C-class: The most affordable Mercedes

Thursday August 06 2020

It has that lazy smooth ride quality that the 80s and 90s Mercs were famous for. PHOTO | RACHEL MABALA

In 1982 the Mercedes 190 was born. This car, also coded as the w201 was a compact no frills Mercedes sedan with many of the trappings that the larger more ostentatious Mercs were famous for. It was the first compact executive sedan to slide down the assembly line of Mercedes Benz.

The three pointed star automotive giant that is renowned for having given engineering perfection a new standard was at it again.
After so many years, it had finally happened. Mercedes had decided to build a car that was not targeted at the moneyed cream of society but at the hardworking regular people that had previously been left out due to out-of-reach Mercedes costs.

The company pushed out 1.8 million units of the 190 and enjoyed tremendous success in Europe although the American market somewhat rejected the model.
Production of this series ended in April 1993 and the company was looking to create a successor to the 190. Mercedes had undoubtedly come full circle. They had realized that an all-inclusive product portfolio could increase total Mercedes sales considerably.

Like the 190, the successor had to have two things. It had to be entry level. More importantly, it had to maintain the quality reputation that Mercedes had built over the years.
The company sought to achieve these two milestones seamlessly. They turned to a man called Bruno Sacco. Sacco, an automotive design genius who designed many of the 80s to 2000s Mercedes Models. This new Mercedes would initiate an entirely new nameplate. It would be called the C class.

In May 1993, the successor to the well-performed 190 was unveiled. It would not be until 1997 that the company would introduce a smaller entry-level Merc that they chose to call the A class. Up until this time, budget Mercedes driving was found only in the recently introduced C class.

The model also coded as W202 came in three base variants. The 1.8 litre c180, the slightly bigger 2.0 litre c200 and the more powerful 2.2 litre c220 for the petrol engines. The c220 was replaced by the c230 in 1997 with an enlarged displacement and increased torque.
Diesel variants came with the OM601 engine that run the 2L and 2.2L. Many of the diesel W202 were sold as taxis due to their reliability and low fuel costs. The car also had a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic transmission although from 1996 a new five-speed automatic gearbox was developed for the series.


I have had the 1998 c200 at my disposal for this review and I must say the vehicle still has a lot going for it for a 22-year-old car. My first impression about this vehicle is how impeccably it maintains its’ structural integrity after all these years.
The car features a more aggressive styling as compared to the 1993 introductory model. It also has more active and passive safety features delivered in a surprisingly roomy sedan.

The ride quality of this car is characteristic of the lazy smooth ride quality that the 80s and 90s Mercs were famous for. The W202 was driven mainly by the M111 for the more locally available 1.8L -2.3L variants. This engine was also termed as bulletproof due to its reliability and can run up a mileage of 500,000km with no issues if serviced well.

It was also with the w202 that Mercedes collaborated with AMG to produce a high performance w202 dubbed the C36 AMG boasting of 280 horse power delivered by a robust 3.6L engine in 1995.
The car also features a well thought out interior that is very durable and comfortable.

The dashboard however needs protection from the sun when parked for long hours and regular cleaning as it can quickly deteriorate without care. It also comes with the characteristic beefy steering wheel that 90s Mercedes Benzes like the w124 were famous for.

Contrary to popular opinion, fuel consumption too is manageable with Shs100,000 taking you about six days on a round trip commute from Namugongo to Kampala city centre with little or no traffic jam.

Running costs
Parts for the w202 are readily available and are quite affordable. However, Mercedes maintenance is not cheap when compared to Asian cars. For example, you will pay about Shs500,000 for an original Bosch fuel pump for the w202 as compared to about Shs100,000 for a Toyota of a re lated class like the 1998 Toyota Mark 2.

However, general service parts of the w202 by Mercedes standards are some of the cheapest on the market ranging from about Shs150,000 for an ignition coil to about Shs500,000 for an air mass flow sensor. It is rare that you will exceed this bracket unless you are doing major work. An oil change costs about Shs180,000 for the oil, oil filter and air filter which is within reach for Mercedes standards.