Refined diesel engine, comfortable cabin loaded with S-Class-grade tech
Odd brakes, not as spacious as some competitors, some cabin materials not up to scratch
What is it?
It’s the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class – a hugely significant car for the three-pointed star, not least because it’s sold 2.5 million of them since the fourth-generation car was introduced in 2014.
So what’s new? Not the platform – the new C sits on a heavily revised version of the outgoing car’s underpinnings, but is physically bigger in every respect bar height. Significantly the new C borrows much tech from the current-gen S-Class, including the basic layout and concept of its interior. The engines range from mild-hybrid four-cylinders to a plug-in petrol with a diesel on the way.
Wait, so it has the same interior as the S-Class?
Yup, the basic architecture of the new C’s dashboard is shared with Merc’s luxurious flagship. The 11.9-inch portrait touchscreen, pinched directly from the S-Class and standard on all UK cars, is pretty intuitive and packed with too many features to list. Merc’s ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant gets cleverer with every generation (it’s not quite Alexa, but it’s close), and is the safest way of operating the system while you’re driving. Over-the-air updates mean the system ought to get better as time goes by, too.
You’d expect a Mercedes to be comfortable, and the new C doesn’t disappoint. The seats and driving position are spot-on and it’s very quiet. Pity some of the interior materials let the ambience down, and that despite being generally bigger than its predecessor, the new C isn’t very spacious relative to its competition. More on all that in the ‘Interior’ section.
How does it handle itself?
The big shift with this latest generation is the focus on comfort. The ride is notably softer and more pillowy than the BMW 3 Series. Of course you can have an AMG Line C-Class which comes with sports suspension and sits 15mm lower than standard, but if you want driver reward, the BMW is still the car to have.
The Mercedes is the one for consuming distance and whiling away the hours. It’s happy on motorways and well cushioned on B-roads. It’s still a shame that UK cars aren’t available with the adaptive dampers our European counterparts get, nor the rear-wheel steering, but neither is a deal breaker. This is a smooth, confident, capable car to drive – a bit woolly when pushed, but good at the stuff that actually matters in this class. Full details on the ‘Driving’ tab.
What engines can you get?
From launch there’s a choice of four – C200 and C300 petrols, and C220d and C300d diesels. The C300 petrol and both diesels have 2.0-litre engines, while the C200 makes do with a little 1.5. All are mild-hybrids, featuring a 48-volt battery and integrated starter/generator motor that recoups energy lost under braking, using it to assist the engine at start up and when accelerating.
Buyers now also have the option of a petrol plug-in hybrid with an electric range of over 60 miles. This is the C300e, and it’s probably the pick of the range. The electrics are better integrated here than they are in any other equivalent plug-in hybrid, with good functionality and genuinely useful range. A diesel plug-in will join the line-up this year. Other new Cs on the horizon include the AMG C63, which we already know will be an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid with north of 600bhp.
We’ve also driven the 201bhp C200 and C220d, along with the 261bhp C300d. The former is fine but sounds a bit reedy when you’re pushing on, while the latter is arguably one of the finest 2.0-litre diesels you can buy right now. Refined and punchy – a great match for the new C and its standard-fit nine-speed auto, if not as lovely as the BMW 330d’s straight-six.
How much does it cost?
Prices start from £38,785 OTR for the entry-level petrol C200, making it broadly the same as its competition. As standard you get a wealth of tech, including a high-resolution 11.9-inch central media display complete with Merc’s latest generation MBUX media system, heated front seats and wireless smartphone charging, a reversing camera, and a huge array of driver assist systems.
From there on trim levels follow the typical Mercedes formula, with the sporty-looking AMG Line with more kit setting you back an extra £1,380. Premium models start from just shy of £43k, while Premium Plus, starting from £46,700, adds 19-inch five-double-spoke alloy wheels, panoramic sliding sunroof, head-up display and Thermotronic four-zone automatic climate control.
Want the complete package? The range-topping C 300 d AMG Line Premium Plus will set you back £52,125…
What's the verdict?
The new C-Class is a handsome and capable car, more closely aligned to the Audi A4’s comfort, refinement and quality than the BMW 3 Series’ dynamism. It looks upmarket and has a sophisticated, comfortable cabin packed with S-Class-grade tech. The engines aren’t the most satisfying to use, but they are efficient, and the new plug-in hybrids set new standards for the class. If you can stretch to them, those are the ones to have.
That said the brakes are a bit odd, it’s not particularly spacious relative to its competitors and parts of the dashboard and interior trim feel a little cheap. If you can look past all that, it’s an assured choice.