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
Engines, performance and drive
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. Unfortunately, the steering is a letdown. The wheel feels extremely light, especially around the dead-ahead, while Merc’s Direct Steer system adjusts the power assistance according to speed and driving mode. Although the response is weightier in Sport modes, the variable-ratio rack is inconsistent and has hardly any feedback.
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. Overall, the C-Class Estate is just as accomplished as the saloon when it comes to refined cruising, but it can’t match the 3 Series Touring for driving enjoyment.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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. Depreciation is about on par with the BMW 3 Series Touring.
Interior, design and technology
Mercedes has taken bold steps with the design of its most recent models, and the C-Class Estate certainly cuts a dash compared to its rivals. As you would expect, it mostly shares the saloon’s looks, so you get a large rounded grille with an oversized three-pointed star, while swooping headlights add yet more drama to the front end. Sport models and above get full LED headlamps with distinctive daytime running lights.
Further back, the sculpted wings and doors add drama to the look, while the extended roof line of the estate blends into a small bootlid spoiler and a rounded tailgate. The Estate also gets roof rails, which are finished in chrome on Sport models and higher, while the tail-lights wrap around the rear wings and bootlid. That tailgate is power-operated on all models and, while it’s a little slow to open, it does at least take the strain out of lifting it.
Climb inside and the C-Class Estate is identical to the saloon, so you get the same high-quality look and finish as you’ll find in the S-Class limousine. Again, all models have a tablet-style colour centre console display and, while it looks a bit like an aftermarket addition, it’s easy to navigate, courtesy of the standard COMAND control wheel.
Automatic models, like the one in our test, feature a column-mounted shift, decluttering and freeing up space on the dash, while the mix of gloss black plastics and metal switches adds an air of solidity. All cars get artificial leather as standard, but you’d be hard pressed to tell it from the real thing, while the C-Class’s build quality can’t be faulted.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
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.
There’s little to separate the C-Class and 3 Series for back seat space with the seats up, as both cars offer lots of head and legroom, but the Mercedes’ circular metal air vents add a classy touch. You get plenty of room up front in the C-Class, too, while the deep centre console storage bins and two-level glovebox offer lots of storage.
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.
Reliability and Safety
Mercedes’ reputation for manufacturing mechanically robust cars is still intact, but with the raft of electronics on its new models, glitches are likely to become more of a cause for concern. The latest C-Class is too new to have appeared in our Driver Power surveys, yet it’s already been recalled for a steering column issue as a precautionary measure.
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.