The Mercedes-Benz C class has enjoyed a long life as the Baby Benz" since its initial release in 1993. Classified as a compact executive car, it serves as the entry-level Mercedes for American enthusiasts. With an initial line-up of eight engines, buyers had a choice of four-cylinder diesel, four-cylinder gasoline power plant, turbo-charged, flat-six, and nearly any permutation imaginable. Initially, only a five-speed manual transmission was offered on the base model. Subsequent years saw the availability of five-speed automatics and eventually a six-speed manual. From the first, the C Class has had a solid core of rabid fans.
The first generation C Class cars were assembled around the globe in India, South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, and Malaysia in addition to the home facilities in Bremen and Sindelfingen, Germany. The second generation saw a less far-flung origin with most production taking place in Germany, South Africa, and Egypt. Depending on the power plant, the C Class has been capable of fuel economy figures ranging from 13 mpg in the city to 15 mpg on the highway up to 21 mpg in town and 25 on the road. Nearly continuous tinkering under the hood has seen improvements both in fuel consumption and in torque on a year-model basis.
Debuting in 1993 to replace the 190 series, the C Class remains in production. Designed as a compact and more affordable executive car, the C Class has become progressively curvier since its inception. First-generation cars from 1993 through about 1997 had a boxier profile, which has been gradually reworked to become more aerodynamic and in line with overall more round vehicle profiles. At the same time, a double overhead-cam engine replaced the venerable SOHC. Engines from this time forward became increasingly fuel-efficient, with more lower-range power than previous models. Reviews of the 2012 C Class give it high marks for even better engines, interior refinements and minor updates to the exterior.
Interior trim levels in the Mercedes-Benz Class were rather limited in the early years. After all, this was meant to be the Benz's "economy line". However, even in its most stripped-down version, the C Class has always offered leather upholstery and other creature comforts as standard. Beginning in 1997, exterior refinements included alloy wheels and the incorporation of the radio's antenna into the rear window glass.
The Mercedes-Benz C Class has received several nods of approval from safety groups since its release. For example, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration rated the 2006 C as "very good" in frontal driver, frontal passenger, rollover, and side rear passenger crash tests and as "excellent" in side driver crash ratings.
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