What are you driving?
There are few things, in motoring, quite so satisfying as a well-crafted Mercedes-Benz. Equally, there are few things, in motoring, quite so satisfying as a well-thought out estate car. So, putting those two hands together, there are few things, in motoring, quite so... well, you've probably got there ahead of me, haven't you?
This is the freshly updated Mercedes-Benz C-Class, tested here in estate form with the new(ish) 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. The round of updates, introduced a little earlier in 2018, help to keep the C-Class fresh enough to compete with BMW's incoming all-new 3 Series and, while they're subtle updates, they're also effective.
So what's new? Well, you get new headlights, new bumpers, new wheels and new colour options. Ours was painted a gorgeous shade of 'Brilliant Blue Metallic' in case you're wondering.
Inside, there is the option of a new all-digital instrument pack (oddly, an option not fitted to our test car) and an upgraded, also optional, 10.25-inch central screen for the infotainment system (we did get that one alright). Keyless ignition is now standard, and there are new seats (which come with an optional 'Multi-Contour' pack - our test car had the standard seats and they felt just fine).
There are also some upgraded safety systems, including new cameras and radar for the forward-facing anti-collision system, the option of active cruise control and a new 'Energising Comfort' system, which, when fitted, can adjust the interior lights, air conditioning, seats, seat massaging system and more to help keep you fresh and alert on longer journeys.
Name its best bits
What's so delightful about the C-Class, despite that lengthy list of high-end options, is just how simple it all is. You plop onto those comfy seats (upholstered in artificial 'Artico' leather, to the delight of vegans everywhere), thumb the starter button (with its turbine-like graphic, mirroring the fact that all C-Class models are now turbocharged), tug the small column-mounted automatic gear selector into D and off you smoothly go.
OK, we'd have liked to have had a chance to try out the new digital dials, but at least the old-fashioned analogue ones are still handsome and clear, and the rest of the cabin looks both familiar and rather attractive. Quality levels are generally excellent, too.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine we've tried in other forms (notably in 194hp 220 d form in the E-Class) and here it's just as good, at least in terms of refinement (it chugs a bit from a cold start, but is otherwise relatively noiseless) and economy (easily past the 50mpg average). The nine-speed auto is also excellent, choosing its ratios with enough aplomb that you almost never feel the need to activate the paddle shifters mounted behind the wheel.
Equally, you probably won't bother much with the Dynamic Select function, which allows you to dial up Sport, Sport +, Comfort, or Eco modes. On a car with no adaptive suspension dampers, and aside from slightly weightier steering in Sport mode, there's not much point. We just left it in Comfort most of the time.
Even left there, the C-Class is lovely to drive. It lacks, perhaps, the out-and-out athleticism of the 3 Series or the Alfa Romeo Giulia, but while it does the whole languid cruising thing very well indeed, it's also good fun on a twisty road, displaying enthusiastic steering response, good body control and a sense of agility and precision that earns it the title 'sports estate.'
Ah yes, the estate bit. Out the back, the extra metalwork makes the C-Class estate, to my eyes, the best-looking C variant, and there's a very useful 480-litre boot with the rear seats up. That's not perhaps cavernous (and notably is 70 litres less than what you'd get in a Mercedes GLC SUV), but still useful, and little touches such as the easy-folding seats, electric tailgate and integrated dog net go a long, long way to making everyday life that bit easier. With that combination of decent load space, excellent handling and easy-on-the-eye styling, I honestly can't see why you'd walk past one to have an SUV. Maybe that's just me.
Anything that bugs you?
You might want to walk past this 200 d and get a 220 d, though. Outputs of 150hp and 320Nm of torque look good on paper, as does the 8.4-second 0-100km/h time, but the C-Class in C 200 d trim feels rather too louche for its own good when you need rapid acceleration. It's fine, and never feels excessively slow, but you will find yourself craving a bit more oomph.
While we're making critical notes, I'm not sure about the AMG-Line pack fitted to our test car, either. Yes, the more muscular body kit and grille look great, but the 19-inch alloy wheels did exert quite a toll on the ride quality. It's not so bad on the open road, but around town the C-Class's suspension was a bit too lumpy. Consider going for a different trim and smaller wheels, would be my advice.
And why have you given it this rating?
Like I said coming in, the satisfying individual components of Mercedes, and estate, come together into an even-more satisfying whole. If you're after a car that looks and feels properly 'premium' yet is still sufficiently practical and hard-wearing for everyday family life, look no further.
What do the rest of the team think?
I am seriously drawn to this car (blame the kids), just as I was before Mercedes updated the car. It’s classy looking inside and out, drives remarkably well and it’s an estate. Real shame the low-profile tyres detract from the comfort though, as I couldn’t live without the AMG-Line look. Don’t automatically dismiss the petrol versions, either, especially if you’re a low-mileage driver.
Shane O' Donoghue - Editor
It's hard to pick fault with the C-Class Estate. Not only is the exterior design spot on, but it is also superbly finished inside, with a dashboard layout that adds to the sense of space. The C 200 d will suit most, though ideally the C 220 d is a better choice. It makes light work of long journeys, but remains enjoyable to drive at all times.
Dave Humphreys – Road Test Editor