Mercedes C220 CDI Sport estate

Latest Mercedes C-Class estate arrives in the UK

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Prestige load-luggers are usually smart and sleek or big and bulky. The new C-Class is a mixture of both, and couples sector-leading carrying capacity with smart styling and a practical interior. It also scores highly when it comes to safety, with a full five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. The estate isn’t particularly cheap, but with a broad range of styling and engine options, it’s a thoroughly welcome addition to the latest C-Class line-up.

When it comes to compact executive estate cars, Mercedes claims there is none bigger than the latest incarnation of the C-Class.

It hits UK roads in the spring, and will provide more space than any of its class competitors. But is there more to this load-lugger than just a large boot?

The increase in luggage capacity certainly hasn’t affected the looks; the estate is just as smart as the saloon. In profile, the rising waistline, silver roof rails and chrome-trimmed glass area provide a clean appearance, while the diffuser-style bumper is a neat touch at the back. Our Sport-spec car has an even more purposeful stance, thanks to its bold grille – complete with centrally mounted three-pointed star – and lowered suspension, which also helps to improve the handling.

However, all the important visual changes are at the back, where there is an extended roofline and a near-vertical tailgate. This opens to reveal an impressive 485-litre boot. And if that isn’t enough, you can fold the rear seats forward to create 1,500 litres of space. The latter figure is a significant improvement over the old model, which provided a capacity of 470 and 1,354 litres respectively.

Where have the designers found this extra room? The upright tailgate certainly helps, but the latest C-Class is also 55mm longer and 42mm wider than its predecessor. Another helpful addition is the electric tailgate, which comes as standard. It’s an option on rival models, and opens and closes the rear door at the touch of a button.

Inside, practical features include a pair of bag hooks, load-securing nets and even a collapsible crate to protect small items. The optional Easy-Pack kit also allows owners to divide the boot into sections with the aid of chrome runners mounted in the boot floor.

Up front, the clear instruments are the same as those in the saloon version, although some of the materials feel a little low-rent for a car costing £30,000. The foot-operated parking brake is old hat, but the five-speed automatic gearbox fitted to our model (a £1,125 optional extra) gets rid of the slack lever and springy clutch that are features of the six-speed manual. Still, whatever transmission you choose, the 2.2-litre diesel is impressive. It delivers strong performance yet remains remarkably hushed, making the new estate a refined motorway cruiser.

The 0-62mph sprint takes 8.9 seconds, which is four-tenths of a second slower than the four-door. And from behind the wheel, you will be hard-pressed to notice the extra weight of the load-lugging body.

Standard Agility Control includes dampers that automatically adjust to suit the conditions, and the result is excellent body control when cornering, allied to supple ride comfort. Precise steering helps the driving experience, yet it lacks the feedback of rivals such as BMW’s 3-Series Touring. The Merc is expensive, too, but it builds on the success of the saloon, and for now it’s the biggest estate in the sector.

However, with Audi’s new A4 Avant set to arrive in July, it’s unclear how long the C-Class will hold that title. If size matters above all else, you’d be well advised to hold on until we can compare the two cars side-by-side...

Rival: BMW 3-Series Touring The Touring is an established force in the compact executive sector. An excellent range of diesel engines, combined with fine handling and smart looks, makes it an attractive choice. However, with its 460-litre boot – which rises to 1,385 litres with the seats down – it can’t quite match the Mercedes for space.

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