Mercedes C-Class Estate review
Verdict on Mercedes C-Class Estate, a practical and comfortable choice of family car
The Mercedes C-Class Estate is the more practical alternative to the C-Class Saloon. It goes head-to-head to with cars like the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring, offering a boot with a maximum capacity of 1,510 litres. The all-new model was introduced in the middle of 2014, boasting a stylish design, a range of clean engines, plenty of hi-tech gadgets and a luxurious interior.
In the UK, the biggest sellers will be the C220 and C250 BlueTEC models but Mercedes will also release a C300 BlueTEC HYBRID version in early 2015, which boasts CO2 emissions of 99g/km – that’s great for company car buyers.
The C-Class Estate feels like a luxurious and grown-up car. It majors on comfort and cabin quality, while the BMW 3 Series Touring remains our pick if you’re after the best handling. In aiming for a more relaxed character than the sporting BMW, Mercedes has come up with a very desirable cosseting family mover.
Our choice: Mercedes C-Class Estate 250 BlueTEC Sport
Arguably better looking than the Saloon, the C-Class Estate even makes a good case for itself as the most handsome car in this class. Even basic SE models look elegant, apart from the undersized 16-inch alloys. The amount of chrome is limited on these models and there are no stylish LED running lights, either. Upgrading to Sport brings more chrome trim, bigger 17-inch wheels and a stylish rear diffuser. But best of the bunch style-wise are AMG Line cars, which get an aggressive bodykit and 18-inch wheels as standard. You can even upgrade to 19-inch units if you want.
The interior is definitely a highlight, boasting an understated, well laid out design with plenty of high quality materials. The AMG Line cabin the most stunning because you get stitched imitation leather on the dashboard. Even without it, though, the gloss black centre console and satin chrome door handles give it a really class feel. No other car comes quite as close to feeling like a miniature Mercedes S-Class.
Both the C250 BlueTEC and C220 BlueTEC are powered by a 2.1-litre diesel engine, providing plenty of in-gear performance. The C250 comes with a seven-speed automatic as standard, and in typical Mercedes fashion it smoothes out shifts for a really relaxing drive. Officially, the 250 will go from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds, while the C220 takes 7.6 seconds. At higher motorway speeds, the C220 struggles a little more, taking its time to execture overtakes. Given the Estate model is likely to be used for carting around heavier loads, the more powerful C250 is more more satisfying all-rounder, and likely to only suffer marginally in fuel economy.
But, while we’ve got no qualms with the performance we’re not so sure about the refinement. Keep engine revs low and it’s OK but if you’re at full throttle or in Sport mode – where the gearbox holds on to the gears until the last minute – the 2.1-litre unit sounds seriously gruff and noisy. The C300 BlueTEC HYBRID is a bit better; it has the same engine but it’s boosted by an electric motor so it never seems to be working quite so hard. Most manufacturers struggle to make four-cylinder diesels refined, but the C-Class is disappointing given how relaxed the rest of its ambience is.
The optional air suspension (£895 at the time of writing), provides a marble smooth ride on rough motorways. Bumps are smoothed out to a gentle bounce at speed but we found the system gets caught out over sharp ridges and potholes when you’re driving around town. Occasionally you hear a loud thud and feel a jolt in the cabin. If you can't stretch to the adaptive set-up, don't worry, as the standard dmapers strike a good compromise between body roll and comfort, only jolting over the roughest of UK roads.
Handling is OK but no match for the BMW 3 Series. The steering feels quite quick, which makes the C-Class feel initially sporty, but you soon find it’s nowhere near as composed on the limit as the BMW. With the air suspension set to comfort, the C-Class leans a bit too much in to bends, but switching to Sport to adjust the engine response and suspesnion stiffness does help things slightly. That being said, the C-Class isn't an entertainer no matter what mode you put it in.
The clearest indication of Mercedes’ excellent reputation for reliability comes with our 2014 Driver Power survey where owners propelled the German brand to a top 10 finish. That was down to their build quality and reliability, which is something we expect to be carried over to the C-Class Estate. Most cars will be a powered by a tried-and-tested 2.1-litre diesel that has been used extensively in Mercedes models for years now.
The Saloon was awarded a five-star rating from Euro NCAP for crash safety and it’s safe to assume that the Estate will similarly get top marks. That’s because it comes with seven airbags as standard, drowsiness detection, tyre pressure monitoring and traction control.
Also available is an autonomous braking system, lane-keep assist and an internet-connect piece of software that can call the emergency services to your location in the event of an accident.
The C-Class Estate’s boot can hold 490 litres of gear with the rear seats up – ever so slightly down on the 3 Series – and 1,510 litres with them folded down, which is slightly more than the BMW. But more important than the out-and-out spaciousness are the practical touches that go with it.
An electric tailgate is standard, for example, and the seats fold 40:20:40 at the touch of a button in the boot. If you pay a little extra you can get a hands-free boot, which allows you to kick your foot underneath the rear bumper to open it. That's a handy feature, but what isn't so clever is the fact that the rear seats don't fold totally flat, and there's a small lip on the wide loading sill, so sliding heavy items into the cargo area is more difficult than it could be. There's no pop-up rear window for quick loading of smaller items, either.
Compared with the old C-Class Estate, this model has an 80mm longer wheelbase, which has allowed Mercedes to stretch rear passenger legroom by 45mm. Go for Sport trim, or AMG Line, and you get a useful reversing camera, too.
The 1.6-litre C180 and C200 BlueTEC are the cheapest and least powerful diesels in the range but they’re not actually the most fuel-efficient. That title goes to the 2.1-litre C220 BlueTEC model, which boasts emissions of just 108g/km, with fuel economy of 65.7mpg. Not too far behind that is the more powerful C250 BlueTEC, which claims figures of 117g/km and 62.7mpg.
A C300 BlueTEC Hybrid model cuts emissions to 99g/km, making it the pick for company car buyers. There is also a petrol-powered C200 model, which manages 51.4mpg but Mercedes doesn’t expect many UK buyers to go for it. In 2015, a plug-in hybrid version of the C-Class Estate will be launched, and we’re expecting CO2 emissions of around 50g/km.
A three-year warranty comes included and it will cover you for unlimited mileage during that time, making it useful for those covering huge distances.