CLASS CEILING - Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Independent Car Review - overall score 78/100

Performance 7
Handling 7
Comfort 9
Space 7
Styling 8
Build 9
Value 7
Equipment 8
Economy 8
Depreciation 9
Insurance 7
Total 78

Introduction

Mercedes is on a bit of a roll at the moment and the improved fourth generation C-Class clearly demonstrates quite what a task its rivals face. June Neary takes a look.

Will It Suit Me?

I'm not sure whether it's just me but Mercedes saloon cars have always had a very masculine air to them. It's something I've long felt about BMWs but not Audis. That's why I'd never been hugely drawn to the Mercedes C-Class in the past. It looked tidy, functional but never seemed possessed of much in the way of flair. The latest MK4 model is undeniably handsome but I fully expected that trend to continue.

Our test car was a C220d diesel and I began to harbour images of those cream-coloured taxis you walk out of German airports into but when it arrived it was finished in a very attractive metallic colour with a decent set of alloy wheels that looked anything but utilitarian. I began to see why Janis Joplin wanted a Mercedes-Benz quite so badly.

Practicalities

Although I had been secretly hoping for one of the more powerful models, the C220d would, in truth, be more than enough car to satisfy my needs on a daily basis. I recall the previous generation car feeling far less solid than this design.

Drop inside and you'll see where this Mercedes differentiates itself. There's now the option of the fully digital instrument display already familiar from the brand's E-Class and S-Class models, complete with touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons. This is complemented by now-larger centre console screens that can be either 7-inches or 10.25-inches in size, the latter format used for the top 'COMMAND' multi-media set-up that many customers will want.

Otherwise, it's much as before, with a broad centre console swooping between the front occupants. I didn't think rear seat room to be especially generous but there's a very class-competitive 480-litres of boot space too. With the estate, the figure's 490-litres. I was also pleased to find a generously-sized fuel tank which meant that the C220d has a range of up to around 900 miles.

Behind the Wheel

It's easy to get a comfortable driving position thanks to the multi-adjustable steering wheel and driver's seat and once inside you'll appreciate the restyled dashboard. And on the move? Well, the AGILITY SELECT driving modes switch allows the driver to select between Comfort, ECO, Sport, Sport+ and Individual settings. And you can add to that with optional 'DYNAMIC BODY CONTROL' adaptive damping. All models come as standard with 9G-Tronic automatic transmission (which now features nine speeds) and buyers certainly aren't short of engine options, with most still likely to want a diesel. There's a base 160hp 1.5-litre unit in the C200d. But most buyers opt for the 2.0-litre 194hp unit on offer in the C220d variant, which offers the option of 4MATIC 4WD.

Petrol-wise, there's a 1.6-litre 156hp C180 version, then a C200 derivative which has a 184hp 1.5-litre powerplant featuring the latest 'EQ Boost' technology using a 48volt on-board network with a belt-driven starter/alternator. When accelerating, 'EQ Boost' system can assist the engine with an additional 14hp, bridging the brief moment until the turbocharger has built up its full charge pressure. 4MATIC 4WD is optional. Mercedes has also developed a 2.0-litre 258hp version of this petrol engine for the C300 derivative. Beyond that lie only the Mercedes-AMG high performance derivatives. The first of these, the 3.0-litre V6 C43 4MATIC, now puts out 390hp, 23hp more than before. Beyond that lies only the V8 C63 AMG model, with a 4.0-litre V8 Biturbo engine offering either 476 or 510hp.

Value For Money

I'd begun to think of the Mercedes C-Class as a really viable proposition until I came to the bottom line. The most affordable C180 version is priced at around £30,500, which is still quite a slug of cash for what is a compact family car. Mercedes can generate reams of data that indicate that because of its high resale price and low day to day running costs, that buying a car like this actually works out cheaper than choosing a top-end Mondeo or similar. It's why compact executive cars have pretty much killed off the mainstream sector that used to be populated with cars like Omegas and Scorpios.

Couched in those terms, the C-Class isn't bad value for money at all, and when compared with rivals from BMW and Audi, the old Mercedes-Benz premium, where you had to pay around £1,000 extra for a car with the three-pointed star on its bonnet, just doesn't exist any longer. Small wonder sales are quite so strong.

Could I Live With One?

I'll be frank and admit that I didn't expect to bond with the Mercedes C-Class. After spending a week with the car, I found it to be charming, fun to drive and its sheer economy was liberating. Would I buy one? That's a toughie. The problem is that there are any number of cars for half or two thirds of the Mercedes' price that fulfil those criteria. I'm not a big badge snob and would sooner pay less up front but that's a very personal opinion. Speaking objectively, it's difficult to see how Mercedes could have done much better when building a mid-sized executive car.

We currently have 172 used Mercedes-Benz C Class Cars