Mercedes C-Class Saloon Review
The Mercedes C-Class is a comfortable and luxurious saloon car, but it’s let down by an outdated infotainment set-up
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The Mercedes C-Class is a smart and comfortable saloon car, but these days it suffers from some slightly dated-feeling elements. It’s like an old pair of shoes: 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.
There are plenty of styles, including a more practical Estate and the insane C63. If we’re still using the shoe simile, the V8 AMG model is like a pair of rocket-powered roller skates.
The C-Class Saloon is a stylish choice no matter what you go for, though. It’s more sophisticated than the slightly aggressive-looking BMW 3 Series, and more interesting to look at than the Audi A4.
The Mercedes is similar on the inside, as it combines traditional and modern touches. Its uncluttered design incorporated sweeping lines and the materials convey an upmarket feel. For example, the metal switches and a tactile wood centre console are two of the highlights.
However the infotainment system is feeling dated now. The BMW 3 Series’ and Audi A4’s systems are more modern and easier to operate. The central screen looks a bit tacked-on, sticking out of the otherwise cohesive dash.
The C-Class is big enough for use as a family car, and there’s lots of room and adjustment options in the front seats. However, it’s not as roomy as the alternatives and rear-seat passengers, especially adults, might feel a bit too cramped.
However the C-Class is brilliant for long trips nevertheless, as it has smooth suspension that soaks up bumps in the road with ease. It’s a bit more relaxed and calm on all types of road than the Audi A4, although the latest BMW 3 Series is just as comfy.
The Mercedes C-Class is classy and comfortable, but the latest BMW 3 Series is the complete package
Your engine options here include petrol, diesel and a plug-in hybrid, with a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The diesel makes the most sense for long-distance trips, and while the plug-in is perfect for a short commute, it’s pricey.
When it comes to driving fun, most will prefer an Alfa Romeo Giulia, BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE – the C-Class has decent control weights and grip but the driving experience feels rather detached from what’s happening down on the road.
This shouldn’t put you off the Mercedes C-Class if you need a comfortable saloon car for lots of motorway trips, though. See how much you can save on one by visiting our Mercedes C-Class deals page or read on for our full in-depth review.
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 but the rear is a little too cramped
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.
You can choose from a wide range of engines for the Mercedes C-Class, but it’s not much fun to drive
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 C200 petrol model is worth looking at.
It uses a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. It 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 over 40mpg, 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 should return a real-world fuel economy of around 50mpg.
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 standard nine-speed auto gearbox is smooth in all models.
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.
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.
The Mercedes C-Class’ interior is luxurious and smart, but the same can’t be said of the infotainment system