Mercedes C-Class Saloon Review

The Mercedes C-Class is an attractive upmarket saloon with a stylish interior and economical engines, but rivals are roomier and have better infotainment.

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expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Lovely-looking cabin
  • Wonderfully comfy to drive
  • Economical hybrid engines

What's not so good

  • Boot is quite tricky to load
  • Back seats aren’t as spacious or posh as the front
  • The infotainment isn’t intuitive to use

Mercedes C-Class Saloon: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The Mercedes C-Class is best summed up as ‘smart casual.’ It’s the perfect car for those who want to travel in comfort but do so with a touch of class and sophistication.

Think of the Mercedes C-Class as a comfortable and traditional brogue, while the BMW 3 Series is a more modern but less cosseting loafer.

The C-Class comes in a wide range of styles. As well as this saloon you can also get a two-door coupe, a more practical estate and even a drop-top convertible – something of a rarity these days.

Despite their more business-like approach, this saloon version is certainly not the boring pick of the range. It’s arguably the most stylish out of all of its alternatives – the styling is similar to the sophisticated and swooping S-Class. There’s no sign of the BMW 3 Series’ slightly aggressive looks, and there are none of the sharp angles that appear on the Audi A4.

This continues inside, where the Mercedes manages to combine a touch of poshness and modernity. It features a selection of sweeping lines and a lovely uncluttered design. The materials convey a real upmarket feel, too – metal switches and an unpolished wood centre console are two of the highlights.

Sadly the infotainment system doesn’t live up to the promise of the rest of the interior. The BMW 3 Series’ touchscreen is easier to operate and the Virtual Cockpit system in the Audi is streets ahead.

The Mercedes C-Class is a seriously classy small saloon. It looks great – both inside and out – and it’s very comfortable to drive, too.

Mat Watson
carwow expert

The Audi and BMW have the edge in the practicality stakes, too. Those up front won’t have any complaints about the C-Class, thanks to there being plenty of room, but the back seats are a bit cramped for adults and the boot isn’t that easy to load as the others.

Where the Mercedes C-Class does win serious brownie points is its comfort. It is supremely comfortable on long motorway drives and its light controls mean it won’t raise your stress levels around town either.

There is plenty of choice in the range, with a variety of engines – petrol, diesel and a plug-in hybrid – a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic gearbox and a vast array of high-tech safety kit that will chip in with some of the braking, steering and acceleration on the motorway.

The downside of all this comfort is that the Mercedes C-Class isn’t the sort of car that you jump into for a sporty, thrilling driving experience. It isn’t as fun as, say, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE.

If a comfortable motorway cruiser is what you are after, though, then this shouldn’t put you off the Mercedes C-Class. See how much you can save on one by visiting our Mercedes C-Class deals page or read on for our in-depth interior, practicality and driving review sections.

How practical is it?

The seats in the front of the C-Class are worlds apart from those in the rear. The front gets loads of space but it is more cramped and less comfortable in the back

The boot’s the same size as in an Audi and BMW, but the Mercedes’ narrow opening makes it a pain to load big boxes. Friends needing help moving house will have to look elsewhere…

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
300 - 490 litres
Boot (seats down)

There’s enough head and legroom in the front of the Mercedes C-Class for you to get comfortable, even if you’re very tall. Both front seats come with electric height-adjustment as standard so you can hunker down or raise yourself up high as you wish. Oddly you have to slide the seats forwards and backwards manually, though.

The driving position is a little off-centre in UK models, but at least adjustable lumbar support – to help keep your back comfy on long journeys – comes as standard.

Sadly, passengers in the back don’t get as much room as those in the front. A six-foot-tall passenger will have enough knee room, but the C-Class’ sloping roofline means their head might just touch the top of the cabin, especially in versions with a panoramic glass roof.

There isn’t really enough room to carry three adults across the back seats in comfort either. The central seat is firmer and a bit higher than the outer two, and the huge lump in the rear floor means finding somewhere comfortable to put your feet is tricky. If you regularly carry three in the back, you’ll be better off with a BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 or Volvo S60.

That said, there’s still enough space for three kids to stretch out, and it’s pretty easy to fit a child seat, too. The back doors open nice and wide and the Isofix anchor points are clearly marked by folding rubber covers.

There are plenty of handy storage bins and cubby-holes around the Mercedes C-Class’s cabin, which should help prevent it from looking like a teenager’s bedroom floor on longer road trips.

All four door bins are big enough to take a large 1.5-litre bottle of water and there’s space to neatly tuck your phone under a flap in the centre console.

The cupholders in the centre console aren’t that big and are more suited to taking smaller cups, but if you need to store any large, secure bottles or flasks then there is a netted cubby in the passenger’s footwell. The back seat passengers get a pair of cup holders built into the folding centre armrest and some pockets on the back of the seats in front of them – just like on an aeroplane seat.

The Mercedes C-Class’s boot is marginally smaller than those in the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – it’s just 455 litres, while the others get a 480-litre boot.

While you will be able to carry a set of golf clubs or a baby buggy, it won’t be as easy to load bulky items like these into the boot. The wraparound brake lights cut significantly into the size of the boot opening.

All but entry-level SE cars come with 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats, so you can carry long pieces of luggage – ladders or skis for example – and still get two passengers in the back.

If you flip all the back seats down then the C-Class’ is big enough to take a bike. That said, the small opening and large lump in the floor does make it rather tricky to get some large boxes in and then get them right up behind the front seats.

Some luggage nets and a folding storage box will help stop your things rolling around – the latter tucks neatly under the floor when you don’t need it.

What's it like to drive?

You can choose from a wide range of engines for the Mercedes C-Class, including a 390hp V6, but none are as much fun to drive as some alternatives.

The automatic gearbox can be hesitant and indecisive at times – but then again, it does have nine gears to choose from…

Mat Watson
carwow expert

You can choose from a selection of petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid engines in the Mercedes C-Class.

If you’re planning on doing mainly short journeys then the C180 and C200 petrol models are worth looking at.

Both of these models get a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The more powerful 184hp C200 also gets a mild-hybrid system as standard. This means it gets a small electric motor that helps reduce fuel consumption and improve performance.

This makes this the engine to choose if you do lots of city driving – it’s quiet, smooth and won’t cost much to run. Mercedes claims it’ll return 44.1mpg (slightly less if you go for a four-wheel-drive 4Matic version), but you can realistically expect to see a figure in the high thirties.

The diesel models make a lot more sense if you are planning on doing lots of motorway miles. The C220d’s 194hp 2.0-litre engine is impressively quiet on the move, has plenty of power to keep up with fast-moving traffic, and returns a real-world fuel economy of around 50mpg, which isn’t a million miles off the official figure of 55.4mpg.

The C300d has a similar 2.0-litre engine with a little more power – 245hp – that is marginally faster but slightly less economical – it has an official fuel economy of up to 49.6mpg.

There are also three fast petrol models to choose from. There’s a Mercedes C-Class C300 petrol with 258hp and an AMG-tuned C43 model with a turbocharged V6.

The latter produces 390hp which is enough to blast it from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds. Still sounds a little tame? There’s also a V8-powered AMG C63 model with more than 470hp that takes just 4.0 seconds to get to 62mph.

If keeping running costs as low as possible is more your thing, then the Mercedes C-Class C300de hybrid is worth considering. This plug-in hybrid pairs the same four-cylinder diesel engine as the C220d model with a 120hp electric motor. The hybrid drive system not only takes the strain off the engine, reducing the fuel consumption, but it also helps it to accelerate from a standstill that bit quicker.

Charging its onboard battery from 10% to 100% takes about 90 minutes using a dedicated home wall charger. This will give you up to 35 miles in fully electric mode. You can charge it using a three-pin plug, but it’ll take about five hours to do so.

If you live somewhere prone to bad or icy weather then you can get the Mercedes C-Class with 4Matic four-wheel drive. Be warned that these versions cost more to buy in the first place and won’t be as fuel efficient as the standard two-wheel-drive cars.

The entry-level C180 petrol model is the only one that gets a manual gearbox as standard – the rest come with a nine-speed automatic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t respond to the shift paddles as quickly as the BMW 3 Series’ eight-speed auto, and it can be a bit sluggish to change down when you accelerate hard in automatic mode.

The Mercedes C-Class is much happier on the motorway and is not designed to blast down back roads like a sports car. As a result, it feels much smoother and more relaxed on bumpy roads than the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE.

The AMG Line and AMG C43 models feel firmer on rough roads than SE and Sport models, thanks to their sports suspension and bigger wheels, but they are still relaxing to drive on the motorway with very little wind and tyre noise making their way into the cabin.

Things get even more relaxing if you pay extra for the adaptive air suspension, which is like putting a really comfy insole into your smart brogues. It works by separating you from the unpleasant thud of a huge pothole with a cushion of compressed air and makes the C-Class feel almost as comfortable to drive as the larger E-Class.

The Mercedes C-Class isn’t just a motorway cruiser, though. Because of its light steering, it’s pretty easy to drive around town, and the standard-fit reversing camera helps make it as simple as possible to park. You might find yourself relying on that camera at times as the narrow rear windscreen means visibility isn’t the C-Class’ strong suit. The thick pillars between the front windows and windscreen can block your view of traffic approaching at junctions, too.

Again, there are plenty of high-tech safety systems designed to help you out and let you know when there are other other vehicles around, even if you can’t see them. Every version gets automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control as standard, which will automatically brake to maintain a safe distance to cars and obstacles in front.

The Driving Assistance package brings even more peace of mind on the move. It comes with blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist and an upgraded cruise control that’ll accelerate, brake and even steer for you on motorways. You keep your hands on the steering wheel though.

The Mercedes C-Class is a bit out of its depth on twisty country lanes, however. Passengers aren’t in any great danger of feeling car sick, but its comfort-focused suspension means it leans more in tight corners than the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. The light controls – which make the C-Class so stress-free to drive in town – don’t work as well in this scenario either.

What's it like inside?

The Mercedes C-Class’ cabin’s elegant and stylish cabin owes lots to the S-Class’ interior, but the infotainment system isn’t as easy to use as some rivals 

Next Read full interior review
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