Mercedes C-Class Saloon review
The new 2021 Mercedes C-Class is hi-tech, comfy and packed with kit, bringing S-Class luxury for a lot less cash. It has a smaller boot than some alternatives, however
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What's not so good
Mercedes C-Class Saloon: what would you like to read next?
The Mercedes C-Class is a popular, posh small saloon car that would be alongside the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4 on your new car shopping list.
In the past, you would have picked the C-Class over those other two if you preferred comfort and luxury over sportiness. Where you could think of the athletic BMW as a pair of high-tech running shoes, the C-Class has always been more like a pair of expensive slippers.
But this new C-Class – just like every other Mercedes saloon – looks a fair bit sportier than it did before. In fact now more than ever, you could view the Mercedes saloon car range as a set of Russian dolls. The outside layer would obviously be the ultra-luxurious S-Class, but if you opened it up you’d find the E-Class, the C-Class and the A-Class saloon all tucked away inside.
That miniaturised S-Class trend continues on the inside, too. The general look and feel of the cabin is seriously plush, thanks to an abundance of leather and the availability of some snazzy ambient lighting. There are still some cheaper-feeling plastics in the lower reaches of the cabin, but generally speaking it oozes visual pizazz.
Technology is also a strong point, as the large central touchscreen brings plenty of features including smartphone connectivity and voice control. It all looks futuristic, and the screen’s graphics are exceptionally clear and slick.
The Mercedes C-Class is all about tech and comfort, so if you don’t need the sharp handling of a BMW 3 Series, it’s the saloon to buy
The C-Class’ cabin is more spacious than before as well, with more headroom and legroom in the second row. There’s plenty of adjustment in the front too, so four adults should easily be able to get comfortable on longer journeys. Its boot isn’t as big as in a BMW 3 Series, but there are a handful of practical touches and lots of storage space inside the car.
The engine range is good, with smooth and punchy motors that suit lots of different uses. If you do lots of motorway miles you’ll want to take a look at one of the diesels; while the plug-in hybrid model will offer super low running costs if you charge it up regularly. There are a couple of four-cylinder petrol engines available, too.
We tried the 200hp C220d diesel model, which is quick when you need it to be and smooth and refined at a cruise. It gets a bit loud when you really put your foot down, but there are definitely rougher diesel engines out there.
It’s comfortable too, dealing with lumps and bumps very well. It’s not as sharp to drive as a BMW 3 Series but it’s not too far off, so the new Mercedes is a better all-rounder than it was before.
If you want a saloon that’s comfortable and packed with the latest technology, the Mercedes C-Class is a great option.
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Common Mercedes C-Class questions
What does C-Class mean?
The ‘C’ in Mercedes C-Class stands for ‘compact’. When it was first launched in 1993, the C-Class was the smallest Mercedes available. The A-Class has taken over the ‘smallest Mercedes title, but the C-Class kept the ‘compact’ tag.
These days, Mercedes uses ‘C’ to denote all its mid-size cars – not just the C-Class itself, but the GLC SUV and the EQC electric car.
The Mercedes C-Class has spacious and adjustable front seats, and there’s a bit more space in the rear too. Its boot could be bigger, though
The seats and steering column are both available with electronic adjustment, so if your car has them all you have to do to get settled in behind the wheel is press a few buttons. It’s very easy, and adds to the C-Class’ sense of luxury.
The cabin design continues to impress even in the back. The doors are nicely designed and make it feel upmarket inside, and quality is generally good even though there are some bits and pieces that look a bit cheap and scratchy lower down.
Headroom and legroom in the second row have both increased, too, so the C-Class doesn’t feel as cramped as it used to. That said, particularly lofty adults might find they could do with a bit of extra headroom, but it’s fine for most people.
The seats themselves are comfortable and look very smart, but three adults will struggle to fit across the second row. The middle seat is perched higher up so there’s even less headroom, and the lump in the floor eats up room for your feet.
One clever feature is that the Isofix points have a folding cover, so you don’t lose the clip-on covers that you get in most cars. You just press them in and the child seat will clip in as normal.
There’s a flap that houses the cupholders in the centre console, and they’re just the right depth for a coffee cup. There are some USB-C ports in there too for charging your devices, and a wireless charge pad is also available. The central armrest, meanwhile, can be opened up to reveal another larger storage compartment.
You’ll be able to fit a big water bottle in the door bins without a problem, but the perfume dispenser in the glove box eats up space for storing bigger items like a water bottle. Not all C-Class models will feature this, however.
There are aeroplane-style pockets on the backs of the front seats, big rear door bins, an armrest with cupholders and a slot for your phone or tablet. There are also air vents and air-con controls in the back.
The C-Class has a boot capacity of 455 litres, which means it’s not as practical as a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 – both of which get 480 litres of storage space in saloon guise. The design of the C-Class’ rear end also means the boot opening is pretty narrow, and that’ll make loading bulky items a bit tricky.
Still, there’s a big underfloor storage area, as well as storage nets, tie-down points and hooks to hang shopping bags on. And once you get past the slightly awkward opening, the actual shape of the boot space is nice and square, too.
The Mercedes C-Class is comfortable and there are some good engine options to choose from, but a BMW 3 Series is more fun to drive
You can have your C-Class with a selection of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
On the petrol front you’ve got a choice of a 1.5- or a 2.0-litre unit, each with varying power outputs. The C180 and C200 models use the 1.5-litre engine, which produces 170hp and 204hp respectively.
The C180 returns around 46mpg, and while the C200 returns the same economy in rear-wheel drive form, if you choose the 4Matic four-wheel drive option this drops to around 43mpg.
The C300 model uses a 2.0-litre petrol with 258hp, and returns about 43mpg in rear-wheel drive form or 40mpg in four-wheel drive form. This model is quick, though, as 0-60mph takes just six seconds.
The C220d and C300d diesel models both use a 2.0-litre engine, and produce 200hp and 265hp respectively. These models are good for longer trips on the motorway, as both will return around 56mpg. With a 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds, the C300d is even quicker than the petrol C300.
All of these engines include mild hybrid technology, which adds a small electric motor to boost efficiency and assist acceleration at low speeds. It’s pretty hard to detect, but still comes in handy when you’re pulling away from a junction.
Then there’s a C300e, which is a plug-in hybrid. It’s got a 204hp petrol motor under the bonnet plus an electric motor with 129hp. It’s got an excellent all-electric range of up to 62 miles, which is seriously impressive for a car in this class.
The C-Class uses a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox in every model.
The Mercedes C-Class is designed to be more comfortable than alternatives such as the BMW 3 Series, and while the difference between the two isn’t huge, this new C-Class certainly makes for a relaxing cruiser. It feels more S-Class-like than before, and has an impressively smooth ride even on pot-holed UK roads.
That said, we’ve not tried a UK model yet – only a German-market car with adaptive suspension, which may not be available on the models we get here. It has a soft set-up but it still manages to stay fairly flat in the corners.
The C-Class has light steering that doesn’t have much feel but it’s direct and plenty accurate – even if it doesn’t feel as sporty or fun as a BMW 3 Series. The C-Class has lots of tech to help ease the strain of long distance driving too, including adaptive cruise control with a steering function that works on normal roads as well as on the motorway.
It’s very quiet inside (apart from some noisy air-con vents) with hardly any wind or road noise. The C220d diesel engine is a bit noisy if you really give it the beans, but it sounds smoother than most diesels so this isn’t the end of the world.
All up, the C-Class is a solid all-rounder. It’s spot-on when it comes to comfort, yet it’s not out of its depth in the bends. The engines are punchy, too, so performance is good. Visibility could be a little better, though a great camera set-up is available to help make parking easier.
The Mercedes C-Class’ interior is luxurious and beautifully designed, with loads of hi-tech kit.