Mercedes C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz name is a byword for top-class motoring. Seen by many as the finest prestigious brand, the Stuttgart manufacturer's cars offer excellent quality and superb longevity.

The Mercedes-Benz name is a byword for top-class motoring. Seen by many as the finest prestigious brand, the Stuttgart manufacturer's cars offer excellent quality and superb longevity. That means a used Merc makes a lot of financial sense. But don't rush in with your eyes closed. Entry-level C-Classes have poor spec levels and can prove a nightmare to sell if finished in the wrong colour. Alloys, air-con and CD players are essential for resale, while cars with automatic gearboxes are preferred by the trade as they're easier to move on. Diesels are big news in the compact executive sector, and have rock-solid resale values. But unless you cover more than 20,000 miles a year or want to keep the car a long time, it makes more sense to buy a petrol model and spend less on the initial purchase.Checklist * Electrics: some owners report failure of the single steering column stalk that controls the lights and wipers. If it goes, the bill will set you back £200 if the car is out of warranty. * Engine: six-cylinders and diesels are in-credibly tough, while four-pots usually last for 150,000 miles. Failed stretch bolts in the cylinder head can be costly to repair. * Gearbox: automatics are usually trouble-free, but abused manuals can feel loose or show syncromesh wear. Check the box feels positive and there's no clutch drag. * Bodywork: rot simply isn't an issue, as the car comes with a 20-year corrosion guarantee. But be wary of minor body damage, as panels are expensive and some finishes are tricky to match. * Catalytic conv.: cats on four-pots are known to go pop with less than 80,000 miles on the clock. If the rear silencer is rusting, then the catalyst's welds are starting to go.Driving impressions Early examples of the saloon, made in South Africa rather than Germany, were criticised for not having the same levels of build quality as previous offerings. But this was soon sorted out. The C-Class is now an excellent car, exceptionally well engineered and incredibly refined, and offers tremendous prestige and luxury.Glass's View The C-Class remains an aspirational car and its upmarket image, together with legendary build quality and reliability, will ensure that it stays a very sought after model for some time to come. Second-hand values are steady and likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. The Sports Coup� isn't as popular as the saloon, while both the Estate and diesel models have massive appeal - especially if they have bright metallic paint finishes and automatic transmission. Jeff Paterson, Senior Editor, Glass's GuideLife With A C-Class My C-Class estate is incredibly comfortable, reliable and a great cruiser, but the supercharged engine is too thirsty. I would definitely buy another Merc, but will probably have an E-Class diesel. John Bayliss, Hove, West Sussex The C-Class was the only premium car I could have as a company motor, but I wish I had gone for a better-equipped Alfa 156 or Honda Accord. Narjat Singh, Leicester

Verdict

Don't think of this car as simply an improved C-Class; it's more of a shrunken S-Class. Technology, looks and driving dynamics are all borrowed from Mercedes' world-beating flagship to make the baby Benz as good to drive as BMW's 3-Series. Its bigger cabin means it's a real alternative for those downsizing, while beefier steering and balanced handling will attract young-er buyers. Quality, refinement and class-leading safety are just as current owners expect.

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