Mercedes' facelifted C180 remains a strong contender in the premium compact sedan arena
No sea change for Mercedes-Benz C-class The Mercedes C180 is equipped with a 1.6-litre turbo producing 156hp and 250Nm of torque and a nine-speed transmission. PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Minor cosmetic tweaks and a host of new on-board features and performance enhancements - that sums up what car manufacturers do to give their models a mid-life uplift.

Mercedes-Benz is no exception, going by the refreshed C-class.

The current generation C-class stands out for its striking good looks. Hence, there's no need to fix something that ain't broke.

So, besides a sportier front section which makes the model more aggressive-looking, as well as LED lighting all round, there is little to distinguish the facelift from the original.

The test-car is an entry-level C180 variant, equipped with a familiar 1.6-litre turbo producing 156hp and 250Nm of torque. But instead of a seven-speed transmission, it is now paired with a nine-speeder. There are five drive modes to choose from too.

As a result, it makes a swifter sprint to 100kmh, clocking 8.3 seconds in the dash, instead of the pre-facelift's 8.8.

At the wheel, the C180 does not exactly have the oomph to go with its sportier styling. It is leisurely and requires a heavy foot to get it up to a gallop. It is not a laggard, but neither can it be described as sporty.

The sedan has a more pliant ride than the coupe version. But the car's chassis is still up for enthusiastic driving, even if its powertrain does not exactly inspire that.

But that is quite all right, really. A Mercedes sedan has always put cushy progress as a priority, and in that sense, the C180 meets the mark for a compact four-door.

What is a bit of letdown is its efficiency, or lack of. You would expect an engine with a modest displacement to offer economy, but the test-car averages 11 litres/100km, versus the company's declared 6.6 litres/100km.

A few sharp edges mar an otherwise well-finished interior.

Mercedes' new steering wheel sits proudly at the helm, with its suite of thumb-operated controls for functions such as auto cruise, trip computer and hi-fi.

Although a departure from what the brand has relied on for decades, it is likely to appeal to younger customers. Here, the sensor pad is a little too sensitive. So you will often scroll to another radio station unintentionally.

The car's familiar brake-operated Hold function is intact, though.

The C180 is equipped with a 12.3-inch digital instrument display that comes with choice of display styles, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 64-colour cabin ambient lighting.

You can now channel whatever you have on your phone through the system, including navigation. That is a good thing because the recent Mercs have navi systems that are unwieldy to access.

The car also comes with a motorised boot lid. That seems a little extravagant, given how small, light and low the boot lid is. Motorised tailgates are necessary only for big vehicles such as sport utility vehicles or multi-purpose vehicles.

If you are looking to buy a premium compact sedan, the C180 is certainly a viable contender. But you might also want to check out BMW's new 3-series before deciding.