Mercedes C-Class (2014-2017) Review
The Mercedes C-Class is a comfortable car with a high-class badge. It has a luxurious interior and is quiet – unless you pick one of the noisy diesel engines
What's not so good
Mercedes C-Class (2014-2017): what would you like to read next?
The Mercedes C-Class is a real Jack of all Trades. So, whether you want a high-class family car, a cost-effective company car or a comfortable day-to-day cruiser, then you should definitely consider it. This saloon is the most popular of the various body styles you can choose, but the C-Class also comes as a more spacious Estate, sporty Coupe or stylish Cabriolet.
What’s great about the C-Class is how it gives you the look and feel of a more expensive Mercedes saloon at a more affordable price. Thanks to all the fancy-looking trim pieces, metallic switches and machined metal air vents, it really is a case of ‘Honey, I shrunk the (very luxurious) S-Class’ inside.
The standard man-made leather seats may not sound too appealing, but they feel enough like the real thing to keep most people happy. If you’re prepared to pay £800 extra for it, you can have real leather. However, you’re better off saving your money.
The only part of the interior that doesn’t look great is the infotainment system. Not only does it appear to have been plonked on top of the dashboard like an afterthought, its screen has a wide plastic border that makes a ’90s TV seem cutting edge.
There’s no shortage of space in the front, with room for tall adults, but headroom in the back is poor. Your passengers will be brushing their heads on the roof if they’re more than six foot tall – a problem you don’t have in a BMW 3 Series. The boot size more or less matches what you’ll find in similar models like the Audi A4 and Jaguar XE, but the shape of the opening means it’s a bigger pain in the neck than it should be to load and unload stuff.
Having one of these on your drive lets your neighbours know that you’re a success – that three-pointed star is a trophy
You have three suspension setups to choose from, and one of the biggest attractions of the C-Class is how comfortable it is to drive. However, if you want maximum comfort, then the £895 Airmatic air suspension is definitely the way to go.
Combine that with the quiet interior and autonomous driving options that accelerate, brake and steer for you, and the Mercedes is an excellent motorway cruiser, if not quite as outstanding as an Audi A4. The only downside is that this comfort comes at the expense of a sporty drive; and, if that’s what you’re after, you’re better off buying a Jaguar XE or BMW 3 Series.
Although standard versions of the C-Class aren’t especially entertaining to drive, they’re certainly quick enough. The petrol engines and hybrid versions are attractive, but if you do lots of miles, then go for one of the more economical diesel engines, such as the C250d, which is pretty quick, too. This engine comes as standard with an automatic gearbox (essential, no matter which model you go for) that shifts smoothly and suits the car’s relaxed nature to a tee.
Across the range, every model comes with lots of safety equipment, including features designed to stop a crash ever happening. And, a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating means it should stand up well to unavoidable impacts.
So, if you’re after a saloon that looks smart and is extremely comfortable – and don’t mind if it’s not the most exciting to drive or that roomy in the back – the Mercedes C-Class is the car for you. See how it performs against the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE in our group test video.
The C-Class’ front seats have loads of room and come with lumbar support as standard, the back seat isn’t so brilliant for tall passengers, though, and the boot isn’t that easy to load
No animals were harmed in the making of the C-Class’ interior because its ‘leather’ seats are actually made from Artico vinyl – but they feel just like the real deal
The C-Class has loads of room in the front. Both front seats adjust for height and come with electrically adjustable lumbar support – making long journeys easier on the spine – and the seats slide quite far forward and backwards, so your passengers will fit regardless of whether they’re built like a jockey or a basketball player. The leather-bound steering wheel adjusts up and down as well as in and out, and has controls for the stereo and the trip computer.
Visibility from the driver’s seat isn’t a strong point though, because the pillar running up the side of the windscreen can block your view pulling out of junctions and going round tight corners – not what you want if you do lots of town driving. The high-set rear window is also quite small, so low sports cars behind your rear bumper can disappear completely from view. All C-Class models come with a reversing camera to help combat this limited rear visibility and make it easier to park.
There’s less room in the back than the front. Okay, there’s plenty of knee room but if you’re six foot or taller then your head will hit the roof. Try to carry three people and they’ll feel squashed – the middle seat feels high up, elbow room is in short supply and the large hump in the floor eats into foot room. Overall, the Audi A4 is better for carrying passengers in the back.
Fitting a child seat in the back seats of the C-Class isn’t a problem though, thanks to rear doors that open wide enough to make securing the chair and base simple, and the Isofix points are clearly marked so you can easily slot it in.
The C-Class is packed with storage areas, so it’s easy to keep your bits and pieces out of sight and the insides looking tidy, even if you spend your working life behind the wheel.
All the door bins will hold a large bottle of water, the front centre armrest hides a cubby with USB and 12v sockets, and the traditional storage nets on the backs of the front seats have been replaced with posh aircraft-style pockets – how very Mercedes! Get the Premium Plus pack and the front cupholders have fancy mood lighting but they’re too small to take a one-litre drinks bottle. The glovebox isn’t that large – it can fit a one-litre bottle, but you’ll have to remove the owner’s manual to do so.
A visit to the accessories list can make the C-Class more practical, but only if you’re willing to pay some truly ludicrous prices – £89 for a Mercedes coat hanger gives you an idea of just how silly things can get.
The C-Class’ 480-litre boot capacity is identical to comparable models such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. However, the curved opening and the boot’s awkward shape mean you won’t find it quite as easy to load as either of those two cars, although it does have enough space for two large suitcases. SE models do without the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats that are fitted to rest of the range, so avoid this entry-level model if you ever need to carry long items with two rear passengers either side. Fold the rear seats down on any C-Class model and you’re left with a hump in floor, but it’s still possible to get a bicycle in with both its wheels attached, which is quite impressive.
The boot also has a decent number of practical features, such as an electrically operated boot lid, nets on either side of the load bay and a collapsible box that’s stored underneath the boot floor – perfect for carrying groceries.
A C-Class with optional air suspension is comfortable, and it can pretty much drive itself – but it lacks any kind of fun factor
It's really easy to drive the C-Class smoothly – it's definitely more cruiser than sports saloon
Although the C-Class is a very comfortable car, it’s let down by its clattery, four-cylinder diesel engines. They rattle in a most un-Mercedes-like way under acceleration before quietening down into the background at a cruise.
They come in 200d, 220d and 250d forms. The former has 136hp and doesn’t quite have the acceleration you might expect from a Mercedes – the 170hp 220d and 204hp 250d are more than fast enough however. The latter gets from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, yet returns fuel economy of 64mpg. The 250d is also the only four-cylinder diesel C-Class that you can order with Mercedes’ 4Motion four-wheel-drive system – though it’s designed to give you extra grip in winter rather than turning this saloon into an off-roader.
If you don’t do many miles then get the C200 petrol version of the C-Class – it has 184hp so feels pretty quick and costs about £1,500 less than the cheapest diesel engine. Although it can’t match the diesel models for fuel economy, it’s not too shabby – returning a claimed 53.3mpg and sprinting from 0-62mph in a brisk 7.5 seconds. An automatic gearbox is optional, as is 4Motion four-wheel drive.
The 300h diesel-electric hybrid and the 350e petrol-electric plug-in hybrid have the lowest running costs in the C-Class range, but cost a lot to buy. The latter’s extremely low CO2 emissions mean it’s exempt from London’s Congestion Charge and its 19-mile electric-only range drops the cost of a short commute from pounds to just a few pence.
Whichever engine you pick, make sure you go for an automatic gearbox. The seven and nine-speed automatic gearboxes that the C-Class comes with are smooth – the opposite of the notchy manual gearboxes which are best avoided and don’t suit the C-Class’s wafty character.
There are a variety of options to choose from when configuring a C-Class, but no matter which you pick – high-performance AMG C63 excluded – it will never be as fun to drive as a comparable Jaguar XE or BMW 3 Series.
If you can come to terms with that, the C-Class is still a brilliant car. It’s very relaxing to drive – the cabin is quiet at a cruise, the controls are light and the automatic gearboxes shift gears with imperceptible smoothness.
Depending on which model you choose, you get varying degrees of suspension firmness. SE cars are too roly-poly in the corners, while AMG Line suspension feels too firm over bumps. Sport models are a better compromise, being both comfortable and composed.
There is an even better option, though, and that’s the Airmatic air suspension. It comes standard on the C350e plug-in hybrid model and is an £895 option on Sport and AMG-Line models – and that’s a price well worth paying. It keeps a cushion of air between you and the UK’s terrible roads and, for the most part, does a brilliant job of smoothing them out. It can be raised to deal with rough road surfaces, but automatically lowers at speed to help the C-Class feel very stable at a fast cruise.
The C-Class can even effectively drive itself, although if you want this ability you’ll have to pay for the £1,695 Driver Assistance pack. It gives you mind-boggling number of driver-assist systems, including Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Distronic Plus active cruise control and Pre-Safe Brake with pedestrian detection.
Essentially, all those systems mean the C-Class can keep itself in its lane on the motorway and in stop-start town traffic. All you need to do is keep your hands on the wheel, while the car brakes, steers and accelerates itself. It can even save your bacon, steering you back into lane if you attempt an overtake with someone in your blind spot, or applying the brakes hard if it detects an imminent collision. The C-Class got a five-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP back in 2014 so it should help keep you safe, and the optional four-wheel drive system will give you more grip on slippery roads than the standard rear-wheel-drive setup.
The Mercedes C-Class’ swooping dashboard design, snazzy trim pieces and man-made leather upholstery help make it feel like a mini luxury saloon