Mercedes C220 CDI Sport Estate

Statistics and dimensions have helped Mercedes make big claims about its new small estate. But what’s most likely to attract buyers to the third-generation C-Class wagon is the fact it looks great.

  • Great cabin layout, well planned storage and clear multifunction display, easy-to-use COMAND system includes DVD sat-nav. More generous boot than in BMW.
  • Brakes are a little sudden. Parcel shelf is heavy and awkward to attach and remove. Expensive for what it is.

It’s a crucial factor for a car that trades on its sense of style more than outright practicality. We reckon the C-Class is easily the most successful of the latest generation of Mercedes products, including the S-Class limo and M-Class SUV.

Viewed in profile, the bluff front end (available in two different styles, depending on which trim level you go for) is balanced out by the estate’s equally upright tailgate. It’s not as sleek as the more sporting BMW, which is both wider and lower, but it’s a far more interesting and exciting car to look at, not to mention surprisingly aerodynamic, with a drag factor of only 0.30Cd.

The Merc is longer, too – a factor which undoubtedly contributes to its more generous boot measurements. And it’s not only the dimensions that help its cause. It also has less intrusive wheelarches, a lower load sill and that near-vertical rear end, ensuring it has the better shaped and more usable load area.

Admittedly, it doesn’t have as much underfloor storage as the BMW, or separate opening rear glass, but every model has an electric tailgate. Press the button on the driver’s door or touch the boot handle, and it opens and closes automatically.

If only dropping the seats was as easy. Unfortunately, the load cover is attached to the seat backs, so even though they’re easy to fold, it’s a heavy operation. But the 1,500-litre load bay is 146 litres larger than its predecessor’s, and 115 litres up on the BMW.

The C-Class’s bigger boot has come at the expense of legroom, which lags 20mm behind its rival. The rear bench is also firmer and not as comfortable to sit on, while using the Isofix child seat mountings is far trickier than in the 3-Series.

However, the Mercedes takes back the initiative up front. The overall interior ambience is spot-on and the C-Class is a pleasant place to spend time. It’s well laid out, attractive and robust, and it looks expensive, even if it doesn’t feel it: the materials aren’t in Audi’s league. You sit slightly higher, but the driving position is still very comfortable, and if anything only serves to give you a better view out.

What about the C220’s 2.2-litre diesel? It’s no surprise that the 170bhp common rail isn’t as smooth as the 325i’s straight-six, due to the extra noise, vibration and lack of aural appeal. But in terms of everyday acceleration, where 0-60mph isn’t nearly as important as 50-70mph, there’s less to choose between them. Whether overtaking or on motorways, the Merc’s torque means there’s no need for the five-speed auto to kickdown.

The Merc is smooth and well mannered, and cruises silently with superb ride comfort. It’s a gentler and calmer driving experience than the BMW, and comes across as relaxed and satisfying. What’s more, there’s a Sport button to firm the suspension and sharpen the gearchange.

Neat handling and perfectly judged steering mean the C-Class can teach the 3-Series a lesson or two about driving dynamics, but in terms of equipment and costs, the Merc isn’t great. Bluetooth and seven airbags are included, yet more than £30,000 for a mid-range diesel is pricey.

Details

Price: £30,777Model tested: Mercedes C220 CDI SportChart position: 1WHY: Mercedes claims the C-Class is the biggest car in the class, and the most versatile, too

Economy

The automatic gearbox hampers the CDI. It returns 37.6mpg, with the manual likely to top 40mpg. Still, the 66-litre fuel tank gives a 546-mile range – over 80 miles up on the BMW.

Residuals

Resale figures for the estate have yet to be calculated, but it’s likely to do as well as the saloon. As usual with Mercedes, values for auto models will be two per cent stronger than for manuals.

Servicing

Don’t let the 30-year recovery deal distract you from the hefty service charges. You should be able to top 18,000 miles between dealer visits, but the second check costs a huge £500.

Tax

The C220 diesel puts out less CO2 than the 325i, at 161g/km. But the three per cent surcharge leaves the Merc one tax bracket higher, so top-rate drivers pay £160 more a year, at £2,708.

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