2002 Mercedes Benz C230 Sport Coupe (409)


This week I did a second test drive on the 2002 Mercedes Benz C230 2-door sport coupe a year later. We drove up the California central valley to Southern Oregon. I’ve never done a second test review on a car, but a year later I thought I would give this car a shake down cruise. After all, it promises so much and I wanted to know if it was worth its salt. I couldn’t think of a better test for this “Small” car with so much promise. All the questions I had that I didn’t really test the first time around I suspect you might want to know the answers too. Was it comfortable or did you feel cramped driving non-stop for 11 hours? Did it get good gas mileage? How did it handle? Did it have enough power to pull the hills? Was it so small you felt intimidated by those 18-wheelers and buses?

The amazing thing is that for a mere 7 inches shorter than the C230 Sedan you lose almost nothing and pick up about a $5,000 savings over the Sedan. Let’s see, that’s about $2,500 per door and a few inches. And after answering all the questions I’m convinced this is going to be a real big seller for Mercedes. Young and old alike have to love this car. This test included toting three adults and two children (one in a car seat). Not one complaint.

I never thought I’d see a Benz that is so affordable. They have always been out of reach for most of us. And it really is a Mercedes although it is referred to many in the industry as the “Baby Benz”. Well this Baby has my support.

Handling & Performance:

This rear wheel drive coupe is solid, corners great and is super on the highway, in the city and on the farm.


Older readers will remember that a car with the front end lowered was a style originated in the late 1950’s and it was referred to as being “on a Rake”. Perhaps it had more to do with a fad change to lowering the rear end that remained popular until the late 1960’s and spotty even to today. The first car I put on a Rake was a 1950 Olds 88 two-door hard top coupe. The technique was to torch the springs in the front and jump on the bumper until the car was at just the right angle. Hopefully you jumped evenly or the car would List a little to port or starboard. Well, today, most cars come from the factory with that “Back to the future” design styling. Which reminds me I have a High School Reunion coming up. I wonder if everyone has aged. I know I haven’t. I feel the same as I did then.

I like the smartly designed glass section below the rear spoiler effect on this C230, which is also an adaptation of an old technique on some Italian exotics over 30 years ago. This gives added rear view vision that is helpful especially while parking.

Fit and Finish:

German quality is almost as good as the Japanese. Just kidding, but when people try harder, they usually do a better job in any field. The Japanese have traditionally had a great work ethic. Likewise, Europeans have historically been the artisans and craftsmen of the world.


Surely one of the best buys on the market today.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you are in the market for a car under $25,000 and are either real young or you no longer have a need for a big family sedan, this is the hot ticket. Don’t miss out on an affordable version of Mercedes engineering.

Manufacturer Recommendation:

Don’t raise the price when these things start selling. Keep your focus on the fact you want to invite younger people to the world of Mercedes Benz.

The Competition: * (in order of ranking)

 (1) Audi A4 $24-31,000, (2) Mercedes Benz C230 $24,950, (2) Volvo S40 $24-27,000, (3) Acura TL $28-33,000, (4) Infiniti I30 $30-32,000, (5) Lexus IS 300 $29-31,000, (6) Saab 9-3 $26-45,000, (7) BMW 3-Series $27-42,000, (8) Lincoln LS $33-39,000 (9) Audi S4 39,000, (10) Jaguar S-Type $43-49,000,  (12) BMW M3 $45-53,000.

* – Ranking is based on cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

Good News:

Well priced, good gas performance, Mercedes engineering.

Bad News:

Still none that matters.

Standard Equipment:

2.3 liter 192 horsepower supercharged engine, 6-speed manual transmission, dual zone climate control, leather steering wheel with leather shift knob, split fold down rear seat, cloth upholstery, smart key, cruise control, 8-way manual front seats, manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power windows, auto headlights with twilight sensor, heated power auto-dimming driver mirror, trip computer, 4 year 50,000 mile warranty, dual front and side airbags, baby smart seat recognition system, anti-theft and immobilizer, electronic stability program, anti-slip regulation and 4-wheel ABS power disc brakes.
Gas Stats:
19 City and 29 Highway MPG.


MSRP $24,950.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

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