Mercedes C-Class overview
The Mercedes C-Class is one of the German firm's big sellers, so the arrival of an all-new version is always important. This fifth generation carries the internal Mercedes code of W206 and, as with past models, it features trickle-down technology from the larger S-Class and E-Class models, packed into a more compact and dynamic shape.
The C-Class has only a few genuine rivals, including the usual German suspects - the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series - plus sporty alternatives in the shape of the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE. Lexus no longer sells the IS in Europe, but the Volkswagen Arteon is an interesting alternative.
For our first taste of the new C-Class, we're driving the C 200 d in sporty AMG Line trim with optional Night Package styling upgrades.
The Mercedes C-Class model range
Irish pricing for the Mercedes C-Class starts at €56,425, which gets you a C 200 d in Avantgarde trim. In fact, the only other trim option available is AMG Line, with option packages available to upgrade these two specs if you want more equipment.
Avantgarde features 17-inch alloys, a multifunction steering wheel, Artico synthetic leather, heated memory seats, climate control and the MBUX touchscreen navigation system.
Go for AMG Line, and you get sportier exterior styling and larger alloys for around €2,500 extra, plus suede-effect interior trim pieces and a sportier steering wheel. Both trims can be upgraded with Advanced Plus, Premium and Premium Plus packages, the highest spec version adding niceties such as a head-up display and advanced LED headlights.
Diesel power is available in C 200 d, C 220 d and C 300 d guises, all of which come with a four-cylinder diesel engine and energy-saving 48-volt mild-hybrid technology. Power outputs for these engines are 163hp, 200hp and 265hp, respectively, while all three have a 20hp electrical boost from the mild-hybrid tech.
Petrol models start with the C 180, then C 200 and C 300. Again all of these models have four-cylinder engines with 48-volt tech, for 170hp, 204hp and 258hp, respectively.
The current range flagship is the C 300 e plug-in hybrid. This uses the C 200's engine but adds an electric motor for a total of 333hp. It also has a 25.4kWh battery so it can travel up to 107km on electric power alone.
As well as a four-door saloon, the C-Class is available as an estate, but the C-Class Coupe and Cabriolet will be replaced by a standalone model shortly. All C-Classes are rear-wheel drive with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, while 4Matic four-wheel drive should arrive at a later date. Also missing from the current line up are high-performance Mercedes-AMG models, but again, these will be revealed in due course.
There are plenty of offers available from Mercedes on the new C-Class via its Star Finance PCP plans, so head to the Mercedes website for the latest offers.
The Mercedes C-Class interior
If there's one area where the new Mercedes C-Class is outstanding, it's in the cabin. The build quality and upmarket atmosphere have the beating of all its rivals, and it really feels like a shrunken S-Class inside. The big portrait touchscreen is easy to navigate around, the air vents look classy and the LED ambient lighting sets the mood well.
There are digital instruments that offer a variety of views while the large touchscreen means that while the climate controls are located there, they are always on display and almost as easy to use as conventional buttons or rotary controls.
Buy a new C-Class, and the MBUX infotainment system comes with three years of connected services to keep all information up to date. Other highlights include augmented reality navigation, which displays live images from a front camera on the screen, which then overlays navigation instructions over it.
The only real foibles with the C-Class are with the overly large starter button (why does it need to be so big?), while some of the multifunction steering wheel controls are a little frustrating to use. There's a touch-sensitive slider for volume control, but it's not as accurate as if you used a button or rotary wheel. If that's as far as the criticism goes, then it's proof that Mercedes has done an excellent job with the C-Class's interior.
Cabin comfort is good, and there's a wide range of adjustment from the supportive yet plush front seats to get in the right position behind the wheel. Space in the rear is decent for two, but will be a bit of a squeeze for three, especially since middle-seat leg space is compromised by the car's large transmission tunnel. In addition, there are two pairs of ISOFIX child seat mounts in the back, yet while there are rear air vents, there aren't any USB charging sockets.
At the very rear, the C-Class has a 455-litre boot, which is competitive for the class, although the C 300 e has to make do with 315 litres, thanks to the large battery located under the floor. The rear seat backs can fold to take longer items, although this can only be done via the boot, not the interior.
The Mercedes C-Class driving experience
The Mercedes C-Class is a relatively low-slung machine, but there are no real issues with visibility from the driver's seat. One issue that does arise due to its low ride height, in combination with relatively soft suspension, is that speed bumps cause the odd scrape to be heard. Your options are to either slow to an absolute crawl, or suffer the agony of hearing the car scrape every time, which is very annoying.
The car's soft suspension is geared towards comfort, and at regular speeds on urban roads and motorways, the C-Class is an excellent performer. Our car's diesel engine was quiet enough - although not outstanding in this regard - while the nine-speed gearbox keeps the revs low and offers smooth shifts.
There's a standard-fit 48-volt mild hybrid system on all versions of the C-Class (plug-in hybrid excepted), and the system proved effective during our time with the car. It means the stop-start system cuts in very quickly and without hesitation, while the electrical assistance subtly makes the driving experience smoother. Efficiency benefits mean we saw a 5.6 litres/100km average on our car, despite no long motorway run at a cruise.
Increase the pace and unfortunately the C-Class doesn't transform into a sporty machine. The C 200 d we tried came with passive dampers, so the standard-fit Dynamic Select system only adjusts the steering, throttle response and stability control.
Comfort is the C-Class's byword, but on twisty country roads, the suspension struggles to cope. The soft set-up isn't very precise, so the car bottoms out regularly and means it doesn't have good control of body movements. While its arch-rival the BMW 3 Series has always offered some driving fun, the C-Class is resolute in its safety - the traction control allows for zero slip from the rear, although at least that means it's very safe.
Our verdict on the Mercedes C-Class
If you want the most comfortable compact executive saloon on the market, then look no further. The Mercedes C-Class manages to deliver limousine levels of luxury in the class, as well as some stunning technology from its advanced infotainment system, and should be your top choice if comfort is your priority. It's not the most driver-focused model available, though; that title still goes to the BMW 3 Series.