The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
Available new from £37,520
The Mercedes C-Class Estate is one of a growing number of family-sized estates that trade ultimate practicality for a healthy dose of style – not to mention an upmarket image. Against rivals like the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant, the C-Class purports to be a classy, comfortable alternative.
Reasons to buy
- Standard equipment is generous
- Optional clever safety kit
- Diesel engines are decent
At a glance
- Running costs for a Mercedes-Benz C Class ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Reliability of a Mercedes-Benz C Class ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Safety for a Mercedes-Benz C Class ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How comfortable is the Mercedes-Benz C Class ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Features of the Mercedes-Benz C Class ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Power for a Mercedes-Benz C Class ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Running costs for a Mercedes-Benz C Class
When the C-Class was facelifted in 2018, Mercedes hiked up prices considerably, making the car a good bit more expensive than most of its major rivals. And, as well as being costlier to come by in the first place, the C-Class’ price increase isn’t then given back in resale values, with the Mercedes not expected to be worth any more than its peers when it’s time to move it on to a new home.
Insurance groups are also a bit on the high side compared with rivals, too. CO2 emissions and fuel economy are within touching distance of the best rivals, though not ahead of them, and it’s a similar story with routine service and maintenance.
Obviously, the C63 versions are a very different financial proposition to the rest of the range, and will be prohibitively expensive for many, but those with one eye on the pennies wouldn’t be considering one anyway.
Reliability of a Mercedes-Benz C Class
The C-Class has traditionally been one of Mercedes’ best-performing models in reliability and customer satisfaction surveys. In the most recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey, the C-Class was up among the best in its class, while the Mercedes brand overall placed towards the middle of the survey.
Likewise, the Warranty Direct reliability survey found the C-Class to be better than most rivals, and ranking higher than the average Mercedes model across repair costs and time off-the-road, even if the premium brand status is well evident in labour cost. Though a three-year warranty is the regulation minimum for the car industry, Mercedes does offer unlimited mileage within that, which will be a benefit to those high-mileage drivers that pass the 60,000 limit some others impose within the three-year period.
Safety for a Mercedes-Benz C Class
The airbag total is good, with seven fitted to various bits of the car, including a knee airbag to protect the driver’s legs against damage from the steering column in the event of an accident. You also get a collision prevention system is standard, which includes automatic emergency braking, but the really clever stuff is only available as a very pricey option package called the Driving Assistance Pack.
This features technology that’s cascaded down from the S-Class luxury saloon, and includes a clever cruise control system that will slow the car for junctions, roundabouts and bends, as well as reacting to speed limit changes, and it’s joined by systems that will keep the car within its lane if the driver starts to wander around, actively prevent it changing lanes when a vehicle hidden in the blind spot and bring it to a complete halt through the adaptive cruise control system in traffic.
How comfortable is the Mercedes-Benz C Class
There are good and bad points inside, with comfortable seats - especially the sports ones on the higher trims - and a good driving position being plus points. Quality, too, is a major positive, with dense, high-grade materials that give you a plush feel.
The large 10.25-inch infotainment screen displays the car’s main functions, and the system is pretty easy to use if you use the central rotary dial, but it does look like a tablet has been glued to the dashboard, rather than being an in-built screen integral to the car. You can also operate many functions through the steering wheel controls, but it does mean the wheel has a vast number of controls - 16 in fact, plus two extra touch pads - which makes for a rather distracting experience. There are even more controls on the bespoke steering wheel of the C63, which allow you to scroll through various driving modes and engage various driving systems, but these are really well designed and are a doddle to use considering the wide variety of functions they operate.
Obviously, boot space is the main reason that estate cars exist, and the C-Class Estate’s isn’t the largest, with the 460 litres stacking up pretty poorly against all the car’s main rivals, the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant. However, it is a nice, flat, square space, with a netted area to one side to keep small items from rolling around. All cars get 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats to enlarge the load area, with a switch to drop the seats from the rear of the car, but they don’t drop entirely flat.
What’s more, given some cars in this class are a bit short in rear passenger space, the C-Class performs well, and will carry four big adults without drama. The narrow middle seat and bulky transmission tunnel means life won’t be quite so comfortable for a fifth, but at least the seat cushion is flat rather than being raised and rounded like it is in some rivals.
The suspension you get on your C-Class depends on which version you pick. Sport Edition is lowered compared with the standard saloon, while the AMG Line is both lowered and stiffened. It’s actually the AMG Line that’s the best, even though it’s firm; the Sport’s bouncy ride is less appealing.
Don’t let the names fool you, though; the C-Class is more comfort-orientated than sporty, prioritising the ability to cover long distances in a relaxed manner, but it’s still sure-footed and composed enough to be entertaining on a quiet back-road run. The top two trims can also be upgraded to air suspension as an optional extra, which tailors the suspension set-up according to which of the five driver modes – from Comfort to Sport+ – you select. It works really well, filtering out even the worst bumps and potholes, while providing a marked improvement in agility.
We’ve also had a shot in the high-performance C63 version, which doesn’t have full-on air suspension, but does have an adaptive one that can also vary its behaviour according to which mode is selected. The range of different modes is rather dizzying, with six main ones, four for the torque vectoring system that distributes drive across the rear wheels, plus no less than nine modes for the clever traction control system that allows varying degrees of slip on the back end. Using the various profiles isn’t as complicated as it sounds, though, and the technology means that the C63 can play a variety of roles with impressive polish. It can be a civilised and comfortable cruiser, an agile and alert sports car or, if you turn everything up to eleven, an absolute foamy-mouthed, tail-sliding lunatic.
Features of the Mercedes-Benz C Class
Equipment levels are pretty good. You can’t get the C-Class estate in lower-specification S or SE trims, as you can with the saloon, which means the range kicks off with Sport Edition. This, as you might imagine, is very well equipped, with satellite navigation, a rear parking camera, heated seats, a powered tailgate, leather sports seats and adaptive LED headlights, as well as gearshift paddles. The AMG Line Edition improvements are mainly visual in making it look more sporty inside and out, but crucially, you also get the excellent 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which replaces the analogue dials with a TFT screen that can be customised.
The next rung up in the range is the rather wordily named AMG Line Night Edition Premium, which gives you memory seats, an upgraded sound system, and wireless charging for your smartphone. Upgrade further to the AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus, and you get keyless entry and starting, a top-down parking camera system, and an audio system made by high-end hi-fi specialist Burmester.
The high-performance AMG models are also available in standard and Premium Plus versions, with an interim Premium version available on the C43. These get corresponding levels of additional equipment, on top of a bespoke grille, more skirts and a chunkier rear air diffuser, not to mention a suite of performance upgrades.
Power for a Mercedes-Benz C Class
The C-Class’s talents here depend entirely on which engine you’re talking about. The C220d and C300d diesel alternatives are both really good, offering the punch, quietness and smoothness you might expect from a Mercedes. The C200 petrol engine, on the other hand, doesn’t. It’s clever on paper, as it has mild hybrid technology that uses a small 48-volt battery to support the petrol engine by adding a little extra power. On the plus side, it gives the car the ability to cruise with the engine off on downhill stretches of road to save fuel, but the engine itself is particularly noisy and doesn’t offer the kind of performance that you expect given the racket it makes.
There’s also a diesel plug-in hybrid called the C300de, which we haven’t yet driven, and the same goes for the C300 and C43 versions.
All engines come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. It’s occasionally a little unpredictable, and has a habit of holding onto gears longer than might be expected. The range-topping C63, meanwhile, has a stonking 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that develops 476 horsepower, or 510 horsepower if you go for the C63 S version. Unsurprisingly, it’s an absolute monster of an engine, propelling you viciously towards the horizon right from the off, and it only gets stronger the more revs you put on the dial.