Buyers looking for a posh, compact saloon car that’ll impress in the office car park have long favoured models from the German Big Three. In the face of the talented BMW 3 Series and popular Audi A4, as well as strong competition from both Lexus and Volvo, Mercedes has launched an all-new version of its C-Class. Boasting styling and tech cues from the marque’s flagship S-Class limousine, it sets out to be the most luxurious car in its price range. We spent the day with one to find out if it’s the vehicle to make you stand out amongst your middle management peers.
The cheapest way to get into a Mercedes, unless you opt for the rather lacklustre A-Class hatchback. The C-Class has always majored on luxury and ease of use over its overtly sporting arch nemesis, the BMW 3-Series, and the new model largely continues this trend. However, Mercedes is keen to point out that the new model is also a lot better to drive, and has gone to great lengths to make the C-Class lighter than the outgoing model, despite it being larger in almost every dimension. Three engines will be offered initially: two 2.1-litre turbocharged diesel units with 168bhp (badged C220 BlueTEC) and 201bhp (C250 BlueTEC), and a single 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol motor in the C200. The C220 is likely to prove the most popular model thanks to its adequate performance and company car-friendly CO2 emissions. Almost all will be ordered with the optional seven-speed automatic gearbox, though a six-speed manual is fitted as standard.
Mercedes has worked hard to make the new C-Class a more entertaining proposition from behind the wheel. As soon as you set off, it feels lighter on its feet and more eager to change direction than its predecessor. The electromechanical steering is accurate (if a touch over-assisted) and there’s plenty of grip on offer, which inspires confidence on a demanding road. Though it never feels quite as happy travelling quickly as its BMW rival – with body roll in the corners and a less willing engine – it’s clear to see the dynamic gap between the two cars is closing fast. Where the Mercedes trumps the Bimmer is as a long distance cruiser. Passengers are well isolated from the outside world, with only some unseemly tyre roar making its way into the cabin, and the suspension cushions even the worst bumps commendably.
The cabin is arguably the C-Class’s greatest achievement. Taking design inspiration from the supremely luxurious S-Class, it showcases a new centre console design, which has largely been eliminated of buttons. Instead, major controls are driven through a click-wheel and touch-pad located in front of the armrest. Elsewhere, large swathes of wood (or aluminium – your choice) trim flow from the dashboard into the door, effectively wrapping around the driver. On the whole, it’s a very nice place to spend time, with some very high quality touches, but some of the sheer sense of solidity of the old model has gone. There are three trim levels to choose from: SE, Sport and AMG Line, with the latter the one to go for if you like your cars to look sporty and aggressive. You won’t be slumming it in entry-level cars, though; they come equipped with sat nav, Bluetooth connectivity, a reversing camera, cruise control, halogen headlamps and automatic wipers.
Offering plenty of room for front seat passengers and sufficient space in the back for adults to remain comfortable on longer drives, the C-Class is amongst the most commodious cars in its class. Boot space is also on a par with its German saloon rivals too, at 480 litres. Mercedes has fitted the C-Class with a number of convenience gadgets as standard, including front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, to make navigating tight spots as easy as possible. And, if you’re really not paying attention, Mercedes’ Collision Prevention Assist will slam on the brakes to stop you having a low speed accident.
The new Mercedes C-Class starts from £26,855.
Overall the new C-Class is an impressive car, being more stylish, luxurious and sporting to drive than its forebear. It’s a well-rounded machine that’s able to melt away the stress of the working week, yet will entertain when you’re in the mood to play. It doesn’t quite match its all-conquering BMW rival in terms of sheer driver enjoyment, but counters with a more upmarket interior, a superior ride and avant-garde styling that’s sure to get you noticed. If you prefer your drives to be soothing rather than scorching, the C-Class is most definitely worth consideration.
Search Motors.co.uk for a used Mercedes C-Class here.
Mercedes C220 BlueTEC AMG Line Automatic
Engine: 2.1-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Max speed: 145mph
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
MPG: 53.3mpg (urban), 78.5mpg (extra-urban), 65.7mpg (combined)
Emissions: 117g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars
June 20, 2014