Mercedes-Benz C-Class convertible: Whatever the weather
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The saying "it doesn't rain but it pours" is apt when reviewing European convertibles in New Zealand -- literally and figuratively.
The convertibles are launched in the Northern Hemisphere summer, which means they head Downunder in our winter. So when it comes to reviewing the cars, the weather isn't ideal and it usually doesn't rain but it pours.
This means taking the roof off the vehicles the moment you see the sun - never mind that it's freezing cold and blowing a gale.
But over the past few weeks the saying has been taken figuratively as its been "pouring" new convertibles that need reviewing.
There was the Range Rover Evoque soft-top, Fiat 124 Abarth spider, Mini Cooper S open-top, and now Mercedes-Benz's C-Class.
Priced from $89,900, our test vehicle was the C200 powered by a two-litre, four cylinder, turbo-charged petrol engine producing 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque.
Paired with the Mercedes-Benz's nine-speed auto transmission, the rear wheel drive soft-top also had claimed fuel figures of 6.8-litre/100km. But during our week-long test, the best figure was nine-litres through mainly city driving.
The C200 sits on 18-inch AMG alloys but Mercedes-Benz NZ is also offering AMG C43 ($135,000) and C63 S ($189,900) convertibles.
The C-Class cabrio was launched at this year's Geneva motor show and it went on sale in New Zealand a few weeks ago.
Size-wise it's related more to the C-Class coupe than the sedan, with interior space similar to the two-door.
The four-seater carries on the premium styling of the C-Class sedan and coupe inside and out.
The convertible has a multi-layer soft-top roof that opens and closes at up to 60 km/h. The fabric roof does a great job keeping the road noise out and is weather-tight even during an unseasonal spring storm.
With the roof off, the cabin is designed to deflect the wind. My teenage daughter was passenger in the back seat with the roof off and said there was little buffeting and her hair wasn't blown about.
The boot space is deep and wide with enough space for two cabin bags, a backpack and laptop bag.
If you want to take the roof off with gear in the boot you need to pull down a luggage cover that is nestled at the top of the boot, or the roof won't operate.
But the problem for first-time use is that the handle for the cover is hard to find -- as a co-driver and I discovered during the Australasian launch in Melbourne recently.
We had to remove our luggage, kneel on the ground and use our smartphone torch to locate the black handle of the black cover.
During a week-long test in Auckland, I easily fitted four bags of supermarket shopping in the boot, and was impressed with the usability of the roof.
It's an easy vehicle to live with, although due to the convertible's chassis it does need more input from the accelerator when driving on the open road and is more sedan-like than sports car when it comes to tight corners.
Although the convertible market is small in New Zealand, the C-Class will face competition from within when the Mercedes E-Class droptop is launched next year.
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