Mercedes C-Class vs Rivals

We see if Mercedes’ revised C-Class is the new king of the compact exec class as it meets BMW and Audi rivals

Mercedes C-Class vs Rivals front

Welcome to the toughest of three-way fights. The models in this test dominate the compact executive sector, but does the arrival of the revised Mercedes C-Class upset the established order?

The German company has carried out what it’s calling a ‘comprehensive modernisation’ to help the saloon leapfrog the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Revised exterior styling, cleaner engines and a better-quality cabin are a few of the changes to have been rolled out, but will they be enough?

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We put the efficient C220 CDI under the microscope in top-of-the-range Sport trim to find out. The 320d M Sport will be no pushover, however, with a winning combination of efficient engines and dynamic handling that has seen off rivals before.

Plus, the A4 boasts a spacious and beautifully finished cabin and, in flagship S line trim, sharp looks. Its 2.0-litre diesel engine has also been designed with company car users in mind. All three feature stop-start technology to keep emissions to a minimum, but which of our trio will be sitting on the compact executive throne when the dust settles?

Verdict

Make no mistake, the refreshed Mercedes C-Class is a leap forward over its predecessor. The revisions inside have given a much more upmarket feel, while improved material quality addresses one of the car’s biggest failings. A more efficient diesel engine and sharper exterior are also very welcome changes – but these are tiny steps when a big stride was needed for the car to compete with the class leaders. The powerplant still trails rivals for refinement, while the numb controls and limited driver involvement ensure the C220 CDI still takes the bronze medal in the compact executive sector. The battle for gold is typically hard fought, as what the Audi A4 lacks in one area it makes up for in another. As with the Mercedes, it trails the BMW from behind the wheel, but boasts a class-leading cabin and spacious interior. In the end, the 320d has the edge. It combines the most efficient engine in this test with strong performance, excellent refinement and affordable running costs. A smart interior and class-leading dynamics ensure it takes the spoils – although the margin of victory is smaller than ever.

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