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With the additions of an affordable sport hatchback (though they call it a sport coupe), a sport wagon and a high-performance sedan, Mercedes-Benz has a seat for everyone in the compact luxury/sport arena.
Solid construction, safety features, big-Benz styling.
Tight squeeze for backseat occupants, can get pricey for its segment.
Available C-Class Models
Use the Edmunds Pricing System to help you get the best deal:
Two new models debut: the C230 Kompressor Sport Coupe and the C320 wagon.
For 2002, Mercedes covers all the bases by bringing out hatchback, wagon and high-powered sport sedan versions of the C-Class.
Starting at the low end, the $25,000 C230 Kompressor Sport Coupe (actually a hatchback) puts the three-pointed star in reach of more folks who want Mercedes safety, engineering and, yes, status.
Using the same supercharged ("kompressor" in German) 192-horsepower 2.3-liter inline four found in the SLK 230 roadster coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, the baby Benz can sprint to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds.
Just because this is the entry-level C doesn't mean that the standard features list is skimpy. Quite the opposite as dual-zone climate control, aluminum cabin accents, 16-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker sound system with cassette deck (though it lacks a CD player, a changer is optional), a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with stereo and trip computer controls and eight-way (manual) adjusting driver seat are all standard. Leather seating and a large "Panorama" sunroof are among the available options.
And, as expected from a Benz, the new hatch sports a boatload of high-tech safety features such as four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, electronic stability control and front, side and head-protection airbags.
Moving on to the sedans, the C240 and C320 are unchanged, having just been introduced last year. The C240 is motivated by a 2.6-liter V6 with 168 horsepower (why it's not called the C260 escapes us) and the C320 sports a 3.2-liter V6 with 215 horses. And, in an effort to further compete with its venerable statesmen (i.e. BMW), a six-speed manual gearbox can be had in the C240. Those who prefer automatic gear changes will like the responsive tranny in the C320, a five-speeder with Mercedes' TouchShift feature that allows manual gearchanging should the mood strike. It's standard on the 320 and optional on the 240. With a five-link rear suspension and a rack-and-pinion steering system, the C-Class demonstrates ability at canyon carving that the pre-2001 car lacked.
Such luxury features as dual climate control, steering wheel-mounted controls and wood trim come standard on the C240. Step up to the C320 and receive a Bose stereo system, full power memory front seats and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Options include a stand-alone navigation system and Mercedes' Cockpit Management and Data System (COMAND) -- the center console interface that controls the navigation system, the audio system and the cell phone -- xenon headlamps, heated seats, a six-disc CD changer and a sport package that provides higher spring rates, tighter shock valving, a thicker stabilizer bar and larger tires.
Wundertuner AMG applies their magic to the C-class sedan and the result is the pavement-scorching C32 AMG. No less than 349 horsepower pour out of the C32's supercharged V6, hooked up to an enhanced five-speed automatic dubbed "SpeedShift" that together vault the car to 60 mph in around 5 seconds flat. Beefy vented disc brakes, an AMG-massaged suspension and 17-inch alloys wearing fat performance rubber complete the hardware package. A front air dam and side skirts, unique wheels and a two-tone interior separate the C32 from the garden-variety C-class sedans.
Also added to the C-class family for 2002 is the C320 Sport Wagon. Essentially the same as a C320 sedan under the skin, it shares that model's features and provides up to 63.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity. And the wagon hauls more than spoils from a day of antiquing; its zero-to-60 mph time of 7.0 seconds (according to Mercedes) is just a tick slower than the C320 sedan.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.