The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is now… youthful?
It wasn’t all too long ago when the Mercedes-Benz was reserved for heads of state, captains of industry, and retirees. The C-Class was designed to be an entry-point into the world behind the three-pointed star, though that role has changed somewhat. With the CLA-Class beneath it, the C-Class is still revered as the ride of choice for up-and-coming corporate types, though it now faces stiffer competition from the BMW 3-Series, Jaguar XE, Volvo S60, and the Audi A4. Rather than take the competition lightly, the C-Class has evolved to encapsulate all that the modern exec wants: Something that looks good, feels great, and tells the world that they’ve made it. And this mini-S-Class does just that.
The C-Class is available in saloon and estate body styles, broken up into C200, C200d, C250, C250d, and C350e, with the ‘d’ suffix denoting the oilers, and the ‘e’ suffix marking out the sole plug-in hybrid variant. While the numericals no longer represent engine size, they do still hold some bearing on power output and kit. So with the C-Class as its best, does it sit alongside the rest, or above the riff-raff?
“The Mercedes-Benz C-Class now wears a form-fitting dress that emphasizes its curves in all the right places, which means it now closely resembles the bigger and far pricier S-class.” - Car & Driver
The current-generation C-Class derives a lot of its design cues from the (much) bigger S-Class, and it does it well. Where some cars that adopt this design strategy end up looking a little odd, the C-Class takes the swooping, elegant proportions of the bigger car and shrinks it all by just a touch. The result is a C-Class that looks more posh than it has any real right to be, with the presence of a limousine despite the dimensions of a family saloon.
The upright front end is flanked by LED headlights, which are both sharp in appearance and flawless in operation. Moving back, the windscreen seems to rise gently from the bonnet, to a roofline that curves elegantly to the tail. In the same way that all roads lead to Rome, all the lines of the C-Class seem to congregate at the rear, which though elegant in design, can be specced to look rather aggressive.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Most diesel C-Class models are quick enough…” - WhatCar
There are two diesels, two petrols, and one petrol-electric hybrid on offer, meaning there’s a C-Class for everyone. Our market receives the 9-speed ‘G-TRONIC’ automatic gearbox as standard across all variants, which is smooth and silent in operation. Power goes to the rear wheels on all models too, the way some purists will insist power should go.
Kicking off the range is the C200, which packs a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine with 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque. With fuel consumption rated at a reasonable 6.5L/100km, the C200 is a popular choice for those who do a lot of urban driving, as it packs enough punch and offers adequate frugality for day-to-day ease. Move up a step and you arrive at the C200d, with employs a 1.6-litre turbocharged oiler, good for 100kW and an identical 300Nm. What you lose out in top-end shove, you get in low-end torque, as well as a claimed fuel consumption figure of just 4.6L/100km.
The next step up will see you arrive at the C250 and C250d. The petrol former produces 155kW and 350Nm, while the oiler latter gets 150kW and 500Nm. The latter may be down on power, but its mountain of torque means that fuel consumption is considerably lower: The C250 returns 6.5L/100km (like the lower C200), while the C250d manages an even more impressive 4.6L/100km from its 2.1-litre capacity.
Top-dog on the C-Class lineup comes in the form of the C350e, which marries a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine with an electric motor (and a bank of batteries). Power is similar to the lower petrol model, with an identical 155kW/350Nm like the C250; However, the electrified powertrain means it can return a commendable 2.1L/100km on the combined cycle, provided you charge up the batteries regularly and maximise that advanced powertrain.
“The swish new cabin design is as much of a step ahead as the exterior.” - TopGear
The interior of the C-Class is a masterclass in perceived quality and luxury. While corners have obviously been cut to ensure it fits the price brief applied to this segment, the C-Class hides those corners very well, sometimes in plain sight but dressed up well enough to fool you. The cabin of the C-Class is, like the exterior, essentially a shrunken S-Class, with interesting surface play and mix of plush materials. The switchgear provides a degree of tactility that you don’t get on lower-end cars, working together with the aesthetics of the interior to provide an ambiance of unrivalled luxury. While the competition have certainly upped their game in recent years, the C-Class has now put itself miles ahead of the pack.
The switches and controls are, mostly, finished in a metallic material, which increases the perceived quality of the cabin immensely. It also helps abate any ill-feelings that come from the gloss-black centre console in some models, which gets annoying after a while as it’s an absolute magnet for smudges and fingerprints. You can further increase the luxury appeal of the cabin with the optional 590W Burmeister sound system which, aside from giving the C better chops as a concert hall, specifies delicate, beautiful speaker grilles through the cabin.
Behind the Wheel
“The C-Class offers plenty of power and rides well.” - AutoExpress
The C-Class was never much of a back-road barnstormer, feeling more at home cruising effortlessly on the motorway. While the new C-Class won’t give a BMW 3-Series sleepless nights, it now handles itself really rather neatly. Riding on new Modular Rear Architecture (MRA), the C-Class is lighter than the model it succeeds, and it pays dividends behind the wheel. The engines don’t have to work as hard to propel the C-Class to speed, and it changes direction with an agility that it never used to have.
The C-Class is still easily one of the most quiet and comfortable cruisers on the market, with wind and road noise well-suppressed until you’re on the wrong side of a speeding ticket. The seats themselves are supportive and cosseting, though we wouldn’t advise squeezing a fifth bottom between the outer rear seats.
Safety & Technology
“The C-Class offers a lot of safety technology, and much of it is fitted even to the least-costly models.” - WhichCar
The C-Class is an incredibly safe proposition, which should appease any young families considering one of these as a day-to-day machine. As standard, all C-Class models come with stability control, 9-airbags, a reversing camera, all-round parking sensors, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, run-flat tyres, driver-drowsiness monitor, and autonomous emergency braking.
Move up to the mid-range or top-spec models, and Driver Assistance Package Plus comes into the fore. Highlights of this added level of driver aid includes things like lane-keep assistance, blind-spot monitoring, a more advanced autonomous emergency braking system, and cross-traffic assistance to prevent you from driving out of a junction too soon.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the new C-Class a full 5-star ANCAP safety rating, though that rating does not extend to the C350e.
While the C-Class may not have spent most of its life being regarded as the mature, understated choice for those in the market for a compact executive saloon, the new model’s brief of appealing to a broader range of buyers was certainly fulfilled. It looks gorgeous, drives well, and is never uncomfortable, and is even remarkably miserly on fuel. Pair that with the revered three-pointed star that takes proud placement on the snout, and you’ve got a package that’s hard to resist, even against other established contenders on this end of the market.
Yes, a Lexus IS may look more dramatic, a BMW 3-Series or Jaguar XE better to drive, and yes the Audi A4 is quieter (visually, and on the move). But the sheer draw of a Mercedes-Benz should never be discredited, and considering how the marque continues to post record-breaking sales year after year, that allure is alive and well. It isn’t so good as to totally disqualify everything else, but it’s definitely a top-pick in the segment, so don’t be surprised if you see a fair few clogging up the executive carpark.
Through the range, there are two standout models out of the 5 on offer. The C200 that marks the entry-point into the C-Class range is especially good value, and offers class-above levels of comfort and refinement, and possess enough breadth of ability to never feel out of its depth. However, if you and your C-Class will be doing more miles on the motorway than in town, the C250d may be a better bet, with greater value, better kit, and an addictive amount of torque. Pair that with the lowered fuel bills and the C250d becomes even more compelling… though you’d be hard-pressed to pick a bad C-Class from the current crop.
WhatCar? - 3.0/5.0 - “The Mercedes C-Class is a compact executive saloon that majors on comfort – as long as you spec it right.”
Car & Driver - 4.5/5.0 - “With as many flavours as a fro-yo shop, the C-Class offers luxury and performance in a tidy package.”
TopGear - 8.0/10- “Mercedes decides the best way to take on the 3-Series is with an S-Class mini-me. It’s right.”
AutoExpress - 4.0/5.0 - “The Mercedes C-Class goes posher than ever before, as it bids to topple BMW’s all-conquering 3-Series and the Jaguar XE.”
WhichCar - 4.5/5.0 - “The Mercedes C-Class is a luxury medium-sized car with a compelling set of abilities. The C-Class is handsome and comfortable, has great road manners, and is built to a high standard. It is also efficient, potent, and safe. Auto braking is standard.”
CarAdvice - 9.0/10 - “As a package, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is going to be a tremendous contender in this ever-popular segment and one that its German and Japanese rivals are likely to struggle against.”
Kelly Blue Book - 9.5/10 - “If you’re looking for a luxury car that not only impresses with its badging, but with its engineering excellence, performance capabilities and outstanding luxury amenities, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan makes an excellent choice.”
Drive - 9.0/10 - “The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is all the car you’ll ever need. You may want for more, but even in its most basic form Benz’ new mid-sizer offers a near-perfect balance between accessibility and exclusivity, economy and performance, agility and comfort, as well as setting a new standard in the compact prestige sector for value, equipment, and safety.”