Despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of the crossover, there’s still something appealing about a good old-fashioned small premium estate. So, can Mercedes’ new C-Class Estate, driven here in the UK for the first time tempt buyers from Audi Q5s, BMW X3s, and Range Rover Evoques?
It’s no rakish ‘Shooting Brake’ to look at, with a squared-off roofline and horizontal chome bar outlining the C-Class’s rear end in a slightly clunky fashion. The upshot is between 410 litres and 1,510 litres of boot space, depending whether you’ve got the split rear seat upright or folded – an easy process that only takes a tug of the quick-release switches.
Oddly, with the seats up the boot is only 10 litres bigger than the saloon’s, but it’s a more practical shape, accessed via a large, electrically operated tailgate as standard for the first time in a C-Class wagon. The maximum figure is 10 litres up on a BMW 3 Series Touring’s.
Storage nets and securing hooks feature as standard, but the C-Class still does without a completely flush loading sill and flat load bay, or the surprisingly useful pop-up rear window that BMW throws in with the 3 Series.
The price you pay for this blend of luxury, load-lugging and badge kudos is £34,060 in mid-range Sport trim – £1,200 more than for the saloon. Make that £35,020 for our test car, with its near-opaque tinted glass and optional leather seats to really set off that stunning cabin.
The Estate’s dash is identical to the saloon’s, so the cool metal and polished wood surfaces are gorgeously finished – only the divisive ‘floating’ infotainment screen threatens to spoil the flowing lines.
It’s also the home of the worst thing about the new C-Class’s cabin – the Garmin-sourced sat-nav. It’s a supermini-spec eyesore in a cockpit that otherwise would embarrass a car twice the price. In the back the space is decent, while the thick pillars and heavily tinted glass conspire to make the rear bench feel a touch claustrophpic.
Power in this C220 BlueTEC comes from the same 2.1-litre diesel as in the C250, detuned from 201bhp to 168bhp, although 400Nm of torque from just 1,400rpm is the more important figure. It’s an engine that does the job, rather than having any real joy about it. It’s mostly muted, although it sounds a little rough as the revs rise, but gets the 1,615kg Estate moving eagerly.
Credit in part goes to the smooth seven-speed paddleshift gearbox – a must-have £1,500 option. Motorway drivers will find the C220 wanting for punch, however, as will those looking to test the limits of that 1,500-litre boot often. Save up £1,155 for the more potent C250 and its standard automatic gearbox, and you’d ultimately unlock the C-Class Estate’s sweet spot.
Our test car featured the lowered comfort suspension as standard, rather than the adaptive set-up. It’s a good compromise for most British roads, maintaining the comfort-over-commitment stance of the saloon.
The Sport’s 17-inch wheels are a real help here, compared to the AMG Sport model’s 18-inch rims, but you still suffer quite a clatter on the worst UK road surfaces. Don’t attempt to hustle the car and it’s much happier, playing at being a baby S-Class rather than an true sports estate.