and lifting front chairs. The rear offers excellent head and legroom, and although getting three adults in is a bit of a squeeze, short journeys are bearable. Forward visibility is also commanding. Cabin design and quality is good, too. The two instrument dials are backlit white at night, and positioned in between them is a multifunction screen which is controlled via buttons on the steering wheel. We were surprised by the amount of blank switches on the centre console, but fit and finish are superb and the interior has a stylish feel that's missing from rivals. However, it all comes at a price. It costs £thousands more than rivals - and that's before you add any options, something most buyers will do given that standard equipment isn't very generous. Retained values are strong, though.