Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The Essentials

  • Price from £25,930
  • What Car? says: 2 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 64.2mpg
  • What is it? The C-Class could be a decent alternative to a BMW 3 Series

Great

  • A version for everyone - from the sublimely sensible to the ridiculously quick
  • Safety kit is seriously impressive
  • Standard stop-start function helps keep fuel bills down

Gripes

  • Too much noise reaches the cabin for a car of this calibre
  • Interior quality doesn't feel as luxurious as the price suggests
  • Ride is very firm in Sport models
  • Drive

    Choose between Sport or Comfort versions (yes, for sport or comfort); we like the auto which changes gear like a hot knife through butter

  • Inside

    The screen displaying radio/phone/sat-nav functions is distracting

  • Safety

    High-tech safety functions galore: airbags, stability control, a tyre-pressure loss warning system and even Attention Assist to keep you awake

  • Reliability

    The C-Class won rave reviews in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey

  • Space

    Very respectable for four grown-ups and plenty of room in the boot for their shopping or suitcases

  • Standard and extras

    Entry-level SE cars should have things covered; discerning customers can add luxurious tweaks with Elegance; Sport models are properly buff

  • What's it like to drive?

    The sensible choice is the C220 CDI, which has enough power to keep you interested but won't cost you the earth to run. While thrill-seekers craving a sharper drive may want to consider Sport trim, we'd stick with the cheaper SE model for its more cosseting ride.
    Whichever version you choose, make sure it has an automatic gearbox. Manual versions are tricky to drive smoothly and have offset pedals (they're set too far over to the right so don't line up with the steering wheel).
    Refinement isn't the Merc's strong suit, either. The smaller diesel engines are very gruff, and plenty of road noise filters through to the cabin over coarse surfaces.

  • What's it like inside?

    The C-Class can carry four adults in comfort, although squeezing in five makes life uncomfortable for the middle rear passenger. The boot is roughly the same size as rivals', including the BMW 3 Series, so is big enough to swallow a large buggy or a set of golf clubs.
    Most of the Merc's dash is made from soft-touch plastics and the cabin feels solid. However, the controls on the dashboard are fiddly, and it takes a while to get used to some of the unconventional controls, such as the foot-operated parking brake.
    Entry-level SE trim comes with most things you'll want, including alloys, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers, and climate and cruise controls. Sport models have lower suspension, a muscular bodykit and the Mercedes badge on the front grille rather than on the bonnet.

  • How reliable is it?

    Unlikely. The C-Class was rated above for mechanical reliability in the latest JD Power ownership satisfaction - the only car in the class to suffer fewer problems was the Lexus IS.
    All cars come with electronic stability control and seven airbags, including one for the driver's knees. The C-Class has been tested under the most recent Euro NCAP crash-testing programme, and was given a disappointing 82% for adult safety and 70% for child safety. That makes it a less safe option than a BMW 3 Series.

  • Should I buy one?

    The ageing C-Class is still a decent car, but you need to make sure you choose the right version (i.e. a C220 CDI with an automatic gearbox). Even then, rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 have the Mercedes beaten, and cost less to buy and run.