RAC

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate

In Estate guise, the Mercedes C-Class looks to up its load-carrying credentials. Steve Walker reports.

Preview

It makes sense for car manufacturers to load their vehicles up with real world objects to demonstrate carrying capacity but the objects they choose can pose questions of their own. The golf bag is a longstanding favourite unit of measurement. Where a sports coupe will usually only have space for one in its boot and a supermini might squeeze in two, we're reliably informed that the Mercedes C-Class Estate featured here can take four golf bags. Interestingly, Mercedes also reveals its compact executive estate will manage "44 drinks crates, each holding six 1-litre juice bottles". The load-lugging C-Class, it appears, is the ideal vehicle for a family of golf fanatics with chronic vitamin C deficiencies. Happily, even buyers who don't fit into that select group will probably quite like it.

Ten Second Review

The well-built, stylish Mercedes C-Class looks a safe bet in Estate guise. Boot space with the seats up isn't increased dramatically over the saloon but it's much more usable and when the seats are folded down, an impressive 1,500 litres is available.

Background

Load space is firmly back on the agenda in the compact executive estate segment. For a long while, manufacturers seemed intent on positioning these vehicles as more dynamic, lifestyle-orientated alternatives to their straight-laced saloons. The rakish styling and 'sport wagon' or 'sport tourer' branding often masked the fact that in many cases, these models weren't a whole lot more practical than the saloon which spawned them. With its latest C-Class Estate, Mercedes has taken a refreshingly utilitarian approach. The car boasts an impressive 1,500-litre capacity, seats down, and numerous features specially designed to make it more in tune with the demands of family life.

Driving Experience

The C-Class Estate carries its engine range over from the saloon 'en mass', which means there's plenty of choice. On the diesel front, the line-up kicks off with the C200 CDI packing 136bhp and likely to be a stalwart model as far as fleet buyers are concerned. The C220 CDI offers 170bhp and buyers wanting the ultimate C-Class oil-burner can step up to the 224bhp C320 CDI. These engines are advanced common-rail turbo diesels and with torque outputs of 270Nm, 400Nm and 510Nm respectively, they pack a hefty punch in the mid range. Petrol-wise, it's the supercharged C180 Kompressor getting things under way with 156bhp. The C200 Kompressor gets 184bhp, while six-cylinder buyers can choose the C230 with 204bhp, the 231bhp C280 or the range-topping C350 with its 272bhp output. Power is directed to the rear wheels via the standard six-speed transmission, although the 7G-TRONIC automatic system is available as an option and standard with the C350. All C-Class models benefit from the Agility Control package that uses adaptive shock absorbers that adjust the suspension set-up according to the driving style to maximise either comfort or dynamic response. C-Class customers wishing to go further can specify the dynamic handling package that allows the suspension to be set in Comfort or Sport mode, locking in their preferred characteristics. The package also lowers the car by 15mm and adds thicker torsion bars for improved rigidity. Additional options include the AMG pack that further drops and stiffens the suspension or the self-levelling system that's exclusive to the estate. This maintains the vehicle's ride height regardless of the kind of load that's on board.

Design and Build

So to the business end of any estate car, it's rear end. The C-Class Estate immediately gives a clue as to its generous carrying capacity with its steeply angled rear screen and sure enough, there's a potential 146-litres of extra capacity floating around back there compared to the old C-Class Estate. As tends to be the case in this sector, the actual load volume with the seats in place is only marginally superior to that of the saloon (485-litres instead of 475) but the shape and adaptability of the space, not to mention the improved access, bring definite advantages. With both sections of the rear bench folded down, there's a maximum of 1,500 litres to be exploited along with a maximum load length of 2.82m, 17cm more than in the old car. Two hooks are incorporated to keep shopping bags in check and four load anchoring points feature as standard. There are also net-covered compartments in the side walls and a collapsible shopping crate with brings back unfortunate memories of the rickety trolley in the old Citroen Picasso but is much better executed. The highlight though has to be the Easy-Pack tailgate that opens and closes automatically at the touch of a button, great for impressing fellow shoppers in the supermarket car park. The C-Class styling is still classically Mercedes in its shape and detailing but the Sport models do deliver an aggressive edge that was conspicuously lacking in the old range once you ventured away from the AMG range-toppers. More importantly, the C-Class shows Mercedes coming right back in to form where build quality is concerned. The interior exudes a classiness and quality with expensive feeling materials and well-judged design.

Market and Model

This C-Class is the car with two grilles. In a highly unorthodox move, Mercedes is offering the SE and Elegance derivatives with a conventional Mercedes nose, complete with that famous protruding bonnet ornament, while the Sport has a far bolder tri-blade grille with an oversize three-pointed star at its centre and a streamlined bonnet badge. It's the grille treatment usually found on the marque's coupes and sportscars, so in offering the C-Class with a choice of both this and the traditional frontal design, Mercedes are signalling the car's dual role. This C-Class is tasked with appeasing the older buyer profile that constitutes the core Mercedes client base while drawing in new blood that may otherwise have opted for the youthful and more overtly sporty image of a BMW or Audi product. Meeting the needs of these disparate buyer groups is a big ask but the C-Class appears to be up to the challenge. All models get a range of advanced safety systems, including seven airbags, anti-whiplash head restraints and the Pre-Safe technology that detects an impending crash, shutting the windows and tightening the seatbelts.

Cost of Ownership

The C-Class Estate is a car that isn't as expensive to run as its rather dizzy list price would suggest. The key to keeping residual values in check is to not go berserk with the options but with so many almost must-have features reserved for the options list, this is tricky, and published three-year residual figures for the car must, therefore, be taken with a rather large pinch of salt. Fuel economy is one area where models like the C220 CDI excel and a combined figure of 46.3mpg coupled with a generously proportioned 73 litre fuel tank gives a hefty 744 mile range, considerably better than the BMW 320d. Carbon dioxide emissions are also very low, the 160g/km figure being quite some achievement for a car with the level of performance. The entry-level supercharged petrol engines aren't the most efficient units you'll find however, with the C180K and C200K returning 36.7 and 36.2mpg respectively. Mercedes has worked hard to reduce minor crash costs, with four independently acting impact levels. The company even offers a service where your C-Class can be returned to Mercedes at the end of its life for environmentally-friendly disposal. I can't see that telephone number attracting too many calls though.

Summary

The Mercedes C-Class is a fiercely competitive product once more and the Estate version goes to some lengths to bring extra practicality to the party, over and above that offered by its saloon sibling. Load capacities of up to 1,500 litres with the seats folded should be enough to entice family buyers, while the automatic tailgate and the optional load securing kit bring an extra dimension in functionality. Compact executive estates tend to look the part but aren't always the most user-friendly companions. The C-Class Estate maintains a desirable balance between style and substance.

The Mercedes C-Class is a fiercely competitive product once more and the Estate version goes to some lengths to bring extra practicality to the party, over and above that offered by its saloon sibling. Load capacities of up to 1,500 litres with the seats folded should be enough to entice family buyers, while the automatic tailgate and the optional load securing kit bring an extra dimension in functionality. Compact executive estates tend to look the part but aren't always the most user-friendly companions. The C-Class Estate maintains a desirable balance between style and substance.

The Mercedes C-Class is a fiercely competitive product once more and the Estate version goes to some lengths to bring extra practicality to the party over and above that offered by its saloon sibling. Load capacities of up to 1,500 litres with the seats folded should be enough to entice family buyers, while the automatic tailgate and the optional load securing kit bring an extra dimension in functionality. Compact executive estates tend to look the part but aren't always the most user-friendly companions. The C-Class Estate maintains a desirable balance between style and substance. The C-Class Estate carries its engine range over from the saloon 'en mass', which means there's plenty of choice. On the diesel front, the line-up kicks off with the C200 CDI packing 136bhp and likely to be a stalwart model as far as fleet buyers are concerned. The C220 CDI offers 170bhp and buyers wanting the ultimate C-Class oil-burner can step up to the 224bhp C320 CDI. These engines are advanced common-rail turbo diesels and with torque outputs of 270Nm, 400Nm and 510Nm respectively, they pack a hefty punch in the mid range. Petrol-wise, it's the supercharged C180 Kompressor getting things under way with 156bhp. The C200 Kompressor gets 184bhp, while six-cylinder buyers can choose the C230 with 204bhp, the 231bhp C280 or the range-topping C350 with its 272bhp output. As tends to be the case in this sector, the actual load volume with the seats in place, is only marginally superior to that of the saloon (485-litres instead of 475) but the shape and adaptability of the space, not to mention the improved access, bring definite advantages. With both sections of the rear bench folded down, there's a maximum of 1,500 litres to be exploited along with a maximum load length of 2.82m, 17cm more than in the old car.

The Mercedes C-Class is a fiercely competitive product once more and the Estate version goes to some lengths to bring extra practicality to the party over and above that offered by its saloon sibling. Load capacities of up to 1,500 litres with the seats folded should be enough to entice family buyers, while the automatic tailgate and the optional load securing kit bring an extra dimension in functionality. Compact executive estates tend to look the part but aren't always the most user-friendly companions. The C-Class Estate maintains a desirable balance between style and substance. The C-Class Estate carries its engine range over from the saloon 'en mass', which means there's plenty of choice. On the diesel front, the line-up kicks off with the C200 CDI packing 136bhp and likely to be a stalwart model as far as fleet buyers are concerned. The C220 CDI offers 170bhp and buyers wanting the ultimate C-Class oil-burner can step up to the 224bhp C320 CDI. These engines are advanced common-rail turbo diesels and with torque outputs of 270Nm, 400Nm and 510Nm respectively, they pack a hefty punch in the mid range. Petrol-wise, it's the supercharged C180 Kompressor getting things under way with 156bhp. The C200 Kompressor gets 184bhp, while six-cylinder buyers can choose the C230 with 204bhp, the 231bhp C280 or the range-topping C350 with its 272bhp output. PRICES: £24,057-£51,565 - on the road This C-Class is the car with two grilles. In a highly unorthodox move, Mercedes is offering the SE and Elegance derivatives with a conventional Mercedes nose, complete with that famous protruding bonnet ornament, while the Sport has a far bolder tri-blade grille with an oversize three-pointed star at its centre and a streamlined bonnet badge. It's the grille treatment usually found on the marque's coupes and sportscars, so in offering the C-Class with a choice of both this and the traditional frontal design, Mercedes are signalling the car's dual role. This C-Class is tasked with appeasing the older buyer profile that constitutes the core Mercedes client base while drawing in new blood that may otherwise have opted for the youthful and more overtly sporty image of a BMW or Audi product. Meeting the needs of these disparate buyer groups is a big ask but the C-Class appears to be up to the challenge. All models get a range of advanced safety systems, including seven airbags, anti-whiplash head restraints and the Pre-Safe technology that detects an impending crash, shutting the windows and tightening the seatbelts. As tends to be the case in this sector, the actual load volume with the seats in place, is only marginally superior to that of the saloon (485-litres instead of 475) but the shape and adaptability of the space, not to mention the improved access, bring definite advantages. With both sections of the rear bench folded down, there's a maximum of 1,500 litres to be exploited along with a maximum load length of 2.82m, 17cm more than in the old car.

Scores
Performance 8
Handling 9
Comfort 8
Space 5
Styling 9
Build 8
Value 5
Equipment 7
Economy 7
Depreciation 8
Insurance 6
Total 80
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