Mercedes C-Class review
All-new Mercedes C-Class goes posher than ever before as it bids to topple BMW 3 Series
The all-new Mercedes C-Class is here to take on the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 in the competitive compact executive sector. Prices start just under £27,000, making the C-Class slightly more expensive than the outgoing model, and slightly more pricey than the competition.
However, Mercedes has added lots more equipment to lure in new buyers, so spec-for-spec, the new model is actually better value than before. This is especially true when you consider that Mercedes claims improvements to the engines mean it’s also up to 20 per cent more fuel-efficient.
Taking its visual and technological cues from Mercedes’ flagship S-Class, the new C-Class promises refinement and luxury unrivalled in this fiercely fought class. It’s available as a saloon, while an estate arrives later this year. There’s a choice of C220 and C250 BlueTEC diesels, plus a C200 petrol.
Our choice: Mercedes C220 BlueTEC Sport
When designing the new C-Class, Mercedes clearly took inspiration from the latest S-Class limousine. It has a similarly low-slung profile and the same neatly styled lines on the flanks, plus LEDs set into the swept-back headlamps.
The range-topping AMG Line model has a number of racy additions, including lower side sills, deeper bumpers and 18-inch alloys. Plus, our example had even more imposing £595 19-inch AMG rims.
But it’s the luxurious cabin that really steals the show. It’s also influenced by the S-Class, meaning you get a slick dash design with eyeball air vents, plus a gorgeously tactile metal finish for the electric window switches, air-con controls, power seat adjusters and the infotainment system’s rotary controller.
Standard kit is generous, too. All versions get a DAB radio, Bluetooth and Mercedes’ trademark Artico man-made leather, while Sport and AMG cars add desirable extras such as heated seats, sat-nav and LED headlamps.
As you’d expect, there are plenty of options to pick from. Our car had the £2,795 Premium Plus package, which bundles together keyless-go, ambient cabin lighting, a powerful Burmester stereo, panoramic glass roof and a COMAND sat-nav controller that features a glossy 8.4-inch tablet-style screen in place of the standard seven-inch display. Also included was the S-Class’ £350 Air Balance Pack, which adds a fragrance dispenser to the climate control.
The new C-Class is the first car to be built using Mercedes’ new rear-wheel drive architecture (MRA). This uses around 50 per cent aluminium in its construction – up from 10 per cent before – and cuts 70kg from the body. Other weight savings mean the new C-Class weighs around 100kg less than previously, which all helps improve the driving experience.
The big selling engine is expected to be the 2.1-litre diesel in the C220 and C250 BluTEC, which provides plenty of power and competitive claimed fuel economy figures. However, it’s carried over from the previous car and remains pretty gruff and noisy.
The C-Class’ upmarket atmosphere is spoiled when you twist the key and Mercedes’ ageing diesel rattles into life. The 2.1-litre engine fails to settle down on the move, either – it sounds strained when extended and drones on the motorway.
The optional £1,500 seven-speed auto gearbox is unresponsive to throttle inputs and often holds gears too long before shifting up. And while there are steering wheel paddles, there’s no option to lock the box in manual mode, so it frequently kicks down with no warning.
The £895 AirMATIC agility Pack adds air-suspension, adaptive dampers and an Agility Select function that allows you to choose from Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ driving modes. On smooth roads this C-Class floats over bumps, yet potholes, broken tarmac and motorway expansion joints send a crash through the cabin.
The steering is quick and direct, but it’s inconsistently weighted and gives very little feedback. Selecting Sport+ mode sharpens the throttle, adds weight to the steering and stiffens the dampers, but the Mercedes’ front tyres start to understeer more easily than we'd like. Plus, the firm suspension causes the car to skitter uncomfortably over mid-corner bumps.
Mercedes was a top 10 star in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, with owners praising its cars’ reliability and build quality. And while this C-Class is new, many of its components, such as the 2.1-litre diesel and seven-speed gearbox, are tried and tested.
As you’d expect from Mercedes, the car is packed with safety kit and has already been awarded a full five-star crash-test rating by Euro NCAP. Standard equipment includes seven airbags, a driver drowsiness monitor, stability control and tyre-pressure warnings.
You can also add hi-tech options such as the £2,300 Driver Assistance Pack, which brings lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Other extras include a head-up display and an adaptive cornering function for the LED headlamps.
At 4,686mm long and 1,810mm wide, the new C-Class is 95mm longer and 40mm wider than before. Couple this to an 80mm increase in wheelbase, which now measures 2,840mm, and the C-Class certainly has the potential to offer more cabin space.
And that’s true in part. Up front, there’s lots of room in the comfortable seats, with plenty head and legroom. The driving position is better aligned now, too, and visibility is good. There’s plenty of space in the doors and dash to store the usual on-board clutter, with all models including a media interface for connecting your smartphone to the car.
It doesn’t take long with a tape measure to realise that Mercedes used the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 as benchmarks when designing the C-Class. All three cars provide similar amounts of head and legroom for rear-seat passengers, plus they have identical 480-litre boot capacities. The C-Class gets a split-folding rear bench in SE models and above, but unlike the 3 Series, there’s no under-floor space.
There’s lots of useful storage space elsewhere, including a large glovebox, door bins and a lidded cubby between the front seats. The rear armrest incorporates two cup-holders.
At launch, there are two diesel and one petrol engine options to choose from. The C220 Bluetec 168bhp 2.1-litre diesel is expected to be the best seller. In entry-level manual SE form, it emits 103g/km and returns over 70mpg, meaning it sits in the 16 per cent BiK bracket – great for company car drivers.
The C250 Bluetec model is much cleaner than before, and claims the same CO2 figure, but 65mpg. The only petrol model is the C200, powered by a 181bhp 2.0-litre engine that returns 53.3mpg and emits 123g/km of CO2, whether you choose manual or auto gearboxes. All engine and gearbox combinations are more competitive in terms of running costs than before, with some up to 20 per cent more efficient.
The engine range will soon expand to include the C200 Bluetec, which is powered by a new 1.6-litre diesel that comes in 114bhp or 135bhp versions. A C300 Bluetec diesel-electric hybrid will also be offered, which develops 230bhp yet returns 72.4mpg. A plug-in petrol-electric hybrid will also be offered.
Private buyers will enjoy strong 45.2 per cent residuals, while options are bundled in decent-value packs, such as the £995 Executive Pack that adds sat-nav, heated seats and a split-folding rear bench to SE models. There’s also the £1,595 Premium and £2,795 Premium Plus packs.