- Beautifully styled inside and out with performance to match
- One of the plushest interiors around
- Highly efficient hybrid engines and great trim options available
- Some competitors are more fun to drive
- Smaller boot than some rivals
- Touchscreen controls can be quite fiddly on the move
The compact executive sector is awash with fabulous cars with the BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE and Audi A4 being some of the big guns, along with the G70 from newcomer Genesis. But now the latest Mercedes C Class has proved it is more than capable of making its own mark.
With a choice of generously-equipped trim levels, the four-door saloon is available with new highly efficient petrol and diesel engines with mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid technology.
The new-look interior borrows features and technology from the recently launched flagship S Class model so expect the most innovative technology in a glorious cabin environment.
On The Road
The C Class saloon is available in trim levels called Sport, AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus and customers can choose from a range of hybrid petrol or diesel engines or a plug-in hybrid version.
We opted for the AMG Line Premium model powered by a 2.0-litre mild hybrid diesel engine with 48-volt technology and integrated starter motor to recoup energy under braking.
With a power output of 200hp and 440Nm of torque, the car can complete the 0-62mph dash in 7.3 seconds and maxes out at 152mph.
The acceleration through the nine-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and responsive with steering wheel paddles for added driver engagement.
The car handles beautifully through twisting country lanes delivering assured grip through the bends with no sign of any body movement. It is agile in busier city centres with excellent parking assist systems to help squeeze into tight spaces.
But the C Class truly excels on motorways. It cruises with ease at 70mph and comfort levels are sublime. It may not be quite so edgy or dynamic as some competitors, but the refinement would certainly be very hard to match.
There are Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual drive modes to change the nature of the car. Dynamic is great for fizzing through B roads, but Comfort is probably the best for day-to-day driving.
As well as drive modes, it is possible to go into the touchscreen menu to change the Drive, Steering and ESP responses between Comfort and Sport to suit your needs.
However, this car is all about luxury and refinement. If you want brute force and exhilarating handling, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. The C Class is a car you won’t tire of because it delivers exactly what you expect of it.
The steering is perfectly weighted with plenty of driver feedback thanks to its speed sensitive set-up, the mild hybrid technology works away seamlessly in the background and the suspension system, while being a little on the firm side, smooths out most bumps and dips along the way.
Our test car was fitted with 19-inch wheels that were the perfect match for all round comfortable ride and handling.
But while comfort may be a priority, this C Class is no slouch either and when faced with the open road can fire through the gears with bundles of power on tap for overtaking slower vehicles.
Long gone are the noisy diesel powertrains and you would be hard pushed to tell if this was a diesel or petrol unit with barely a sound filtering into the cabin.
When it comes to styling, the latest C Class really looks the part. It may be a compact executive saloon, but the new generation model is wider and longer than its predecessor with many design cues coming from the high-end S Class.
The four-door saloon boasts sleek streamlining with a sculpted bonnet, black grille with silver trim and Mercedes badging plus twin tail pipes.
Being an AMG Line model, the test car was kitted out with lots of sportier features such as an AMG front bumper with sports air intakes and chrome elements, AMG rear bumper with high gloss trimmings, Digital Light headlamps with adaptive high beam assist plus, privacy glass, larger brake discs on the front axle and stunning multi-spoke alloy wheels that are real head-turners.
Move inside and you will find one of the most upmarket cabins around with plush leather upholstery, a new-look 11.9-inch portrait colour infotainment screen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, ambient lighting and premium dashboard trim. Once again, the interior borrows many qualities from the S Class model.
And if you like quirky little features, there are lights in the air vents that go from blue to red as you increase the temperature and then back to blue as you lower the heat again.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
With powered front seats and an electrically-adjustable steering wheel, it doesn’t take long to find the perfect driving position in the new C 220 d and there are memory settings to store that information.
It’s certainly worth taking a moment to familiarise yourself with all the new-look technology in this latest generation car. There are fewer physical buttons, but systems such as the climate control are easily adjusted via settings that are a permanent feature at the bottom of the touchscreen.
The many on-board systems can also be accessed via touch sensitive buttons on the new-look three-spoke leather steering wheel. These proved a little hit and miss as its difficult to assess whether you have applied enough pressure. However when the volume on the sound system bursts your eardrums you realise you have pressed too hard!
Alternatively, there is the faithful voice assistant that is summoned by saying ‘Hey Mercedes’ and asking your question. The car features Mercedes latest MBUX set-up and is more intuitive than ever before.
There are over-the-air software updates so all the technology stays up to date and creature comforts include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a DAB digital radio, wireless smartphone charging, navigation and lots more besides. All the latest music streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon are integrated into the new MBUX system provided they are subscribed to.
The instrument cluster behind the steering wheel can be adjusted with classic, relaxed or sporting layouts and its simple enough to toggle through the available screens with their varying data.
When it comes to driver visibility, it is excellent forwards and sideways. The tapering roofline results in quite a narrow rear screen and there are wide pillars that slightly obscure the over-the-shoulder view.
Space & Practicality
The latest C Class has grown and now stretches almost 4.8 metres in length and is just over two metres wide. The wheelbase has also increased and that means extra space for occupants with an additional 13mm height in the back and an extra 35mm knee room. Elbow room has also increased by 22mm in the front of the car and by 15mm in the back compared to the previous model.
There is plenty of space for two adults to stretch out in the back – add a third and it becomes a bit of a squeeze, but is fine for shorter trips.
The boot has a powered lid and can swallow 455 litres of luggage which is less impressive than the storage limits offered by rivals such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.
There are, however, plenty of storage options scattered throughout the car, including a deep central cubby with USB-C ports to plug in devices, a lockable glovebox, deep door bins with room to store a bottle, seat back pockets, trays and cup holders.
The reversing camera, sensors and park assist are all handy when reversing into a tight bay.
The C Class saloon is priced from £38,785 which is very competitive considering the level of luxury it offers. Our test car in AMG Line Premium trim cost £44,915 – increasing to £45,600 due to the addition of special blue metallic paint.
According to official figures, under WLTP testing, the diesel mild hybrid car could deliver a combined 58.9mpg with carbon emissions of 121g/km.
With a full tank of fuel, the C Class can cover in excess of 900 miles. That’s enough to get you from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a single tank. Range anxiety? I don’t think so.
After clocking up more than 150 miles, the fuel gauge had barely moved, so this is certainly a very frugal cruiser.
The CO2 figure would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £180 dropping to the standard £155 after 12 months. However, because the car has a list price in excess of £40k there is an additional levy of £335 to be paid for five years.
The insurance rating for the test car is group 41
Quality & Reliability
It’s too early to predict how reliable the latest fifth-generation Mercedes C Class will be. It takes many features from the new S Class which was also launched recently.
But all the fixtures and fittings feel like they have been designed with durability in mind. The leather upholstery is well crafted and there are a number of ways to access most onboard systems to avoid mucky fingerprints on the touchscreen.
Mercedes, as a company, has improved its reputation in more recent customer satisfaction surveys.
And for added peace of mind, the vehicle comes with Mercedes’ three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, with an option to extend at extra cost.
Safety & Security
Although the latest C Class has not yet been tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, the car is packed with the very latest safety features and driver assistance aids to help protect occupants and other road users.
There is active autonomous emergency braking, blind spot assist, an active bonnet to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision, active lane keeping assist, active brake assist with turning manoeuvre, dual stage airbags, electronic stability programme, a parking package with 360-degree camera and Speedtronic cruise control with speed limiter.
A central airbag will stop front seat occupants colliding in the event of a side impact collision and there is a driver fatigue warning system plus Isofix child seat fixtures too.
An alarm and immobiliser will help to keep thieves at bay.
The Mercedes C Class will be facing off against tough rivals in the sector, but with its new looks and wealth of high-end technology, it could be the one to watch when the going gets tough.