RAC

Mercedes-Benz C - Class Range

The Mercedes C-Class might not be the biggest selling compact executive car but try finding somebody who doesn't think it's the best. Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

The latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class range offers tidier styling, some jaw-dropping safety features and, most importantly, acutely competitive emissions and fuel consumption. Pricing still reflects its premium positioning but the more frugal C-Class now looks and feels worth every penny.

Background

The Mercedes C-Class finds itself in an enviable position. A premium product, yes, but also the most effortlessly cool in a junior executive class of try-hard contenders. It's been with us in one shape or another since 1993, improving steadily along the way. The last model, launched in 2007, re-established Mercedes' reputation as the class choice and now a comprehensively revised version of that car looks set to bolster that standing still further. It's not been the sales victor, in the UK at least, but as a first step onto the Mercedes saloon ladder, the C-Class has been a vital model for its Swabian paymasters. The latest generation car improves on fuel efficiency and safety and looks a good deal cleaner to boot. Mercedes has also concentrating on incorporating some interesting technological features that have filtered down from the pricier models in its range.

Driving Experience

There's been a fundamental rethink of the engine strategy in this latest C-Class. The 6.2-litre monster that powered the 63 AMG model has been put back in its cage, all of the engines now coming under Mercedes' BlueEfficiency eco banner. There are three direct injection petrol units comprising a 156bhp 1.8 (C 180), a 204bhp version of this engine (C 250) and the six-cylinder 3.5-litre C 350 range topper that's good for 306bhp. There's also a trio of four-cylinder 2.1-litre diesels. Choose from either 136 (C 200 CDI), 170 (C 220 CDI) or 204bhp (C 250 CDI) potencies. The underpinnings have been refined but otherwise this C-Class runs on essentially the same chassis as before - no bad thing given the many plaudits it's received for its unruffled ride and tidy handling. Particular attention has been paid to further finessing the automatic gearbox and all automatic versions get the 7G-TRONIC PLUS seven-speed box which has been tuned to improve fuel efficiency across the range. Despite being a good deal more economical than before, performance hasn't been overlooked, the C 350 getting a 14bhp shot in the arm over its predecessor which means that it can now post a 0-62mph time of just 6.0 seconds.

Design and Build

The previous generation C-Class was long held to be a handsome thing but this latest car opts for a refinement of that look with some very deft detailing. Both the front and the rear bumpers are sculpted into a shallow V-shape, giving plenty of definition and dynamism to each end. The aluminium bonnet features subtle creases that draw the eye to the enlarged grille. The shape may look familiar but this is a very tidy piece of updating. The cabin gets a restyled dashboard with an integrated display screen and higher quality materials. A stepped extension to the instrument cluster now also accommodates the central display. A large section of galvanised trim extends from the centre air vents across the front passenger side to the outer air vent, Mercedes having acted on feedback from CLS owners highlighting their appreciation of bold interior design themes. The wheelbase of the C-Class remains the same as before, so don't expect any more rear legroom. Materials quality is markedly better, however, the bad old days of Mercedes interior plastics now being consigned firmly to history.

Market and Model

Mercedes has managed to shoehorn a quite stunning amount of safety technology into the latest C-Class, and while all functions aren't offered on all trim levels, it's worth the effort to get to know what's on offer. With a total of ten new driving assistance systems ranging from ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection to DISTRONIC PLUS proximity control, the C-Class goes at least the extra mile beyond the usual stability control, airbags and ABS norm. The assistance systems - some of which warn while others intervene - are based on the latest radar, camera and sensor technology, and cover frequent accident causes such as driving too closely, fatigue and darkness. They comprise Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist ,ATTENTION ASSIST, DISTRONIC PLUS, Speed Limit Assist, Parking guidance including PARKTRONIC, PRE-SAFE Braking, Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist, the latter pair being warnings that don't actively intervene to prevent an accident. The C-Class also sees the debut of next generation telematics that will be gradually introduced in other Mercedes models. Major features include greater operating convenience, bigger displays, telephone directory transfer, on-screen text messages, wireless music transfer via Bluetooth and a USB interface that's now accommodated in the centre armrest. As before, both saloon and estate models are offered. As ever, you'll pay a premium for the C-Class but as many buyers in Europe have twigged a little quicker than British customers, you'll get it back at resale time. Three year residual values for a C 200 CDI are expected to comfortably top 50 per cent, leading in turn to a cost per mile figure that's less than a 2.0-litre diesel Renault Megane.

Cost of Ownership

The areas where Mercedes had fallen off the pace most clearly were economy and emissions, with BMW and Audi offering buyers a package that was hard to look beyond. Mercedes has addressed this issue to a large extent with this latest C-Class, the C 220 CDI with a manual six-speed gearbox and the standard ECO start/stop function emitting just 117g/km of CO2 . Opt for an automatic C250 CDI and it'll manage 58.8mpg while emitting just 125g/km.

Summary

The latest Mercedes C-Class didn't need to radically alter the formula followed by its predecessor. Instead it needed to tighten up on economy and emissions, refresh the styling and offer better perceived value for money to attract cash-strapped Brits. Score two out of three in that case. The C-Class is still a high-end item, but such is the quality of technology built into the car that Mercedes hopes the value proposition speaks a little more clearly. I'm not certain that the casual buyer will appreciate the nuance. Where this generation C-Class may well clean up is when gimlet-eyed fleet managers inspect the whole life costs of the entry level diesel cars and include them on lists that previously only included Mondeos and Lagunas. It's not the grandest aspiration for a car this talented but if we've learned anything about the Mercedes C-Class it's that its path to success has been predicated on playing the long game. The pattern continues.

The latest Mercedes C-Class didn't need to radically alter the formula followed by its predecessor. Instead it needed to tighten up on economy and emissions, refresh the styling and offer better perceived value for money to attract cash-strapped Brits. Score two out of three in that case. The C-Class is still a high-end item, but such is the quality of technology built into the car that Mercedes hopes the value proposition speaks a little more clearly. I'm not certain that the casual buyer will appreciate the nuance. Where this generation C-Class may well clean up is when gimlet-eyed fleet managers inspect the whole life costs of the entry level diesel cars and include them on lists that previously only included Mondeos and Lagunas. It's not the grandest aspiration for a car this talented but if we've learned anything about the Mercedes C-Class it's that its path to success has been predicated on playing the long game. The pattern continues.

The latest Mercedes C-Class didn't need to radically alter the formula followed by its predecessor. Instead it needed to tighten up on economy and emissions, refresh the styling and offer better perceived value for money to attract cash-strapped Brits. Score two out of three in that case. The C-Class is still a high-end item, but such is the quality of technology built into the car that Mercedes hopes the value proposition speaks a little more clearly. I'm not certain that the casual buyer will appreciate the nuance. They'll have little difficulty spotting the styling changes. Both the front and the rear bumpers are sculpted into a shallow V-shape, giving plenty of definition and dynamism to each end. The aluminium bonnet features subtle creases that draw the eye to the enlarged grille. The shape may look familiar but this is a very tidy piece of updating. The cabin gets a restyled dashboard with an integrated screen and higher quality materials. A stepped extension to the instrument cluster now also accommodates the central display. A large section of galvanised trim extends from the centre air vents across the front passenger side to the outer air vent, Mercedes acting on feedback from CLS owners highlighting their appreciation of bold interior design themes. Where this generation C-Class may well clean up is when gimlet-eyed fleet managers inspect the whole life costs of the entry level diesel cars and include them on lists that previously only included Mondeos and Lagunas. It's not the grandest aspiration for a car this talented but if we've learned anything about the Mercedes C-Class it's that its path to success has been predicated on playing the long game. The pattern continues.

The latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class range offers tidier styling, some jaw-dropping safety features and, most importantly, acutely competitive emissions and fuel consumption. Pricing still reflects its premium positioning but the more frugal C-Class now looks and feels worth every penny. There's been a fundamental rethink of the engine strategy in this latest C-Class. The 6.2-litre monster that powered the 63 AMG model has been put back in its cage, all of the engines now coming under Mercedes' BlueEfficiency eco banner. There are three direct injection petrol units comprising a 156bhp 1.8 (C 180), a 204bhp version of this engine (C 250) and the six-cylinder 3.5-litre C 350 range topper that's good for 306bhp. There's also a trio of four-cylinder 2.1-litre diesels. Choose from either 136 (C 200 CDI), 170 (C 220 CDI) or 204bhp (C 250 CDI) potencies. The underpinnings have been refined but otherwise this C-Class runs on essentially the same chassis as before - no bad thing given the many plaudits it's received for its unruffled ride and tidy handling. Particular attention has been paid to further finessing the automatic gearbox and all automatic versions get the 7G-TRONIC PLUS seven-speed box which has been tuned to improve fuel efficiency across the range. Despite being a good deal more economical than before, performance hasn't been overlooked, the C 350 getting a 14bhp shot in the arm over its predecessor which means that it can now post a 0-62mph time of just 6.0 seconds. The previous generation C-Class was long held to be a handsome thing but this latest car opts for a refinement of that look with some very deft detailing. Both the front and the rear bumpers are sculpted into a shallow V-shape, giving plenty of definition and dynamism to each end. The aluminium bonnet features subtle creases that draw the eye to the enlarged grille. The shape may look familiar but this is a very tidy piece of updating. The latest Mercedes C-Class didn't need to radically alter the formula followed by its predecessor. Instead it needed to tighten up on economy and emissions, refresh the styling and offer better perceived value for money to attract cash-strapped Brits. Score two out of three in that case. The C-Class is still a high-end item, but such is the quality of technology built into the car that Mercedes hopes the value proposition speaks a little more clearly. I'm not certain that the casual buyer will appreciate the nuance. Where this generation C-Class may well clean up is when gimlet-eyed fleet managers inspect the whole life costs of the entry level diesel cars and include them on lists that previously only included Mondeos and Lagunas. It's not the grandest aspiration for a car this talented but if we've learned anything about the Mercedes C-Class it's that its path to success has been predicated on playing the long game. The pattern continues.

Scores
Performance 8
Handling 7
Comfort 9
Space 6
Styling 9
Build 8
Value 7
Equipment 7
Economy 7
Depreciation 8
Insurance 7
Total 83
Breakdown Cover
Choose a level of cover from just £37.99 a year
Breakdown Cover_img Join here