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.
If you mainly do short journeys, you should take a look at the Mercedes C-Class C180 and C200 petrol models. Both come with new 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, but only C200 cars 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 consider a diesel model instead. The C220d comes with a 194hp 2.0-litre that’s 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.
There’s also a C300d that uses a similar four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine but produces 245hp. As a result, it’ll accelerate from 0-62mph 2.8 seconds faster than the C220d model in 5.7 seconds. It’s even slightly more economical – Mercedes claims it’ll return 68.9mpg but you can expect it to manage around 55mpg.
In terms of fast petrol versions, you’ve two to choose from. There’s a Mercedes C-Class C300 petrol with 258hp that’ll take 5.9 seconds to reach 62mph from rest and an AMG-tuned C43 model with a turbocharged V6. The latter produces 390hp which is enough to blast it from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds. Still sounds a little tame? There’ll soon be a V8-powered AMG C63 model with more than 470hp.
The standard nine-speed gearbox can be hesitant and indecisive at times – but then again, it does have nine gears to choose from…
If you’re more interested in running costs than outright pace, the Mercedes C-Class C300de hybrid is worth considering. This plug-in hybrid pairs the same four-cylinder diesel engine as the C220d model with a 120hp electric motor to return around 90mpg in normal driving conditions. This hybrid drive system also means it’ll accelerate from 0-62mph faster than the perky C300d model in just 5.6 seconds.
Charging its onboard battery from 10% to 100% takes approximately 90 minutes using a dedicated wall charger at home – after which you’ll be able to drive for as many as 35 miles in fully electric mode. If you find yourself having to use a three-pin socket instead, you’ll have to set aside five hours for a full charge.
You can get the Mercedes 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 BMW 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.