Mercedes C-Class Saloon Review
The Mercedes C-Class is a stylish upmarket saloon with a stylish interior and a selection of economical engines, but other saloons are roomier and have better infotainment systems.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Looks lovely inside
- Comfortable to drive
- Economical hybrid engines
What's not so good
- Boot is quite tricky to load
- Back seats are a bit cramped
- Unintuitive infotainment
Mercedes C-Class Saloon: what would you like to read next?
If you liken the world of posh saloon cars to that of interior design, the Mercedes C-Class is the comfortable, elegant wingback to the BMW 3 Series’ more modern – but less cosseting – bauhaus affair. If you don’t fancy a saloon, you can also get it as a two-door coupe, a more practical estate and – rather unusually these days – a drop-top convertible.
Here, we’ll be looking at the saloon version, but don’t go thinking it’s the boring choice of the bunch. From any angle, the Mercedes C-Class has most alternatives licked in the style stakes thanks to its slinky shape that makes it look like a scaled-down S-Class. It certainly doesn’t look anywhere near as fussy as the aggressive BMW 3 Series and angular Audi A4.
It’s a similar story inside, where the Mercedes C-Class’ swoopy, uncluttered interior looks modern and posh in equal measure. It comes with all sorts of upmarket materials, from solid metal switches to a lovely unpolished wood centre console, too.
Things aren’t quite so praiseworthy in the infotainment department, however. Despite a few recent upgrades, the Mercedes C-Class’ central display isn’t as easy to operate as the BMW 3 Series’ touchscreen and its digital driver’s display can’t hold a candle to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system.
The Mercedes C-Class can’t quite keep up with these cars when it comes to practicality, either. Sure, there’s plenty of room to stretch out in the front but adults will find the back seats a bit cramped and its boot isn’t particularly easy to load.
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.
What the Mercedes C-Class loses out in practicality, it claws back in comfort. It’s one of the most relaxing small saloons to drive on long motorway journeys and its light controls make it pretty stress-free to manoeuvre in town.
You can also get it with a wide range of engines, a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic gearbox and plenty of high-tech safety kit that’ll brake, steer and accelerate for you on motorways.
What the Mercedes C-Class can’t do, however, is put a big grin on your face on a twisty country road. It’s nowhere near as fun to drive as the likes of a BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE or Alfa Romeo Giulia.
If you’re looking for a comfortable motorway cruiser, however, you shouldn’t let this 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.
The Mercedes C-Class’ elegant cabin takes a few leaves out of the S-Class’ interior design book, but the infotainment system isn’t as easy to use as in some slightly less stylish alternatives
The C-Class’ front and rear seats are worlds apart – you get loads of electrical adjustment and tons of space in the front, but in the back they’re firm and significantly less roomy
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…
The Mercedes C-Class interior dimensions are generous so you get plenty of room to stretch out. There’s enough head and legroom in the front for you to get comfortable, even if you’re very tall, and both front seats come with electric height-adjustment as standard so you can hunker down or raise yourself up high.
You have to slide the seats forwards and backwards manually, however, and the driving position is a little off-centre in UK models, but at least adjustable lumbar support – to help prevent unpleasant aches and pains on long journeys – comes as standard.
Sadly, space in the back isn’t as generous as up front. A six-foot-tall passenger won’t struggle for knee room, but the C-Class’ sloping means their head might just touch the roof lining – especially in versions with a panoramic glass roof.
Carrying three adults side-by-side is particularly cramped. The central seat is firmer and raised above the outer two, and the huge lump in the rear floor means your middle passenger will struggle to find somewhere comfortable to put their feet. 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.
Plenty of handy storage bins and cubby holes help make sure the interior of your new Mercedes C-Class won’t end up looking like a forgotten kitchen cupboard after a few road trips. All four door bins are wide enough to hold a large 1.5-litre bottle of water there’s space to neatly tuck your phone under a flap in the centre console.
The cupholders in the centre console aren’t particularly generous, however, but there is a netted cubby in the passenger’s footwell if you need to carry any particularly wide bottles or a thermos. Your passengers in the back get a pair of cup holders built into the folding centre armrest and some faux leather seatback pockets – just like in a business-class airline seat.
Just like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes C-Class comes with a 480-litre boot. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to load bulky luggage into the Mercedes because its wraparound brake lights cut significantly into the size of the boot opening. You’ll still be able to carry a set of golf clubs or a baby buggy, though.
All but entry-level SE cars come with 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats, so you can carry long pieces of luggage – such as skis – and two passengers in the back at once. If you need to carry even bigger items, flip all the back seats down and the C-Class’ load bay is big enough for you to load a bike. That said, the small opening and large lump in the floor does make it rather tricky to push some large boxes right up behind the front seats.
To help stop your luggage rolling around, you get some luggage nets and a folding storage box that 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, including a 390hp V6, but even this seriously rapid C43 model isn’t 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…
You can get the Mercedes C-Class with a wide range of engines, including petrol, diesel and hybrid units.
If you mainly do short journeys, you should take a look at the Mercedes C-Class C180 and C200 petrol models. Both come with new 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The more powerful 184hp C200 gets a mild-hybrid system as standard that uses a compact electric motor to reduce fuel consumption and improve performance.
It’s the engine to go for if you do lots of city driving – it’s quiet, smooth and won’t cost much to run. Mercedes claims it’ll return 46.3mpg (or 42.2mpg if you go for a four-wheel-drive 4Matic version), but you can realistically expect to see a figure in the high thirties.
If you do lots of motorway miles, you should consider a diesel model instead. The C220d comes with a 194hp 2.0-litre that’s 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 compared to Mercedes’ claimed 61.4mpg.
There’s also a C300d that uses a similar four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine to produce 245hp. It’ll accelerate faster than the C220d model and it’s slightly more economical – Mercedes claims it’ll return 68.9mpg but you can expect it to manage around 55mpg.
In terms of fast petrol versions, you’ve two 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.
If you’re more interested in running costs than outright pace, 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 to return around 90mpg in normal driving conditions. This hybrid drive system also means it’ll accelerate pretty swiftly too.
Charging its onboard battery from 10% to 100% takes approximately 90 minutes using a dedicated wall charger at home – after which you’ll be able to drive for as many as 35 miles in fully electric mode. If you find yourself having to use a three-pin socket instead, you’ll have to set aside five hours for a full charge.
You can have the Mercedes C-Class with 4Matic four-wheel drive – handy if you live somewhere prone to particularly icy winter weather – but these versions are more expensive to buy and can’t match the fuel economy of the standard two-wheel-drive cars.
Whether you go for two- or four-wheel drive, you can get a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox in place of a manual unit. 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 designed to be a comfortable motorway cruiser, not a back-road blasting sports car. As a result, it slinks much more smoothly over bumpy roads than the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE. AMG Line and AMG C43 models feel firmer on rough roads than SE and Sport models, but they’re still impressively stress-free to drive with very little wind and tyre noise entering the cabin at motorway speeds.
Things get even more relaxing if you pay extra for the adaptive air suspension. This separates 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 doesn’t just feel at home on the motorway, however – the light steering means it’s pretty easy to manoeuvre in town, and you get a reversing camera as standard to help make it as simple as possible to park. Unfortunately, the fairly 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.
Thankfully, it comes with plenty of high-tech safety systems designed to spot other vehicles, even when you can’t. All models get automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control as standard that’ll automatically brake to maintain a safe distance to cars and obstacles in front.
For even greater peace of mind, go for the Driving Assistance package. This comes with blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist and upgraded cruise control that’ll accelerate, brake and even steer for you on motorways – providing you keep your hands on the steering wheel.
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 allows it to lean in tight corners more 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 inspire a great deal of confidence, either.