The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.7
The Mercedes C-Class estate has the sort of cachet that its rivals would kill for. It’s fabulously built, has a rock-solid image and is practical too. But running costs are high.
Reasons to buy
- Well built
- Good to drive
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
Just the briefest of glances confirms who makes the Mercedes C-Class estate. There’s no mistaking that trademark grille, either topped off by the three-pointed star mascot, or with the same emblem shouting loudly from within the grille. While the rear-end treatment of the C-Class saloon isn’t entirely successful, things are more cohesive in estate form, although it still isn’t exactly pretty. Perhaps the most successful aspect of the car is its profile, lifted by the strong swage line that runs its length, along with the rising waistline. Both the estate and saloon were facelifted in 2011, freshening up the face with more sculpted headlamps and adding LED lights at the rear.
What's the interior like?
You won’t be blown away by the unimaginative cabin design of the C-Class estate, but you will be impressed by how easy it is to use as well as how well screwed together it all is. Everywhere you look there are high-quality materials while everything feels as though it’ll last forever. The seats look good too – and they’re comfortable to sit in, with plenty of adjustment. It’s the same with the steering wheel, which adjusts for reach and rake so you can find the ideal driving position no matter how tall you are.
How practical is it?
While many posh estates put looks before practicality, the C-Class doesn’t. Despite its stylish design, you can squeeze 485 litres-worth of goods and chattels into the boot with the rear seats in place and 1,500 litres with them folded. That puts it ahead of the BMW 3 Series Touring as well as the Audi A4 Avant. The rear seat backs tip forward at the pull of a lever, but unfortunately they don’t fold completely flat unlike those on key rivals.
What's it like to drive?
The power in a C-Class goes to the rear wheels, which sharpens the handling and poise – something you will appreciate if you’re an enthusiastic driver. If you have a more relaxed driving style, you probably won’t notice much difference between this and front-wheel drive rivals like the Audi A4. Buy a C-Class with Sport trim and you get a chassis that’s set up more stiffly and it also sits closer to the ground. These models are best suited to those who value dynamics above comfort – if you prefer things the other way round you’re better off going for a C-Class that isn’t in Sport trim.
How powerful is it?
Leaving the super saloon C63 AMG to one side, there’s no shortage of options if you like plenty of go. Even the least powerful C-Class estate, the 134bhp C200 CDi, can manage 130mph and 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds, while the slowest petrol edition, the C180, will top 138mph and do 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds. If you need even more urge though, the C350 does 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds before topping out at a restricted 155mph. The diesel-engined C350 CDi accelerates just as quickly but it’ll manage ‘just’ 152mph. If it’s pulling power you want, go for the C350 CDi, as it’s got a seriously muscular 398lb/ft of pulling power.
How much will it cost me?
With high purchase prices, hefty insurance rates and depreciation to contend with, you can’t run a C-Class cheaply. However, CO2 emissions and fuel consumption aren’t generally too bad unless you buy one with a huge petrol engine. Stick with the smallest diesel, the C200 CDi, and you’ll have CO2 emissions of just 127g/km plus fuel consumption of 58.9mpg. Even the largest diesel engine, the C350 CDI, can achieve 47.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 162g/km. The best all-rounder though is the C220 CDi with its 60.1mpg and 135g/km.
How reliable is it?
Mercedes charges a high price for its cars on the basis that they’re superbly engineered, and the C-Class estate certainly seems to bear this out. Problems are few and far between, although the instrumentation has been known to cause problems, while the injectors fitted to the turbodiesel engines have also been unreliable in some cases. But Mercedes has some of the best dealers around and things like this should be sorted out under warranty.
How safe is it?
One of the reasons why you buy a Mercedes is because they’re among the safest cars on the road. With an extremely strong bodyshell plus a raft of safety equipment, there are multiple aids to help you prevent a crash – and if the worst should happen, you’ll be as well protected as possible. A five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating is backed up with airbags galore plus the best seatbelt technology available. There are also multiple chassis technologies such as brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, ESP (electronic stability programme) and a brake drying function. All cars also come with a tyre pressure monitoring system.
How much equipment do I get?
Buy a C-Class Estate and you’ve got a choice of three trim levels: SE, Elegance and Sport. Cheapest is the SE, which features front and rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate, scratch-resistant paint, electric windows all round, a multi-function steering wheel, automatic lights and wipers and dual-zone climate control. Elegance has better interior lighting and different details for the interior and exterior trim. It also replaces the standard cloth seats for an ‘Artico’ artificial leather finish. Sport specification is much the same, in that it has similar equipment levels as the others but with different wheels plus more eye-catching and aggressive interior and exterior detailing. Sport models also get front sports seats and a nappa leather trimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Safe and strong, spacious, practical and good to drive, the C-Class estate is a dream to own. Especially as reliability levels are very high too.