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

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

Evo rating
from £30,850
  • S-class looks, exceptional interior quality, refined manners
  • 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.

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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

Pricing for the C-class starts at a very reasonable £30,850 for the saloon variant, especially when you consider the standard features found on such a model - entry-spec SE cars come with leather, cruise control, a seven-inch colour display screen and Agility Select with five different driving modes. Spend an extra £1995 and you’ll get a Sport model, giving you larger 17-inch alloy wheels and useful features such as Active Park Assist with Parktronic, 15mm lower comfort suspension, sports seats, Garmin satnav and steering wheel paddles if you opt for an auto.

Stump up £1495 more and you’ll get an AMG Line car, bringing AMG-themed styling inside and out with the addition of 18-inch wheels, wider tyres, sports brakes, sports suspension and new sports steering. The twin turbocharged 6cyl C43 starts at £48,045 for the saloon, £1200 more for the Estate, £50,530 for the Coupe and £52,290 for the Cabriolet.

The C-class rivals are the usual suspects: BMW’s 3 Series, the Audi A4 and the Lexus IS. Jaguar's XE new is a 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.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia (reviewed here in C63-rivalling Quadrifoglio form) is also well worth a look. It's sharp to drive - helped by Alfa's focus on reducing weight - and competitively priced, starting at £33,350 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 arches and a lower ride-height it looks much more aggressive than the standard car.

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