Mercedes C-Class

Does the new C-Class make sense in less opulent form?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Prestige car buyers have never had it so good. Gone are the days when entry-level models were a shadow of the flagship versions – this C-Class proves that’s certainly no longer the case. While still quite pricey, it’s well equipped, solidly built and provides all the poise and refinement of cars costing twice as much. Enthusiastic drivers are likely to choose the C-Class Sport, but most buyers will be happy enough with the standard model. Go for the base SE rather than the more expensive Elegance, and you’ve got a clear winner.

There’s no doubt that Mercedes’ new C-Class has been a big hit. But so far, the models we’ve driven have been pretty upmarket.

Many have had large engines and high specifications, not to mention price tags that would make most buyers think twice about taking the plunge. So, does the newcomer make as much sense in less opulent form?

Starting at £24,117, the C200K still isn’t cheap, especially when you add £1,195 for the Elegance package and £1,095 for the automatic gearbox on our car. But it certainly feels every inch a Mercedes.

From its scaled-down S-Class looks to the richness of its paintwork and the heavy thud as you close the door, the baby Benz ticks the right boxes.

Inside, that feeling continues. The dashboard is clearly laid out and made of high-quality materials, while all the switches, buttons and rotary dials have a slick operation. Space is decent in the front, and rear legroom is good.

While Elegance trim adds classier cabin lighting and a multifunction steering wheel, the base SE still comes with essentials such as climate control, 16-inch alloys and Bluetooth.

As with all C-Classes, it has adaptive dampers, too. The set-up combines with the 205/55-section tyres to deli­ver a class-leading ride. Bumpy surfaces are ironed out with ease.

It also offers great body control in corners. Enthusiastic drivers, however, may prefer the Sport version; this gets lowered suspension, 17-inch wheels and a racier look, with an AMG body­kit and a less traditional grille.

Under the bonnet, the C200K has a 184bhp 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine, which is tweaked to produce 20bhp more than its predecessor. Economy is also up 4.5mpg to an excellent 39.8mpg combined. The Elegance has a six-speed man­ual transmission as standard, but our car got the optional five-speed automatic gearbox. While it could be more responsive, it shifts smoothly. Factor in the virtually silent engine, and pro­gress is both swift and relaxing.

So, compared to top-spec versions, does this entry-level C-Class still add up? Well, provided you don’t specify too many options, yes. It’s an excellent compact luxury car that promises to be very satisfying to own.

Rival: BMW 320i SE Across both ranges, the 3-Series and C-Class are now very closely matched, so your choice will come down to the badge you prefer. The BMW offers more driver appeal, but thanks to its adaptive dampers, the Mercedes beats it for comfort.

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