Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon road test report

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Mercedes has subtly shifted the emphasis of its core C-Class model towards economy and cleanliness as the larger engines are quietly sidelined. In their place come greener and leaner petrols and diesels, with a company driver-friendly diesel offering 117g/km CO2 emissions. Fear not, though, as the C-Class continues to provide ample comfort in a compact package.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Image number 2 of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class SaloonImage number 3 of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class SaloonImage number 4 of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Performance Performance - 4 stars

Mercedes has done away with the larger petrol and diesel engines for the revised C-Class, though we’ll still be treated to the barmy C63 AMG in facelifted form soon. Merc now prefers to concentrate the C-Class’ efforts on saving fuel and emissions. To this end, every engine in the revised range offers better fuel economy and lower emissions. There are two versions of the 1.8-litre petrol engine for the C180 and C250 models in 156- and 204bhp forms respectively. The C180 continues to feel just a little underpowered, so the C250 is the more entertaining option as it covers 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds to the C180’s 9.0 seconds in manual gearbox versions. For the time being, the C250 only comes with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which is an option in place of the C180’s standard six-speed manual. A manual gearbox will be an option for the C250 later in 2011. Both engines work well on the motorway, but for all-round greatness you need to look to the diesel options. The C200 CDi, C220 CDi and C250 CDi use the same 2.2-litre turbodiesel but in 136-, 170- and 204bhp forms. The least potent is decent but the C220 CDi is the pick of the bunch, offering 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and seamlessly smooth power and pick-up at any time. All of the revised C-Class models now come with Merc’s ECO stop-start system to save fuel and it works unobtrusively.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

Mercedes continues to offer the C-Class with split personalities, so buyers can choose between the comfort of the SE and Elegance models or a more athletic drive in the Sport versions. All Sport models come with sports suspension as standard, which makes the C-Class every bit as good down a country road as the BMW 3 Series. There is a slight pay-off in the quality and comfort of the ride in Sport models, so the SE is perhaps the better bet for everyday driving and its handling is just as adept when pushed. The ride in either version can tweaked for greater comfort or stiffness via the Agility Control Suspension, but we found the standard set-up of the SE worked fine in all conditions. As you’d expect of a Mercedes, the C-Class’ cabin is very hushed at all speeds and this Merc is happy to cope with any type of road and traffic condition.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

Mercedes has rediscovered its form when it comes to making solidly built cars. The C-Class demonstrates this with the clunk of its doors and the hewn from billet feel of all the controls the driver comes into contact with. There are also plenty of soft-touch materials to impart a suitably classy air. The engines may have been revised, but they are based on existing versions so there are no concerns for the C-Class’ long term reliability. Mercedes has also regained the trust of its owners and scored well in the recent JD Power satisfaction survey , though 22nd out of 32 car manufacturers in the recent What Car? Reliability Survey is less impressive.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

Every new C-Class comes with seven airbags as standard, including the one for the driver’s knees. There’s also ESP traction and stability control fitted to all models. In addition to this, the revised C-Class comes with a host of Mercedes’ latest safety systems. They include Attention Assist to warn the driver if he or she is becoming drowsy and an Active Bonnet to help with pedestrian safety in a collision. Both of these will be standard, while other systems such as Active Lane Keeping, Blind Spot Assist, Pre-Safe Brake and Speed Limit Assist will be options.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

The C-Class remains one of the most spacious cars in the premium saloon sector, though the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Mazda6 still offer greater room for passengers overall. Still, the Merc can accommodate four adults with ease and the driver is very well looked after thanks to a highly adjustable driving position and good all-round vision. The Estate version of the C-Class is even better for vision and easier to park than the saloon due to the four-door model’s high boot line making it trickier to judge. Mercedes has successfully simplified the C-Class’ dash and most of the major functions can be worked from the steering wheel, so no need for the driver to take his or her hands from the wheel. A decent boot in the saloon puts most rivals to shame, while the Estate eschews fancy solutions in favour of good old fashioned volume, which makes the Merc one of the few truly versatile estates in this sector.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

Mercedes may have reduced the emissions and improved fuel economy for all of the revised C-Class models, but it still pays to shop carefully. A couple of C-Class models - C180s tellingly – bust the 160g/m carbon dioxide threshold that is so important to company drivers. Much better is the C200CDi coupled to a manual gearbox that offers superb 117g/km CO2 emissions and fine 64.2mpg combined fuel economy, which will no doubt prove a popular choice with business drivers and cost-conscious private buyers alike. Used value for the C-Class are on a par with the BMW 3 Series, so private buyers will be shielded from the worst ravages of depreciation, though not completely insulated from this considerable cost. There are three trim levels for UK C-Class customers, starting with the SE that comes with parking sensors, climate control, alloy wheels and cruise control. The Elegance gains larger alloy wheels, front foglights and daytime running lights, and Merc’s Artico upholstery. Choose the Sport and you get even larger 18in AMG alloy wheels, Xenon headlights, sports seats, AMG body kit and various AMG trim trinkets, sports suspension and Adaptive Highbeam Assist to automatically dim the headlights as another car approaches at night.

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