What's good? Classy. Exceptional interior. Economical.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been completely revamped for this year. As with the previous model, the new model is to compete with the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series, two compact execs which offer excellent value for money in terms of quality, performance, economy, and practicability. Prices for the C-Class start at £26,855 for the C200 SE and end at £35,510 for the C250 AMG Line. The car we are focusing on today, the Mercedes C-Class C220 Bluetec SE, costs £29,365.
There's no getting around the fact that the Mercedes C-Class is the best looking compact exec money can buy. The Audi A4 is starting to look dated now and while the BMW 3-Series has all the right proportions to be considered a good looking car, the C-Class just exudes class from every panel.
It's important to note however that the model I have been testing, SE spec, is the lowest specification available with the C-Class and therefore it lacks sporty bumpers or big alloy wheels. The result of this is a car that won't appeal to younger drivers, although this can be remedied by opting for AMG Line spec.
So, in terms of which compact exec I would have on my drive between the A4, 3-Series, and C-Class, it's a no-brainer; the C-Class every time.
The Mercedes C-Class C220 Bluetec SE is powered by a 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine. It's available with a 6-speed manual gearbox or 8-speed automatic gearbox, the former offering ultimate control, the latter a more relaxing drive. In my opinion, cars like this should have automatic gearboxes, so I was pleased to be handed the keys to an auto model which benefits from a faster gearbox than the old car although it's still not perfect; it's smooth, but it isn't as fast as the latest twin-clutch automatics.
The 2.1-litre diesel engine is expected to be the biggest seller in the range, for it has enough power for everyday driving and overtaking and it's economical enough for business use. It's the same engine as in the old car, albeit slightly refined, which means it suffers from the same problems; it is noisier than Audi diesels and BMW diesels, and it also vibrates more into the cabin. This sadly detracts from the stunning interior, although when you're on the move you barely notice the engine bumbling along.
SE spec has the softest and highest suspension in the range. On the 16-inch alloys on my test car, it soaked up bumps, potholes, and poor road surfaces with ease, and wind and road noise was non-existent, except at 80 mph on the motorway, when a little bit of wind noise crept into the cabin. Even though this is no sports car, the Mercedes C-Class C220 Bluetec SE handled extremely well.
As classy as the C-Class is on the outside, it's the inside that really steals the show. The interior is awash with high quality plastics, rubbers, leathers, metals, and from the drivers or passengers seat, it's impossible to find a piece of trim that looks or feels cheap. This cannot be said for the Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series, which although well built cannot match the C-Class for poshness on the inside.
All C-Class come with leather interiors as standard, and all of them share the same switchgear and controls, which means even entry-level buyers are treated to a wonderful feeling of quality. Importantly, the C-Class also has some of the nicest seats in the class, which offer just the right amount of support for driver and passenger and plenty of cushioning in the rear for fussy passengers.
Being longer and wider than the old C-Class also means that this car is practical. There's more room in the back for passengers with class-leading leg room although head room might be an issue for some, as the roof slopes backward. People who like to travel with sweets and drinks will be pleased to know that there are multiple storage options in the cabin and the boot is large at 480-litres, making it ideal for families who plan to the use the C-Class for road trips.
Company car buyers will be pleased to know that the C220 has a low CO2 output of 103 g/km. For private buyers, this translates to annual car tax of £20 and unsurprisingly this car has the potential to return decent economy - Mercedes reckons you can achieve 70.6 miles per gallon.
I did not get enough time with the C-Class to truly test how economical it is, but I achieved 44.5 miles per gallon on a 80-mile trip.
Trim and equipment
The Mercedes C-Class is available in three specifications; SE, Sport, and AMG Line.
The SE spec includes 16-inch alloy wheels, Artico leather upholstery, a 7-inch centrally-controlled colour screen, DAB radio, two-zone air conditioning, reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, Attention Assist, cruise control, heated windscreen wiper washers, and Collision Prevention Assist.
The Sport spec builds on SE spec with 17-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights, lowered suspension, chrome exterior trim, climate control, and Garmin sat-nav.
The AMG spec builds on Sport spec with 18-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, AMG body styling, a sports steering wheel, and a unique upper dashboard with Artico finish.
Overall, SE spec cars come well equipped, and buyers can choose a number of option packs to add certain technologies. For £995, you get the Executive Pack which adds sat-nav, heated front seats, and split folding rear seats.
The Mercedes C-Class C220 Bluetec SE has but one fault; the engine is not as quiet or as smooth as Audi or BMW Offerings. Other than that in my opinion this is the finest compact exec money can buy, beating the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series hands-down as far as ride quality, build quality, and classiness is concerned. It is also extremely well equipped, although the car benefits massively from Sport spec, which adds bigger alloy wheels and gorgeous full LED headlights.