Mercedes C-Class Estate review
The Mercedes C-Class Estate is practical and stylish in equal measure, but alternatives are more fun to drive and have more intuitive infotainment systems
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The new Mercedes C-Class Estate is a practical family car that’s comfortable and relaxing to drive. It comes with lots of high-tech features as standard, too, and you can also get it as a conventional saloon, a stylish coupe and a drop-top cabriolet if you don’t need the estate’s big boot.
To help it stay competitive with the likes of the BMW 3 Series Touring and the Audi A4 Avant, the C-Class Estate was updated in 2018 with some redesigned bumpers and a pair of new engines.
It also now gets a slick-looking infotainment system as standard with a 10.25-inch screen that replaces the old car’s 8.4-inch display. If this still doesn’t sound big enough, you can also get a 12.3-inch screen instead of conventional analogue dials that help the C-Class Estate look almost as futuristic inside as the high-tech Audi A4 Avant.
It isn’t just the Mercedes’ equipment that impresses: its cabin also comes with plenty of solid-feeling and posh-looking materials. You can choose from glossy black plastics, brushed aluminium and unpolished wood across the range, but (rather disappointingly) real-leather seats costs extra on all models.
Despite this, the man-made alternative you get as standard feels pretty convincing, and the seats come with loads of adjustment to help you find your perfect driving position. There’s lots of space to stretch out in the front, too, but the back seats are a bit more cramped than in an A4 Avant and 3 Series Touring.
The Mercedes isn’t the fastest, or the most spacious upmarket estate car around, but it gets a fabulous interior that feels a cut above what you’ll find in most alternatives
Thankfully, the C-Class is more comfortable than these cars on the move – even without its fancy optional air suspension. You won’t hear much unpleasant wind and tyre noise, either, which helps make long motorway journeys as relaxing as possible.
Speaking of motorways, you’ll want to pick a C220d model if you regularly do lots of long drives. It’s impressively quiet, more than quick enough to keep up with fast-lane traffic and won’t cost much to run, either.
If inner-city driving is more your thing, there’s also a C200 petrol that uses a built-in electric motor to boost performance and fuel economy. If you fancy something a bit faster, you can choose from C300 and AMG-tuned C43 versions that’ll sprint from 0-62mph in as little as 4.7 seconds.
Regardless of which engine you choose, all C-Class Estates come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard, and bundles of safety features designed to help prevent low-speed collisions – including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
All this helps to make the C-Class Estate an excellent choice of mid-size estate – especially if you prioritise comfort and a classy cabin over sporty handling.
You won’t have much to gripe about in the Mercedes roomy front seats, but many alternatives have more spacious back seats
In the world of big-booted estates, the C-Class stands out thanks to the numerous handy tethers, hooks, straps and folding crates you get to keep things nicely organised
All C-Class estates come with height-adjustable front seats as standard so you’ll be guaranteed a good view out, even if you’re quite small. There’s plenty of headroom and adjustable lumbar support for the driver comes as standard to help reduce annoying lower-back ache on long journeys.
Sadly, things don’t feel quite as roomy in the back seats. There’s a decent amount of leg room, but anyone over six-foot tall will find the top of their head brushing against the ceiling, especially if you pick a model with a panoramic glass roof. Ultimately a BMW 3 Series Touring has slightly more space for carrying two tall adults in the back
If you regularly find yourself carrying three adults in the back, you’ll find the large lump in the floor leaves very little space for your middle passenger’s feet. There isn’t as much shoulder room as you get in the wider Audi A4 Avant, either.
Despite this, the C-Class Estate’s back seats are still roomy enough for three kids to stretch out, and the wide rear door openings leave plenty of room for you to lift in a bulky child seat. The standard Isofix anchor points are a doddle to locate, too, thanks to their neat folding rubber covers.
There are plenty of handy storage bins in the C-Class Estate to help you keep its cabin looking neat and tidy. All four door bins are big enough to hold a 1.5-litre bottle, and there’s an impressive amount of room under the central front armrest for keeping a few valuables hidden out of sight.
You also get a 12V socket and a USB port for keeping your phone charged, but the cupholders in the front aren’t particularly wide and the bulky owner’s manual does its best to completely fill the Mercedes’ rather small glovebox. In the back, you’ll find a faux leather map pocket on each front seatback and a pair of cupholders in the folding central armrest.
The C-Class Estate’s boot is a smidge smaller than a BMW 3 Series Touring’s and Audi A4 Avant’s on paper, but is still easily large enough to carry a couple of large suitcases, a bulky baby buggy or a set of golf clubs with room to spare.
The wide, low boot opening makes it easy to load bulky items – unlike in the C-Class saloon – and the flat boot lip means you can slide in very heavy boxes without them getting stuck.
All models come with three-way (40:20:40) folding rear seats as standard that flip down automatically when you push the easy-to-reach buttons by the boot opening. This layout lets you carry some very long luggage (such as skis) and two back-seat passengers at once.
With all three back seats flipped down, the C-Class Estate’s boot grows to the same size as the A4 Avant’s with its own seats down, and slightly larger than the 3 Series Touring’s, although you’ll barely notice this difference when packing them full of luggage.
With its rear seats down, the Mercedes’ completely flat load bay makes it very easy to push large items right up behind the front seats and there’s enough space to carry a bike with both its wheels attached.
You get plenty of tethering points, shopping hooks and netted cubbies to stop smaller items rolling around, too, and you’ll find a collapsible plastic crate in a handy storage tray under the floor.
The C-Class Estate is one of the most comfortable ways of ferrying antique furniture around, but the trade-off is that it’s not particularly good fun to drive
The C-Class Estate is a comfortable cruiser that’ll be reasonably cheap to run. Well, unless you go for a 390hp AMG C43 model, that is – they drink fuel like it’s going out of fashion…
If you do plenty of short journeys, a Mercedes C-Class Estate C180 or C200 model with a 1.5-litre petrol is well worth considering – both are quiet, fairly perky and cheap to run, but only the C200 comes with a mild-hybrid system to give fuel economy and performance a helpful boost, however. Mercedes claims this mild-hybrid model will return more than 46mpg, but you can expect to achieve a number in the region of 37mpg in normal driving conditions. You can get it with four-wheel drive for a little extra grip in slippery conditions, but then fuel economy drops to around 35mpg.
If you spend more time on the motorway, the C220d diesel will be more suitable. It produces 194hp – so it’s plenty quick enough to keep up with fast-moving traffic – and very quiet when you’re cruising along at 70mph. You won’t quite manage to match Mercedes’ claimed 60mpg+ economy figure in real-world conditions, but 50mpg is certainly achievable.
If you prefer a healthy turn of speed from your practical family estate, you should consider one of the C300 petrol or AMG-tuned C43 versions. The former comes with a 245hp engine that’ll accelerate it from 0-62mph in just six seconds while the latter gets a 390hp twin-turbo V6 that helps it covers the same sprint in less than five seconds. Even faster, however, will be the upcoming AMG C63 model – a V8-powered super estate with more than 470hp.
AMG C43 models come with four-wheel drive as standard, but you can get it across the rest of the Mercedes C-Class Estate range. This’ll help make sure you don’t get stuck down a particularly muddy farm track but isn’t really worth the extra cash because it blunts fuel economy by a few miles per gallon.
If you’re looking for a frugal, rather than fast, estate, the C300de plug-in hybrid model will be right up your street. It comes with a similar 194hp 2.0-litre diesel engine to the C220d version but also packs a 120hp electric motor under the bonnet. Together, they help the Mercedes C-Class Estate return as much as 90mpg in normal driving conditions and accelerate from 0-62mhp in just 5.7 seconds.
Charging its batteries from 10% to 100% takes around 90 minutes using a dedicated wall charger, but up to five hours if you have to resort to using a conventional three-pin household plug. Once fully charged, you’ll be able to drive for up to 35 miles in electric-only mode.
Whichever engine you choose, you get a nine-speed automatic as standard. This blends gears together nicely around town and makes the Mercedes C-Class Estate very easy to drive in heavy traffic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t respond to the manual gear change paddles as quickly as the eight-speed automatic you can get in the BMW 3 Series Touring.
The Mercedes C-Class Estate is one of the most comfortable small estate cars around. It irons out bumps around town better than the likes of the 3 Series Touring – handy if you’re carrying fragile cargo. Sure, the standard sports suspension you get in AMG Line models means they aren’t quite as comfortable on poorly maintained roads, but at least they’re still pretty quiet, as you won’t hear much wind or tyre noise at speed.
You’ll find the Mercedes is pretty easy to drive in town. The steering is light and all models come with a reversing camera to help make squeezing into tight parking spaces as stress-free as possible. The wide pillar between the front windows and the windscreen can make it difficult to spot cars approaching at tight junctions, but the estate’s boxy back end at least means you get a good view out behind you.
It’s even easier to drive around town if you pay for the adaptive air suspension. This £895 option cushions you from potholes and rough road surfaces and makes the C-Class Estate feel like a mini E-Class Estate to drive.
Just like the larger E-Class, the C-Class estate comes with loads of safety systems as standard. All versions get automatic emergency braking to help prevent low-speed collisions and adaptive cruise control to help you maintain a safe distance to other cars on the motorway.
The Mercedes’ headline-grabbing safety features are reserved for the optional £1,695 Driver Assistance pack, however. This brings with it lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection and an even more advanced cruise control feature that’ll pretty much drive for you on well-marked motorways. However, you must remember to keep your hands on the wheel at all times, or the system will disengage.
The C-Class certainly looks fancy inside thanks to the eye-catching trims and posh metal details, but alternatives have better infotainment systems that are more intuitive