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Not quite. It’s the Mercedes-Benz SLC – formerly the SLK – in its new entry-level form. Meet the SLC 180, available only in fancy AMG Line trim, perhaps to mask the paucity of power beneath.
A 1.6-litre turbo four drives the rear wheels, sending a mighty 154bhp and 184lb ft their way. Suddenly the SLC is in the same ballpark as the Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spider, but you won’t find us being too sniffy. There aren’t enough little roadsters on sale, particularly for £30k or below, so we’ll happily welcome another.
And is it below £30k?
Not quite. It’s a touch over 32 grand. But list price might not be the big factor here; private buyers can have one of these for £275 a month, and it’s leasing and company car deals that have no doubt helped make the SLC 250d – yep, d for diesel – the biggest seller of the range since it was introduced in the days of the SLK badge.
Spoiler alert: we’re far more welcoming of a petrol-powered route to roadster affordability, even if this SLC 180 is notably down on power and torque to the diesel, and its 48.7mpg not as frugal. But it’s a convertible, and you want the nicest sound possible when you drop the roof. The diesel SLC has always been far from offering that.
A 1.6 though? Nice sounding?
It’s an engine naturally geared away from outright performance. So rather like the modestly powered Mazda and Fiat, the SLC 180 asks you to work it hard if you want to travel briskly. The engine itself is far from an all-time great, but the mere task of revving something out and extracting all you can from it is enjoyable.
The SLC 180 comes as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, too, making that task extra interactive. You can have an automatic, but it’s £1,600 more, scuppering this car’s bargain bucket position a bit. The manual shift is surprisingly good given it’s not a Merc forte, and there’s always something novel about driving a car with three pedals beneath its three-pointed star.
This isn’t a RWD roadster in the lairy, loutish sense, though. It steers and handles decently enough, but don’t expect it to feel like an AMG-lite.