Mercedes C-Class review
The upmarket Mercedes C-Class brings the usual air of quality, although you'll need to upgrade to the AMG cars to find a truly exciting drive
The updates bestowed on the latest-generation C-Class sent Mercedes’ compact executive challenger back to the sharp end of the class in style. We were so convinced we named it our Compact Executive Car of the Year, at the 2018 Auto Express New Car Awards.
The C-Class’s 2018 update didn’t bring significant styling changes, but changes both under the skin and in the cabin, including the adoption of some new engines and some welcome new technology, make this an executive car worthy of any buyer’s time.
Mild-hybrid technology impresses in the C 200, but the 1.5-litre engine it utilises could be a bit quieter. Similarly, the 2.0-litre diesel in the C 220 D is a welcome improvement over the coarse old 2.1-litre unit.
The Mercedes C-Class is a strong all-round package and particularly if your priorities are comfort, equipment and running costs, the latest version won’t disappoint.
The compact executive sector is the name given to the car market arena in which the Mercedes C-Class does battle. It’s one of the toughest contests out there, with premium marques doing battle with posh Fords Peugeots, Mazdas and Vauxhalls, primarily for the attention of fleet managers and company car users.
The fierce competition pays dividends for company car drivers. The Mercedes C-Class is just one of a clutch of luxurious, refined and fun-to-drive machines that include the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS and the Volvo S60. Throw in the top-spec versions of large family cars like the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat and Skoda Superb, plus a plethora of stylish crossovers and SUVs, and it’s easy to see how ‘competition improves the breed’.
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When it first arrived in 1993, the C-Class was the junior Mercedes, but the A-Class soon followed as the German brand delved deeper into the mainstream. An expanding A-Class range has since pushed the C-Class further upmarket, and as well as the regular saloon you can buy a C-Class Coupe, a C-Class Cabriolet and a C-Class Estate. The C-Class for sale today is the newly facelifted fourth generation model, although there's an all new car arriving in mid-2021.
There are also a couple of C-Class AMG performance variants, the C43 and C63 S – the latter offering the sort of brute force you’d expect from a supercar. The Mercedes C-Class price list starts at a just over £35k for the C200 SE, while other trim levels include Sport Edition and AMG Line with Night Edition and Premium upgrades.
The C-Class for looks largely the same as it did before its 2018 update – some new headlights and very minor alterations to the bumpers are all you’ll spot if you strain your eye, but under the skin you’ll find new and updated engines, new gearboxes and new tech.
Equipment on the SE spec is hardly sparse, as you get 17-inch alloys, leather and gloss black trim, air conditioning, heated seats, a reversing camera, a 10.25-inch infotainment unit with navigation and Dynamic Select driving modes. A glut of driver assist systems are included too, such as cruise control and parking assistance. As a result, SE is the trim level we’d recommend.
The C-Class Sport Edition only adds a few cosmetic tweaks. It gets 18-inch alloy wheels, Agility Control comfort suspension lowered by 15mm, LED headlights, gearshift paddles, a new steering wheel and Artico leather sports seats as standard - all this on top of the SE’s technology and equipment count.
It’s a similar story with the AMG Line model. 18-inch alloy wheels are added alongside an AMG bodykit, AMG Sports seats and further sporty looking tweaks in the cabin. This car also gets lowered Agility Control sport suspension, brakes and steering, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, but the basic level of equipment otherwise remains the same as on the SE.
Other trim options include AMG Line Night Edition Premium, which comes with 19-inch alloys and gloss black exterior highlights, along with Mercedes’ Memory Package adjustable driver’s seat, ambient lighting and a 225W Midline sound system. AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus then adds 360-degree surround-view camera system and a 13-speaker Burmester sound system.
The engine choice consists of two diesels, two petrol units and a pair of plug-in hybrid versions, along with two AMG performance models.
The C 200 model gets an all-new engine boasting 48v mild hybrid tech, enabling lift-off and coast. It’s a 1.5-litre unit with an EQ Boost branded belt starter generator, with total system power rated at 181bhp. This engine is available with SE, Sport Edition and AMG Line Edition, and is mated to the nine-speed auto box as standard.
Elsewhere buyers can opt for a bit of extra performance with the C 300 petrol. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder developing 254bhp, but it’s only available as an AMG Line Edition or AMG Line Night Edition Premium car.
A more recent addition to the powertrain line-up is the C 300 e plug-in hybrid, which combines a 208bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with a 120bhp electric motor, and is available with Sport, AMG Line, AMG Line Night Edition Premium and AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus trims.
Diesels start with the C 220 d. The old 2.1-litre unit is gone and has been replaced by a fresher 2.0-litre, which you’ll find fitted in the larger E-Class. Power is rated at 191bhp, an automatic gearbox is standard, and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive is on the options list. A more powerful version of this engine is the C 300 d model, rated at 242bhp.
A further diesel option is the unusual C 300 de plug-in hybrid. Again this pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, in this case a trend-bucking diesel, making 191bhp, with a 122bhp electric motor.
At the top of the range sit the awesome AMG models. The half-fat AMG C 43 now has more power than before, with a 385bhp 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. It's seriously quick but can't match the rear-wheel drive, 4.0-litre V8 biturbo C 63 S with 503bhp.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe upmarket Mercedes C-Class brings the usual air of quality, although you'll need to upgrade to the AMG cars to find a truly exciting drive
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe C-Class remains a solid, stable cruiser, while AMG offerings are still huge fun
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEconomy is strong compared to rivals, with new mild-hybrid petrol model designed for fuel-free coasting
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe C-Class has a cabin that’s among the most sumptuous in the class, and new tech keeps it at the sharp end, too
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe C-Class offers a good amount of room up front for driver and passenger, but the boot size is nothing special
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe C-Class brings a solid air of quality, with proven components and a five-star safety rating