Mercedes-Benz C-class review - Can it take on the mighty 3-series?

evo staff
13 Mar 2017
Verdict:

Trades some dynamic ability and excitement for comfort - unless you opt for the AMG C63

Evo Rating: 
Price: 
From £28,545
For 
S-class looks, exceptional interior quality, refined manners
Against 
Ultimately lacks driver engagement, four-cylinder models not the most inspiring

With styling not dissimilar to the Mercedes-Benz E-class and S-class that sit above it in the Stuttgart maker's range, the latest C-class trades heavily on Mercedes' reputation for building luxury vehicles. Inside and out it's tastefully detailed, largely restrained and put together in a manner befitting the badge - but also trades on technology and a wide range of drivetrains capable of keeping almost any buyer happy. Throw in the choice of four different body styles - saloon, estate, coupe and cabriolet - and the C-class range is more bewildering than ever.

Comfort and refinement are the C-class’s best attributes. Its miniature S-class looks are backed up with a quality, luxurious interior, and best-in-class driver assistance and safety tech. Where it falls behind some rivals - notably, the BMW 3-series, Jaguar XE and the recently-introduced Alfa Romeo Giulia - is in its dynamics, though that's not to say the C-class is anything less than impressive. It's just that in gaining such high levels of comfort and security, feedback and involvement are less pronounced - like another rival, Audi's A4, the C-class is more about unruffled travel than it is B-road thrills.

That does change somewhat with the AMG versions however, and in top-end C63 specification the C-class is as rowdy and riotous as ever.

Mercedes-Benz C-class in detail

> Performance and 0-60 time - Even the slowest C-class manages to hit 62mph in under ten seconds, while the AMG versions are very quick indeed. Performance is competitive with rivals. Read more about the Mercedes C-class performance here

> Engine and gearbox - AMG models aside, there’s only one purely petrol-engined model in the C-class line-up – the C200 – but several diesel and hybrid models. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard lower down the range while Mercedes has made its nine-speed automatic available elsewhere. Read more about the Mercedes C-class engine and gearbox here

> Ride and handling - Tyre roar is superbly contained making the C-class one of the more refined options in this class, but not at the expense of handling. Some do it better, but there's a lot to like here. Read more about the Mercedes C-class ride and handling here

> MPG and running costs - The mainstay of the Mercedes range is more frugal than ever. AMG models aside, C-class combined fuel economy ranges from 53.3mpg in a petrol C200 to 78.5mpg in the C300h, while the plug-in hybrid C350e has CO2 as low as 48g/km. Read more about the Mercedes C-class MPG and running costs here

> Interior and tech - The S-class-inspired interior boasts excellent fit and finish, a lavish, wide transmission tunnel and a full suite of electronic toys and gadgets. Quality is good too. Read more about the Mercedes C-class interior and tech here

> Design - Were it our money we’d opt for an AMG Line C-class Estate painted in Brilliant Blue – understated, comfortable, practical and effortlessly handsome. Read more about the Mercedes C-class design here

Prices, specs and rivals

The C-class saloon range begins at a very reasonable £28,545, especially given entry-spec SE cars come with leather, cruise control, a seven-inch colour display screen and Agility Select with five different driving modes. Stumping up £1995 lands you in a Sport, which throws in 17-inch alloy wheels, Active Park Assist with Parktronic, 15mm lower comfort suspension, sports seats with a heating function up front, Garmin satnav and steering wheel paddles if you opt for an auto.

AMG Line is a further £1495 and brings largely AMG-themed styling accoutrements inside and out. The 18-inch alloys with wider tyres, plus sports brakes, sports suspension and sports steering are worth the asking price, especially as the ride isn’t too badly compromised on the non-hybrid cars.  The AMG C43 starts at £45,055 for the saloon, £1200 more for the Estate, £46,875 for the Coupe and £51,135 for the Cabriolet.

The C-class rivals are the usual suspects: BMW’s 3 Series, the Audi A4 and the Lexus ISJaguar's XE is a more recent introduction in the sector and a very competent one at that. Ultimately the BMW is probably the best to drive, closely followed by the Jaguar, while the C-class and A4 feel the most classy of the group. The IS is probably the car you'd pick to stand out - it lacks the all-round talents of the other but has appeal as a left-field choice.

One recent introduction to the class that's well worth a look is the Alfa Romeo Giulia (reviewed here in Quadrifoglio form). It's sharp to drive - helped by Alfa's focus on reducing weight - and competitively priced, starting at £29,480 in petrol form.

The Mercedes C-class also comes in coupe and cabriolet form. These body shapes are also translated across to the range-topping C63 variant, but with wider front arahces and a lower ride-height it looks much more aggressive than the standard car.

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