It could be argued that the latest generation C-Class is the best Mercedes have ever produced. Testers enthuse over the range of powerful yet economical engines and generous equipment levels. We’re such big fans of the C-Class at carwow that we awarded it our ‘Best interior of 2014’ award.
But the C-Class isn’t in a class of one, so how do its rivals compare? It really does depend on what you’re looking for in a compact executive car, but our five alternatives have most of the bases covered.
The popular choice
It’s easy to see why the Audi A4 is one of the best-selling C-Class rivals. The smart yet mildly aggressive styling is popular with buyers, while the fit and finish inside the sumptuous cabin is of a standard that few cars at this price can match.
The ride can be slightly harsh on even the more comfort-oriented models and it’s going to be replaced soon. The A4 undeniably possesses many qualities, but one or two rivals – the Mercedes included – are at the head of the game now.
The soft and strong one
Those less concerned by outright handling and more by refinement and comfort (and we’re sure there are plenty of you) should place the Volvo S60 near the top of their wish list. It’ll appeal to those who appreciate understated styling and strong safety ratings too.
The interior isn’t quite on a par with the C-Class in terms of quality, but it looks unique thanks to a smart ‘floating’ centre console and exceptionally comfortable Volvo chairs. The range of four-cylinder engines are smooth and economical but, at the more powerful end of the scale, there isn’t the same choice as in rivals from Audi, BMW or Mercedes.
The quiet, fidgety type
Lexus has been trying for some time to top the Mercedes range and, unfortunately, the IS doesn’t quite hit the spot. The engine range is both quiet and silky smooth and, although the handling isn’t class leading, it’s still relaxed and accomplished. The highlight is the interior which is comfortable and easy to use.
Sadly, the whole experience is let down by an overly firm ride, which is rather at odds with the other talents that the IS displays. If you prefer a slightly firmer set up, and manage to overlook the fuel consumption deficiencies compared to the more efficient Germans, the Lexus is certainly an interesting alternative.
The new pretender
For those wanting something a little different, it may be worth waiting for the eagerly anticipated Jaguar XE. With order books due to open in April, Jaguar hope that this will be the car to finally topple the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series.
An advanced aluminium chassis should provide a strong, lightweight base for a car aiming to be more involving to drive than anything else in the class. Meanwhile, contemporary British styling suggests it will become one of the most desirable cars in the segment. We can’t wait to drive it.
BMW 3 Series
The class swat
For as long as most road testers can remember, the BMW 3 Series has consistently been the best car in the compact executive class. Recently, the C-Class has run it mightily close and, according to some critics, might actually be the better car.
The BMW has a list of talents to turn rivals green with envy. Class-leading performance and economy are available in whichever of the wide range of petrol and diesel engines you choose, while the ride and handling – although not quite as engaging as previous generations – can’t be bettered by anything here. Most models are marginally cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes and, from many points of view, it could be considered the most well-rounded opponent to the C-Class – this is backed up by its fantastic 9.4 wowscore.
Why not take a look at our comparison pieces featuring battles between the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series, the C-Class and the Audi A4, and the C-Class and the Volkswagen Passat. Then head over to our car configurator and see how much you could save on a new car.