WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Having been an affordable used car for well over a decade, older examples have had plenty of time to be neglected or abused. Mercedes-Benz provides excellent spares and service support, with many consumables priced competitively against third-party or OEM products. Look for evidence of genuine parts used for wear items and consumables. A knowledgeable owner is a caring owner, and 190 prices are increasing, dragging the neglected but polished up to levels that can secure a solid example with good provenance.
SERVICE AND SUPPORT
Mercedes did not galvanise its bodies until long after the 190 ended production, and although well protected, when rust takes hold it can be hidden by flexible underseal until well advanced and expensive to repair. Check front suspension mounts, jacking points, windscreen and rear window surrounds. Rear subframe mounts are well protected, but if suffering, rectification is complex and expensive. Cosmetic rust can affect doors badly at the base of the windows, and the plastic cladding can hide accident damage so check that it is correctly secured. Nearly all UK examples have a factory-fitted sunroof, adding blocked drain tubes to the sources of damp and subsequent rust. Snapped three-pointed stars are not expensive to replace. Pay attention to the large, upright headlights which are prone to stonechipping.
Dating from a golden age of efficiency and quality in Mercedes running gear, there are really no bad engines with the 190. E denotes fuel injection, and the 2.0-litre M102 engine is a better match for the preferred automatic gearbox. Diesel models, even turbos, are relatively slow, but approach indestructible reliability. Light and unstressed, the drivetrain takes high mileages well. The manual gearbox has a slightly baulky, rubbery shift yet should swap ratios easily, the automatic fits the traditional model of smooth shifts and effortless driving, and should cope with over 200,000 miles easily with regular fluid changes. Slight differential whine is common over 80,000 miles. Clonks when engaging gear are often due to worn subframe or diff bushes at the rear. Excessive movement at the steering wheel is usually fixed with a steering damper. Coils and shock absorbers, often past their best, can be swapped quickly with the correct tools, and make a good bargaining point.
BORN TO RUN
There are few areas of interior trim or equipment to offer cause for concern. The 190’s simple dashboard is often dressed up with fake wood kits, with variable degrees of taste and success, while UV damage and cracks are rare given the era of car. Parcel shelf fade and warped door tops are more common. MB-Tex vinyl interiors will outlast the car, leather is rare, fabric material remarkably tough.
INSIDE AND OUT