Mercedes C-Class Estate review
The Mercedes C-Class Estate is a practical and comfortable family car
The Mercedes C-Class Estate isn't the biggest estate in terms of dimensions, but if you're looking for a versatile, nimble and luxurious load lugger, then it's one of the best models for sale in dealers today. The latest version (which Mercedes refers to as the W205) has been around since 2014, and it was given a range of revisions in 2018 to help it remain competitive in the class.
And it needed an update, because there is some tough competition in the compact executive estate car class. Chief among these is the BMW 3 Series Touring, an all-new version of which is due to arrive in 2019. There's also the Audi A4 Avant, and the Volvo V60 has been given a new lease of life with the current generation, too. There aren't estate variants of the Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia or Lexus IS, but there is additional competition from a wave of family estates with upmarket aspirations. This includes the VW Passat Estate, Ford Mondeo Estate, Mazda 6 Tourer and Kia Optima Sportswagon, although these models trade on offering good value rather than matching the Mercedes' quality.
If you're buying an estate, practicality is going to be a priority for you. The C-Class Estate has a 460-litre boot, with 1,480 litres available with the back seats folded, while the interior has a decent amount of space for four passengers, five at a push, while a standard powered tailgate gives some added practicality.
Mercedes offers a variety of petrol and diesel engines in the C-Class Estate, but the plug-in hybrid C 350e was dropped with the 2018 facelift. Petrol models are badged C 180, C 200, C 300 and there's also the high-performance AMG C 43 and C 63 variants, while the diesels are badged C 200d, C 220d and C 300d. In the past, these badges would have been directly related to the size of the engine under the bonnet, but these days downsizing means that's not the case, with the petrols ranging through 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0-litres, while the diesels are either 2.0 or 3.0 litres.
Only the C 180 and C 200d can be had with a manual gearbox. The rest of the range gets Mercedes' latest 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox, except for the C 63 models, which gets a 9-speed MCT Speedshift auto. Rear-wheel drive is standard across the range except for the AMG C 43, which gets Merc's 4MATIC four-wheel drive as standard. 4MATIC is also offered as an option on the C 200, C 220d and C 300d.
At the top of the range, the AMG C 43 is a rapid estate, courtesy of its 390bhp twin-turbo V6, but the AMG 63 and 63 S offer supercar performance. They have 476bhp and 510bhp respectively, and the S model can sprint from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds. YOu do pay a price in terms of fuel economy, although the current AMG models are more fuel efficient than previous C63 or C55 models.
While the C43 and C63 are standalone models, the rest of the range is offered in SE, Sport and AMG Line trims, although not all engines are offered in all trims. Prices for the C-Class Estate start from around £32,000, with the diesels starting from around £35,000. the AMG models are far more expensive, with the C43 starting from around £51,000 and the C63 at around £68,000.
The Mercedes C-Class Estate feels like a luxurious and grown-up car – and it looks the part too, thanks to its glamorous S-Class inspired styling. While the AMG Line is popular for its sporty looks, this Merc wagon actually majors on comfort and cabin quality, rivalling the Audi A4 Avant for luxury in the compact executive class. As a result, the BMW 3 Series Touring remains our pick if you’re after the best handling experience, although the most recent update puts the C-Class closer than ever.
In aiming for a more relaxed character than the sporting BMW, Mercedes has come up with a very desirable and cosseting family mover, especially if you can run to one of the larger diesels.
The fire-breathing AMG versions are for true petrolheads, with the V6-powered AMG C 43 acting as an excellent half-way house between the diesels and hugely powerful C 63. Both AMG models offer blistering performance, although the C 43 adds the security of Merc's 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
Engines, performance and drive
In spite of its swooping and sporty looks, the C-Class Estate’s handling isn't quite a match for the BMW 3 Series Touring. It was improved with the 2018 update, but the BMW is still a more engaging estate car to drive. The C-Class's steering feels light, especially around the dead-ahead, while Merc’s Direct Steer system adjusts the power assistance according to speed and driving mode. Although the response is weightier in Sport modes, the variable-ratio rack is inconsistent and has hardly any feedback.
The optional air suspension costs around £900, and provides a marble smooth ride on rough motorways. Bumps are smoothed out to a gentle bounce at speed but we found the system gets caught out over sharp ridges and potholes when you’re driving around town. Occasionally you hear a loud thud and feel a jolt in the cabin.
With the air suspension set to comfort, the C-Class leans a bit too much in to bends, but switching to Sport to adjust the engine response and suspension stiffness does help things slightly.
If you can't stretch to the adaptive set-up, don't worry, as the standard dampers strike a good compromise between body roll and comfort, only jolting over the roughest of UK roads.
Overall, the C-Class Estate is just as accomplished as the saloon when it comes to refined cruising, but it can’t match the 3 Series Touring for driving enjoyment, although it comes closer than ever.
The C 200d has a 158bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel, while the C 220d uses a 194bhp version of the 2.0-litre diesel first seen in the Mercedes E-Class. Both engines are far more refined than the old 2.1-litre diesel seen previously in the C-Class and feature twin turbos to boost engine response. Rear-wheel drive is standard on both cars, and while the C 200d has a six-speed manual gearbox, the excellent nine-speed auto that's standard with the C 220d is available as an option. You can also 4MATIC four-wheel drive to the more powerful diesel.
Officially, the C 220d will go from 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds (which is only a tenth slower than the older C 250d), while the C 200d takes 8.7 seconds with the manual, and 8.2 seconds with the auto. At higher motorway speeds, the 200d struggles a little more, taking its time to execute overtakes. Given the Estate model is likely to be used for carting around heavier loads, the more powerful four cylinder is a more satisfying all-rounder, and likely to only suffer marginally when it comes to average fuel economy.
The C 300d sounds like it should have a V6 diesel under the bonnet, but that's not the case with the 2018 update. Instead it gets a more powerful version of the C 220d's twin-turbo motor, this time with 245bhp. That means it's good for 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds and a 155mph top speed, although this is electronically limited, so has the potential to go faster.
Petrol power comes from a 1.6-litre petrol in the C 180, while the C 200 features a smaller 1.5-litre motor that's supplemented by a mild hybrid system called EQ boost. The C 180 makes 156bhp and can sprint from 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds (8.5 seconds in the auto), while the C 200 has 184bhp plus a 10kW energy boost so it can do the same sprint in 7.9 seconds.
Again, the C 300 is no longer a V6, and it gets a 2.0-litre turbo petrol that makes 258bhp. This model can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds, which will be performance enough for most buyers.
If that doesn't sound like you, then the two AMG models deliver brisk and astonishing performance respectively. The AMG C 43 has a 390bhp twin-turbo V6 and 4MATIC four-wheel drive to help it achieve 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, while the C 63 comes in two power outputs. The standard C 63 packs 476bhp and the C 63 S has 510bhp and they can accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.2 and 4.1 seconds respectively. All three cars are electronically limited to 155mph.
There's much more to these AMG cars than raw performance figures, though. They all have character to spare, with gruff exhaust notes and sharp responses that turns the C-Class into a genuinely entertaining sports car.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The 1.6-litre C 200d is the cheapest and least powerful diesel in the range, and it's also the most fuel-efficient. That model has official WLTP fuel consumption figures of up to 57.7mpg, while the more powerful 2.0-litre C 220d returns up to 51.4mpg. Adding an auto box to the C 200d sees economy reduce to 54.3mpg, while the 4MATIC-equipped C 220d manages up to 46.3mpg.
The C 300d is actually better on economy than the 4WD C 220d, with claims of up to 47.9mpg, and adding 4MATIC doesn't harm economy too badly, with up to 47.1mpg quoted.
Emissions-wise, the diesel models have figures ranging from 111g/kmto 153g/km, with the cleanest exhaust coming from the C 200d manual with 18-inch wheels, as opposed to the same model with 17-inch wheels.
The regular petrol cars can't match the diesels for efficiency, but the gap has narrowed courtesy of improved efficiency and the use of Mercedes' EQ Boost on the C 200 model. The most efficient model is the C 180, which can return up to 42.2mpg with a manual gearbox. The auto returns up to 40.9mpg, which is the same figure for the C 200. Adding 4MATIC sees the C 200 return 38.7mpg, which is also the figure returned by the C 300.
Again, the C 180 on 18-inch wheels is slightly more efficient than the version with 17-inch wheels, delivering 136g/km compared to 140g/km. The auto fares slightly worse - in fact the C 200 which has an auto as standard is more efficient, while the rear drive C 300 is very slightly more efficeint than the C 200 4MATIC.
Those obsessed by running costs will wince at the V6 and V8-powered C 43 and C63 AMG models. The V6 model manages up to 28.8mpg and emissions of 214g/km, while both V8 models have quoted economy of 25.5mpg and 228g/km emissions.
Road tax is another cost worth considering. Prices start from around £31,000 and the majority of models come in at less than £40,000, but the very top of the range goes beyond that mark (especially the AMG cars), so buyers will have to pay £450 a year in road tax for the first five years they pay it. After that road tax drops to the standard £140 rate.
Thanks to their strong performance and premium dealer repair costs, none of the C-Class Estate models attract bargain insurance. The C 180 and C 200d come in at group 29, but that’s nothing compared to the AMG C43 and two AMG C 63 models at the top of the range, which sit in group 41, 46 and 48 respectively.
Depreciation for the C-Class range is about on par with the BMW 3 Series Touring, with figures in the region of 37-44 per cent. The desirable AMG models sit at the higher end of this percentage range.
Interior, design and technology
Mercedes has taken bold steps with the design of its most recent models, and the C-Class Estate certainly cuts a dash compared to its rivals. As you would expect, it mostly shares the saloon’s looks, so you get a large rounded grille with an oversized three-pointed star, while swooping headlights add yet more drama to the front end. Sport models and above get full LED headlamps with distinctive daytime running lights.
Further back, the sculpted wings and doors add drama to the look, while the extended roof line of the estate blends into a small bootlid spoiler and a rounded tailgate. The Estate also gets roof rails, which are finished in chrome on Sport models and higher, while the tail-lights wrap around the rear wings and bootlid. That tailgate is power-operated on all models and, while it’s a little slow to open, it does at least take the strain out of lifting it.
Top-spec AMG Line trim mimics the range-topping full-fat AMG models, with sportier bodykits and bigger wheels, though the tell-tale quad exhausts and big brakes are only found on the proper C 43 and C 63 versions.
Climb inside and the C-Class Estate is identical to the saloon, so you get the same high-quality look and finish as you’ll find in the S-Class limousine. All models have a tablet-style colour centre console display, although it looks a bit like an aftermarket addition.
Automatic models feature a column-mounted shift, decluttering and freeing up space on the dash for the Comand control wheel you use to operate the infotainment system. The mix of gloss black plastics and metal switches adds an air of solidity to the cabin. All cars get artificial leather as standard, but you’d be hard pressed to tell it from the real thing, while the C-Class’s build quality can’t be faulted.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The C-Class’s tablet-style infotainment system is easy to navigate, courtesy of the standard Comand control wheel on the centre console. Entry-level SE models come with the Audio 20 CD/DAB system as standard, but all cars get the larger 10.25-inch multimedia display on the dashboard as standard.
If you opt for the Premium Plus package you get a Burmester surround sound system, plus internet connectivity of Merc’s Comand Online system. This adds features like voice control and a range of apps that allow you to do fun things like locate your parked vehicle if you’ve mislaid it, or check your fuel level remotely.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
You’ll most likely be considering a C-Class Estate for its extended boot, but the model provides plenty of room for people too, especially up front where there’s loads of adjustability built into the driving seat and steering wheel. The deep centre console storage bins and two-level glovebox offer plenty of storage.
All models feature a useful reversing camera, which is of great benefit as rearwards visibility isn’t the best.
The C-Class Estate is designed to compete head-on with rivals from Audi and BMW, and at 4,702mm its 15mm shorter than the A4 Avant and 78mm longer than the 3 Series Touring. At 1,810mm the Merc is a single millimetre narrower than the BMW, and 16mm narrower than the Audi.
It’s a little taller than both rivals though at 1,457mm. The BMW stands 1,429mm high, and the Audi 1,415mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Compared with the old C-Class Estate, this model has an 80mm longer wheelbase, which has allowed Mercedes to stretch rear passenger legroom by 45mm.
There’s little to separate the C-Class and 3 Series for back seat space with the seats up, as both cars offer lots of head and legroom, but the Mercedes’ circular metal air vents add a classy touch for rear seat passengers. Passengers will enjoy the airy feeling of the panoramic roof that comes with the Premium Package, too. Isofix child seat mounting points are standard across the range.
The C-Class Estate’s boot can hold 460 litres of gear with the rear seats up – slightly down on the 3 Series – and 1,480 litres with them folded down, which is slightly more than the BMW. But more important than the out-and-out spaciousness are the practical touches that go with it.
An electric tailgate is standard on all cars, for example, and the seats fold 40:20:40 at the touch of a button in the boot. If you pay a little extra you can get a hands-free boot release, which allows you to kick your foot underneath the rear bumper to open it. That's a handy feature, but what isn't so clever is the fact that the rear seats don't fold totally flat, and there's a small lip on the wide loading sill, so sliding heavy items into the cargo area is more difficult than it could be. There's no pop-open rear window for quick loading of smaller items, like you get on a 3 Series Touring, either.
The C-Class Estate makes for an effective tow car, with a maximum towing weight of 1,400kg for the C 180 and 1,800kg for the rest of the range excluding the AMG C 63s, which aren't rated for towing.
Reliability and Safety
Mercedes’ reputation for manufacturing mechanically robust cars is still intact, but with the raft of electronics on its new models, glitches are likely to become more of a cause for concern. The latest C-Class slotted in at number 43 in our 2016 Driver Power survey, with owners praising its in-car tech and ease of driving. That said, it’s already been recalled for a steering column issue as a precautionary measure.
The Mercedes brand finished 12th overall, which despite representing a one place fall on the previous year, still shamed 15th-place BMW and 21st-rated Audi. Owners didn't rate their cars particularly well for practicality, although C-Class Estate owners are unlikely to find this an issue with their cars.
The safety picture is unarguably positive though. The C-Class Saloon was awarded a five-star rating from Euro NCAP for crash safety, and it’s safe to assume that the Estate will get top marks too.
As well as boasting a new and extremely rigid structural platform, the car comes with seven airbags as standard, and a full complement of safety features like drowsiness detection, tyre pressure monitoring and traction control. Also available on the options list are items like an autonomous braking system, lane-keep assist and software that will call the emergency services to your location in the event of an accident - although this is a system that is due to be rolled out on all new cars sold in Europe over the coming decade.
The C-Class Estate – like all Mercedes – comes with a three-year factory warranty, and pleasingly there’s no mileage cap. This is a similar offer to that provided by BMW on the 3 Series Touring, but Audi’s three-year cover is capped at 60,000 miles. If you want to cover mega miles in your estate car, that might be a factor.
Mercedes requires that you service your C-Class annually or at 15,500 miles in order to meet the warranty criteria. The Audi A4 has lengthier maximum service intervals of 20,000 miles while the BMW 3 Series has ‘condition based’ variable intervals determined by your driving style.