Mercedes C220 CDI Estate

Compact executive estate. It’s rather a mouthful, but Mercedes says its new C-Class is the sector’s biggest model

Compact executive estate. It’s rather a mouthful, but Mercedes says its new C-Class is the sector’s biggest model. That’s a surprise, as on paper the boot capacity doesn’t seem too impressive – at 485 litres with the seats in place, it’s smaller than those in the Kia, Renault and Volvo.

Yet the Mercedes isn’t necessarily about headline figures; it’s the usability of the space that’s key. This car wasn’t designed to carry masses of gear. As with its French rival, it’s a lifestyle estate, and this means image is as important as function.

Short of grafting on a bulbous rear, the German firm was never going to be able to offer a huge load capacity. Instead, what impresses is the wide opening, upright tailgate and long load floor. Interestingly, a computer simulation program allowed Mercedes’ development engineers to test how easy it was to load everyday items such as pushchairs into the newcomer’s boot.

Despite all this care, there isn’t as much underfloor storage as you’d expect, but the C-Class does have a handy electric-opening tailgate – a standard feature on all models. As with the Volvo, there’s a host of stowage solutions including a pair of bag hooks, load-securing nets and even a collapsible crate designed to protect small items.

The optional £170 Easy-Pack kit also lets owners divide the boot into sections with adjustable bars that slide along floor-mounted chrome runners. Unfortunately, wheelarch intrusion means these extend only part way into the boot, somewhat limiting their usefulness. There are other weaknesses in the luggage space, too. Dropping the rear seats is an awkward and heavy process, as the load cover is attached to their backs. Why it isn’t fixed to the sides as with rivals here seems odd; it’s also tricky to attach and remove as you must fold the right seat back down before the left.

Rear legroom is disappointing. A figure of 680mm is the smallest here, and while it’s not exactly cramped, it’s quite a squeeze with four adults on board. However the Merc’s overall quality is obvious. The boot is well trimmed and the fixings, luggage bars and folding mechanisms all feel robust.

You get the same impression from the driver’s seat, although some of the plastics don’t feel as expensive as you’d expect in a £30,000 car. The C-Class’s main rivals, the BMW 3-Series and forthcoming Audi A4 Avant, both have more tactile interiors.

Yet you could argue Mercedes has the edge on style. The increase in load capacity hasn’t affected the looks, and the estate is as attractive as the saloon thanks to a rising waistline. Road manners are another strong point. Compliant and smooth, it cruises silently in superb comfort, while the well weighted steering is precise. The standard Agility Control includes dampers that automatically adjust to suit the conditions, resulting in excellent body control.

While it’s not the biggest estate here, the Merc leads the way for driving dynamics. It’s expensive, though, and with all the options such as leather seats, sat-nav and parking sensors taken into account, our test car came to nearly £40,000.

Details

Price: £30,777Model tested: C220 CDI EstateWHY: Estate version of new C-Class promises superb refinement.

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