Good: elegant and attractive exterior, high-quality interior
Not so good: underpowered in this guise
Estates were conceived as the practical offshoots of the saloons they're sired from, ostensibly designed for those that put extra luggage space higher up on their list of priorities than style. Yet some people (yours truly included) reckon most estates often look better than the car they're based on.
So it is with the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Some find the stubby, S-Class inspired rear of the C-Class saloon, well, stubby and inelegant (not me), but few will find fault with the appearance of the estate model tested here. It looks classy and goes some way to justify its lofty price tag.
Prices start at €39,450, for the petrol-fuelled C 180 model. Obviously, Irish buyers will ignore petrol power in their droves so they'll only be interested in the entry-level diesel, the C 180 BlueTec at €39,860. Our test car, the C 200 BlueTec Avantgarde with a few choice extras (metallic paint, leather and walnut trim, etc.), came to an eye-watering €51,015.
In fairness, in this specification the Mercedes feels like a truly premium product. Saying that, it'll take a bit of convincing for buyers to accept the idea of a 1.6-litre diesel engine under the bonnet. It puts out 136hp and 320Nm of torque, which puts it on a par with the BMW 318d, but it really needs to be pushed to make any progress. Thankfully it's quite smooth and refined and the engine's noise is kept away from the passenger compartment to a good level. Indeed the estate as a whole is quiet and refined.
This engine excels on the motorway returning some enticing fuel economy figures. There the seven-speed automatic transmission is at its best too, smoothly getting into top gear as soon as possible to save fuel. That calibration is a little frustrating anywhere else as response is slovenly and it really exacerbates the lack of engine performance.
The chassis is clearly up to more power. It's balanced towards comfort with a lovely softness over poor surfaces and bumps, yet if you up the pace the polished damping makes sure the C-Class never feels out of its depth. And as we discovered at the launch of the C 450, it can be tweaked further if you're so inclined. Like all versions of the C-Class, we'd have that in estate guise too. It's practical too you know...
Audi A4 Avant: Will be replaced later in 2015, but still offers a lot of choice, good value and high quality.
BMW 3 Series Touring: The most enjoyable compact premium estate to drive though the C-Class's cabin is nicer.
Volkswagen Passat Estate: The best of the mainstream models is now a real contender for premium buyers' attention.