The C-Class’ elegant cabin takes a good 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 models
The C-Class’ interior is far more interesting to behold than the likes of the sporty BMW 3 Series or the smart-and-sensible Audi A4. The three brushed metal air vents in the centre console look like something you’d find on a perfectly preserved vintage aeroplane and the minimalist swooping dashboard design compliments them very well indeed.
You can clad the Mercedes’ interior in plenty of plush materials – from glossy piano-black plastic in SE and Sport cars, to gorgeous unvarnished wood inserts in AMG Line models. Unfortunately, the former can scratch easily if you happen to drop your keys on the centre console.
Whichever model you pick, you get expensive-feeling brushed aluminium trim on the doors and solid metal switches for the climate control features. These look even better when paired with the fancy laser-etched speaker grilles for the optional Burmester stereo.
All Mercedes C-Class models come with faux (but still very convincing) man-made leather seats. This upholstery – called Artico Leather – looks and feels just as plush as the real deal and will be equally easy to keep clean and almost as hard wearing. If you absolutely must have real leather trim, it’s only available on Sport, AMG Line and C43 models and costs an extra £795.
If you’ve got a further £700 burning a hole in your pocket, you can get the AMG Interior Carbon Pack for speedy AMG C43 models. This comes with extended aluminium trim for the doors, a silver carbon-fibre-effect finish for the centre console and an analogue clock below the central air vents.
The latest C-Class does away with the old model’s tacky infotainment display, but if you want the bells-and-whistles 12.3-inch screen instead of conventional dials it’ll cost you extra
Unfortunately, the standard C-Class’ infotainment can’t quite cash the cheques written by its eye-catching cabin. The free-standing 10.25-inch screen above the centre console looks far better than the old cars rather weedy 8.4-inch unit, but it still feels like a bit of an afterthought – especially when compared with the super-slick dual-screen setup you can get in the smaller A-Class.
The controls on the centre console don’t make it particularly easy to use, either. There’s a handy set of shortcut buttons within easy reach on the dashboard, but the scroll wheel for whizzing through the system’s various menus is fitted down on the centre console under an awkwardly shaped touchpad.
Thankfully, the Mercedes C-Class has a reasonably reliable voice command system that lets you circumvent some of the infotainment system’s less intuitive menus without taking your hands off the steering wheel. There’s also a set of touchpad controllers on the steering wheel – just like in an S-Class – that do away with the old car’s numerous black plastic buttons.
You can get the new C-Class with a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display instead of conventional analogue dials – a bit like in the Audi A4’s Virtual Cockpit system. This super-sharp screen can display a combination of three different dial designs alongside sat-nav directions and media playback information, all controlled using intuitive buttons on the steering wheel. It’s standard on AMG C43 models but only available as part of the £2,795 Premium Equipment Line pack across the rest of the range.
This pack also brings with it some other tasty equipment upgrades, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These systems let you use a range of navigation and music-streaming apps through the car’s built-in screens, such as Google Maps and Spotify.
Speaking of Spotify, if you’re a serious music fan you’ll want to upgrade to the optional Burmester stereo system to make the most of your music library. This 590W surround-sound system packs plenty more punch than the standard C-Class setup, but it only comes as part of the £4,995 Premium Plus pack.