Comfortable ride, but refinement is awful
Quality is immensely disappointing, and the dashboard is fussy
High-tech safety functions galore: seven airbags, stability control, active headrests, a tyre-pressure loss warning system and Attention Assist to keep you awake
The C-Class won rave reviews in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey
Compact executive estate car boots don't come any bigger than this, and there's plenty of room for passengers to stretch out, too
Entry-level Executive SE cars should have things covered
There are three petrol engines and four diesels. All are up to the job but the C220 CDI (168bhp) strikes the best balance between speed, strength and affordability. The problem with this engine, though, is that like all the four-cylinder diesels, it's unforgivably noisy and rough. The four-cylinder petrols sound strained, too, and cars with a manual gearbox also have a clunky shift and an irritatingly springy clutch. The V6 diesel is much quieter and smoother, and comes with a silky automatic gearbox, but it's far too pricey to recommend. Even in this version, too much wind and road noise enters the cabin. All C-Class Estates have adaptive suspension that automatically reacts to road conditions. The basic versions are comfortable, but feel quite roly-poly in bends. Sportier models have lower, stiffer settings that give slightly better control, but the ride is nowhere near as smooth.
The C-Class isn't as plush as you expect for a Mercedes. There are soft-touch materials dotted around the cabin, but many of the plastics are disappointingly hard and drab. Most functions are controlled via an on-screen menus using a rotary dial; it's more complex than rival systems, which makes it too distracting. Meanwhile, the pedals are offset and the foot-operated parking brake makes hill starts tricky. The boot is one of the biggest in the class and is more than a match for its Audi and BMW rivals. The cabin can carry four adults in comfort, but the wide transmission tunnel that splits the rear floor makes life uncomfortable for anyone sitting in the middle-rear seat. The optional panoramic sunroof eats into headroom, too. Entry-level Executive SE trim comes packed with kit, including alloys, front and rear parking sensors, climate and cruise controls, rain-sensing wipers and a powered tailgate. AMG Sport adds sporty styling and lowered suspension; AMG Sport brings xenon headlamps and upgraded brakes.
Despite its disappointing cabin quality, Mercedes owners were extremely positive about the C-Class in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey. Mercedes also has an excellent reputation for safety, and the C-Class Estate includes stability control and seven airbags as standard. You can also specify headlights that follow the road and features to brace you in the ideal position before an impending crash. Deadlocks are fitted as standard to help prevent theft.
The C-Class Estate costs more to buy than many of its closest rivals, but strong resale values help to compensate. The diesels offer competitive fuel economy and CO2 emissions, but while this makes them attractive to company car users, leasing rates are high. The six-cylinder cars might be the best in the range thanks to their superior refinement, but they cost too much to buy and run.