The Mercedes C-class brings legendary Mercedes quality and reputation to a lower more reachable price. This means that you won't have to pay more to get the legendary badge. But does a lower price mean a compromised package?
Performance: There's a handful of engines to choose from. The new base engine is a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 201hp. A 3-liter six-cylinder with 228hp is next in line. Mid-range 3.5-liter six-cylinder has 268hp and the top of the range AMG-tuned 6.3-liter eight-cylinder with 451hp. Pick of the bunch is 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 201hp. It offers good fuel economy, decent pace and a price tag that's hard to resist. If you want the all-wheel-drive you're limited to the 3-liter six-cylinder with 228hp.
Ride & Handling: It isn't as sharp to drive as a BMW 3-series. But one will enjoy the C-class adaptive suspension which automatically sets the suspension to react to each road conditions. If you put it in sport mode, or opt for a sports suspension. You'll be greeted by a firm ride that can be uncomfortable over some surfaces. The C-class feels respectable in handling and is agile enough to entertain most drivers.
Refinement: The C-class filters out noise really well. The four-cylinder emits a distinct grunt when pushed hard. You'll hear the turbo whirl when you're coasting. But this is far from intrusive and annoying. The newly revised automatic transmission feels smooth when upshifting and is very responsive.
Behind the wheel: The C-class has a chunky switchgear for the main heater and stereo functions. This whole design is to make the instrument panel less cluttered. However, the whole design will leave your eyes lingering away from the road a little longer than you'd desire. The driving position is excellent, with plenty of adjustments to get comfortable.
Space & Practicality: The C-class can carry four adults in comfort, a fifth person will be pushing it due to the large transmission tunnel which intrudes into foot space. There's a large boot, and plenty of head and legroom to go around. The optional panoramic sunroof is best avoided because it eats into headroom.
Equipment: Every C-class comes well equipped. You get the typical array of features you'd expect on a car at this price range. However, features like Xenon headlamps, heated front seats and keyless start are optional on some trim levels and standard on others. At this price you'd expect these features to be standard. All-wheel-drive isn't optional across the range either like the BMW 3-series.
Buying & Owning: The C-class isn't a cheap car to buy, but strong resale values help take the sting out of the purchase. The turbo four-cylinder has decent fuel economy so your fuel bill shouldn't be too bad. The AMG with its screaming V8 engine is a hoot to drive, but racks in high running costs.
Quality & Reliability: Mercedes has drastically improved in terms of quality over the years. The newly revised interior feels more upscale than the previous model years. All the plastics feel sturdy and long lasting in quality. JD Power surveys have been positive from customers of the C-class.
Safety & Security: Seven airbags come standard on every C-class. There's even an airbag that protects the driver's knee. There's stability control and optional 4-matic all-wheel-drive system. Deadlocks aren't fitted as standard as Mercedes are against them.
Likes: Fun to drive, spacious and refined on most models, screaming fast AMG V8 performance.
Dislikes: All-wheel-drive not offered on all trims, sport models have a firm ride, some features should be standard across the range.
The C-class offers a little something for everyone. It's not as sharp to drive as a 3-series and its not as stylish as a Audi A4. But you do get a classy sedan that's well equipped and very comfortable to drive on long journeys. It may not beat the 3-series, but it does offer an attractive proposition that's well worth considering.
Devon's Pick: C250 Sport offers a smooth turbo engine with a decent starting price. Though the equipment level isn't the greatest and you'll have to pay extra for few bits that should be standard.