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.
Entry-level models come with a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. You also get 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 check out the C220d diesel model. This 194hp 2.0-litre is 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.
The standard nine-speed gearbox can be hesitant and indecisive at times – but then again, it does have nine gears to choose from…
Fancy something a bit quicker? There’s a C300 petrol model with 245hp that’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in six seconds and an AMG-tuned C43 model with a turbocharged V6. The latter produces 390hp which is enough to blast it to 62mph from rest in 4.7 seconds. Still sounds a little tame? There’ll soon be a V8-powered AMG C63 model with more than 470hp.
You can get the 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 models.
Whether you go for two- or four-wheel drive, you get a smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Unfortunately, it doesn’t respond to the shift paddles as quickly as the 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.