First Drive: The Mercedes-Benz C-Class arrives as a premium compact saloon option

·6-min read

What is it?

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The rear lights are far sharper than before


The C-Class has been a sales triumph for Mercedes. In fact, even since the introduction of the most recent version in 2014, some 2.5 million saloon and estate models have been sold worldwide, which goes to show you just how important it is for the German firm.

It also shows why the arrival of a new one is quite a big deal. This new C-Class rides a wave of technology-heavy models for Mercedes and, as a result, comes practically festooned in screens, systems and software. But even though it’s dripping in tech, can it still deliver the practicality, refinement and driver involvement that buyers have always loved? We’ve been finding out.

What’s new?

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The C-Class feels composed and refined


Available in both saloon and estate layouts, the C-Class has now been remodelled in an effort to bring it closer in line to newer models in the Mercedes range. The front end is sharper than before – much like the larger E-Class – while the rear has more than a hint of the latest S-Class about it.

But we’ve also got a range of cleaner, more efficient engines onboard and an interior which wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi film. To accompany all this, there’s a wide range of assistance systems and intelligent, connected features designed to make driving and enjoying the C-Class as hassle-free as possible.

What’s under the bonnet?

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
A 2.0-litre turbocharged bonnet powers the C300d


Though the C-Class comes with a range of petrol and diesel engines, ‘ours’ came in C300d flavour which sees a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine under the bonnet producing 256bhp and 400Nm of torque. As a result, the C-Class can manage the 0-60mph sprint in a healthy 5.8 seconds before motoring on to a top speed of 155mph.

Driven through a nine-speed automatic gearbox, this diesel will return up to 42.8mpg while emitting 150g/km of CO2, with mild-hybrid assistance helping the C-Class to return these figures. Need an even greener C-Class? Then hold fast – there are plug-in hybrid versions due on the market shortly.

What’s it like to drive?

The C-Class needs to be a multi-tool in terms of driving abilities. Previous examples have always delivered a rounded driving experience and it appears that this is much the same as this latest version. The suspension is well-judged and compliant but isn’t too soft so as to give the car unnecessary body roll. Plus, the 2.0-litre engine in this C300d version is surprisingly punchy and, though a little raucous under heavy acceleration, is quiet and settled for much of the time.

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We’d like the brakes to be a little sharper – they felt a touch spongey underfoot – but they do bring the car to a more than adequate stop. There’s not too much wind or road noise, either, and this means that the C-Class will prove comfortable to drive over long distances – which is just what people want from a compact saloon.

How does it look?

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
There are a range of alloy wheel designs available


There’s a great sense of evolution to the look of the C-Class. Plus, as we mentioned, it’s been brought closer into line with the rest of the Mercedes range. This helps to add some additional premium feel from the firm’s more expensive models to this more run-of-the-mill saloon.

It doesn’t feel overly flashy but rather well-judged and in proportion. The new bonnet gives the car a more purposeful look, while the slimmer headlights and ultra-thin LED running lights help to add a sense of dynamism to the car’s aesthetic.

What’s it like inside?

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Mercedes-Benz C-Class


It’s hard not to be wowed by the interior of the new C-Class. It’s dominated by screens, with a huge central portrait-orientated display taking up a lot of real estate in the middle of the dashboard. But despite the tech-fest onboard, it’s the level of quality that really shines through here thanks to great materials and much-improved build quality of the previous car.

There’s a good amount of space in the back too with decent head and knee room. When it comes to boot space, there are 455 litres on offer – the same as you’d get from its predecessor – which seems odd given that the C-Class has grown by 65mm over the older car. It’s also smaller than the 480-litre boot you get in the BMW 3 Series.

What’s the spec like?

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The huge screen is clear and easy to use


Our test cars were left-hand-drive German-specification models, so weren’t reflective of what you’ll actually be able to get in the UK in terms of specification. However, we do know that four trim levels will be available – Sport, AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus – with all benefitting from a wide range of standard equipment.

One such standard-fit feature is the huge new screen, which measures 11.9 inches and runs the latest MBUX operating system. It’s slick and really intuitive, while the fitment of the heating and ventilation controls within the screen itself isn’t as distracting as it is in other cars.

You’ve then got a high-definition head-up display that relays all of your key information such as speed and navigation back to you. It’s so good in fact that once you’re all set up with directions, you barely need to look at the other screens.

Verdict

Mercedes has really moved the game along with the new C-Class without losing the merits that have won it countless fans across the globe. It’s refined and easy to drive with great handling and superbly judged suspension, while the diesel engine in this model shows the best of what oil-burners can do.

Though it could be said that the days of the conventionally-driven, diesel-powered saloon cars are numbered, the new C-Class shows that there’s still plenty of life in the segment just yet.

  • Model: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

  • Base price: £TBA

  • Model as tested: C300d

  • Price: £TBA

  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel

  • Power: 256bhp

  • Torque: 400Nm

  • Max speed: 155mph

  • 0-60mph: 5.8 seconds

  • MPG: 40.4-42.8

  • Emissions: 150-159g/km CO2

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