Compact Executive Car of the Year 2018: Mercedes C-Class

The Mercedes C-Class is the 2018 Auto Express Compact Executive Car of the Year, with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE commended

The pace of progress in the automotive sector is relentless, especially in the ultra-competitive compact executive class. These junior saloons need to offer prestige and practicality mixed with tech, a decent turn of performance without compromising efficiency and plenty of refinement.

Thanks to its recent updates, the new Mercedes C-Class serves up all of these things, making it the most compelling package in this market.

As in many areas of the business, buyers here are increasingly turning to petrol, and engines in the C-Class comprise a new 1.5-litre and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, alongside the usual range of torquey, frugal diesels – including a refined new 2.0 carried over from the larger E-Class. So the line-up is strong.

The C 200 d is manual only, while all other engine options are linked to Mercedes’ super-smooth nine-speed automatic. The lower-powered petrol is surprisingly punchy and refined as long as you keep a lid on the revs; you don’t need to thrash it because this 181bhp unit is boosted by Mercedes’ EQ Boost 48v mild-hybrid system, which adds an extra 13bhp to keep things relaxed.

Emissions are crucial in this sector because many drivers are fleet users, and with the C 220 d emitting just 117g/km of CO2 and returning up to a claimed 61.4mpg, it should be affordable to run.

Comfort will be another strong trait. There are more dynamic saloons, but the C-Class’s flowing approach means long journeys shouldn’t be taxing.

That’s reinforced by the classy cabin. Quality is first rate, while the upgraded infotainment system – including a new digital dash feature – adds a hi-tech air to the quiet and comfortable interior.

With up to 455 litres of boot space, the C-Class delivers the level of usability buyers in the compact executive saloon market require, matched by a roomy cabin that’s nicely trimmed. 

Our choice 

Mercedes C 220 d AMG Line (£38,835)

Diesel still dominates here, and the C 220 d is our pick, featuring the 191bhp 2.0-litre that made its debut in the larger E-Class. It blends effortless cruising ability with strong efficiency and solid refinement to make the C-Class a fine all-rounder. This car has pace to match, and in sporty and stylish AMG Line trim there’s a good level of kit. It’s affordable enough to add some choice options, too. 

Commended

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia long term test - first report front

If you’re after a dynamic compact exec, the Alfa Giulia should be on your shortlist. It’s at its best with the sweet, raspy turbo petrol engines which blend performance, involvement and refinement. The infotainment isn’t the quickest, but as a driver’s car with a premium image, mixing easy cruising with real thrills, the Alfa is a great choice.

Jaguar XE

Jaguar XE 200PS - front

It’s held the top spot in this class for three years, and while Jaguar’s XE has to give best to the Mercedes C-Class in 2018, it’s still a fine choice due to its dynamic ability. It’s not quite as pointy as the Alfa, but the Jag balances this enjoyable edge with a cabin that’s improved in quality, lots of usability and a very different image to its rivals’.

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