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The Top Gear car review:Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate
For:Extremely refined, superb interior, lots of room
Against:A BMW 3 Series is sportier, an Audi A4 more fuel efficient
What is it?
The fourth generation of Mercedes C-Class has had a big facelift, with the whole range – saloon, estate, coupe and convertible – all getting a big update. The C-Class’s biggest yet, we’re told; over 6,500 components are brand new, which is nearly 50 per cent of the whole car.
Yet the C-Class’s ethos hasn’t changed one bit, and it remains a slightly classier, comfier car than an equivalent BMW 3 Series. The same applies whichever car you buy, making this one of the more premium estate cars on sale.
You might think it looks little different to the car it replaces, and you’d be bang on: the vast majority of those new parts are packed inside a fresh bunch of engines and the new electrical architecture, which the C-Class inherits from the much posher S-Class.
That allows the smaller, cheaper C-Class to run a similar array of driving aids. These run from lots of safety systems – essentially stepping stones towards self-driving, with active cruise control that borrows info about the road ahead from the satnav – to something called ‘Energising Comfort’, which tweaks the interior ambient lighting, air con controls and the massaging seats to help soothe or refresh you as you drive along. It’s every bit as odd as it sounds and is probably best filed under ‘interesting gimmick’; it’s something you’ll occasionally play around with rather than actively use in day-to-day life.
Among those new engines is an intriguing new 1.5-litre petrol engine, which is fitted in the entry-level C200, the cheapest C-Class you can buy. It gets some electric assistance that helps it twin 182bhp performance with 44mpg economy, but without the plug-in faff of a proper hybrid.
Diesels are still probably the order of the day in cars like this, though, and for now you’ve a choice of two. An entry-level C200d offers 64mpg and comes with a manual gearbox, but will probably be most coveted by fleet buyers. The C220d, meanwhile, gets Merc’s latest 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel from the E-Class, which is much improved on the 2.1 that went before it. It comes as standard with a nine-speed automatic gearbox and optionally with four-wheel drive, which might be handy in winter.
Beyond that, there’s a pair of AMG models. There’s the six-cylinder, four-wheel-drive C43 AMG and the much ruder, more boisterous V8, rear-wheel drive C63 AMG, which has a guaranteed space in many of the TG team’s dream garages. Few cars combine common sense and juvenile fun quite as well.