The Mercedes C-Class’ swooping dashboard design, snazzy trim pieces and man-made leather upholstery help make it feel like a mini luxury saloon
The C-Class’ interior looks absolutely fantastic. The swooping dashboard, stylish air vents and minimal use of buttons all mean it looks more interesting than the beautifully built, but somewhat drab layout you’ll find in an Audi A4.
Material quality is generally high. All models get satisfying cold-to-the-touch metal switches and sturdy door handles that’ll make you feel a little bit better about life every time you use them. SE and Executive Edition cars have high-gloss plastic trim to highlight the centre console, but the piano black versions of these trims scratch easily. Upgrade to Sport and some of that trim gets replaced with expensive-looking metal highlights, but the unvarnished wooden pieces fitted to AMG Line cars top the lot.
All models come with Artico (Mercedes-speak for artificial) leather seats. You’ll hardly notice they’re not the real deal and they’re easy to keep clean and hard-wearing. Real leather is a £795 option, but it’s only available on mid-range Sport models and above – this restriction also applies to niceties such as a £900 panoramic glass roof and Mercedes’ £350 Air-Balance fragrance dispenser – a fancy air freshener you can really do without.
The C-Class’ interior has a bit more panache than similar cars – it's just a shame about that knock-off iPad display
Infotainment is one of the C-Class’ weaknesses. You’d expect a car at this price to have a pretty good infotainment system, but basic SE models get a seven-inch screen with a thick bezel, low-res graphics and a CD player, and satellite navigation isn’t standard, as it is in the BMW 3 Series.
Executive Edition models do get sat-nav, but the Garmin-based system looks old fashioned in the Mercedes’ swish interior. Saying that, it has 3D maps and zooms in on tricky junctions to make directions as clear as possible. The controls aren’t anywhere near as intuitive as BMW’s system though – the Mercedes’ shortcut buttons are located on the dashboard away from the scroll knob and touchpad where you’d expect to find them – and the touchpad itself feels like it’s going to give you RSI. Apple Carplay and Android Auto smartphone-mirroring systems aren’t even optional, so you can’t use them to avoid the awkward controls.
Paying for the expensive Comand Online System – optional on Sport models and above, but not available at all on entry-level models – solves most of these problems. It has an 8.4-inch display, with less of an ugly plastic border. Its graphics are clear, crisp and colourful – a good step up from the Garmin system. The dodgy controls remain but the addition of voice recognition means you don’t have to use them so much. Get this system and you can also use the Mercedes Me smartphone app, so you can heat your C-Class remotely and it will call the emergency services if you have a crash.
The only downside of the upgraded system is the price – it can only be had as part of the £2,995 Premium Plus pack. It’s actually reasonable value for money though – it includes colourful ambient lighting to brighten up the interior, keyless entry, a brilliant 590W Burmester surround-sound stereo, panoramic sunroof and electric adjustment for the front seats. That Burmester stereo is almost worth the price alone – it sounds amazing, with thumping bass and clarity that shames most home hi-fi systems. It even looks cool, thanks to laser-etched metal speaker grilles in all the doors. The standard-fit stereo sounds okay but, once you’ve heard the Burmester, you’ll probably have to tick that box.