Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review
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Mercedes-Benz C-Class review - front view, driving, blue, 2020

Mercedes-Benz C-Class review: still a class act

  • Published 15 April 2020
  • 6 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

Mercedes-Benz said it changed or modified 6,500 parts of the C-Class for the 2018 update, but you’ll have to take the company’s word for it. From the outside, it looks much the same as the C-Class that was introduced in 2014.

This is no bad thing. When considering the A, B and C of the premium executive world – that’s the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class – the Mercedes manages to feel just that little bit more special than its German rivals.

It is, without a doubt, a class actMercedes-Benz C-Class review - rear view, blue, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

Key to its appeal is the upmarket image of the three-pointed star. However, there’s more to the C-Class than a posh badge. It’s the most comfortable car in its class, with a cabin that oozes class and sophistication. Following the 2018 changes, it would be no exaggeration to say that the C-Class feels every inch the baby S-Class. And the S-Class is Mercedes’ flagship luxury car.

Not that you’ll be paying S-Class prices. In fact, you’ll probably discover that C-Class leasing deals cost less than you think.


Looks, tech and design

Although Mercedes-Benz offers more SUVs than any other company, the C-Class remains one of its most important models. The car is a consistent top 10 bestseller in the UK. It helps that there’s seemingly a C-Class for every occasion, including the ubiquitous saloon, the more practical estate and the glamorous coupe and cabriolet.

There are also high-performance AMG versions if you’re always in a hurry, plus a C300e plug-in hybrid, which offers an all-electric range of around 30 miles. This review focuses on the saloon, but rest assured, the range of options makes the C-Class as flexible as your yoga instructor.

Premium style from every angleMercedes-Benz C-Class review - front view, blue, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

I’d ignore the entry-level S trim, because it only really exists on price lists and sales material as a means to lure you into the showroom. It’s a bit low on spec and hamstrung by a standard-fit manual gearbox, with the more desirable automatic transmission not an option.

The SE offers more kit, but for me, the Sport trim provides the best balance of equipment and price. For a start, the 18-inch five-spoke alloys do a great job of filling the wheelarches, not least because the suspension is lowered by 15mm. You also get LED headlights, which are a must-have feature in a car of this class.

I suspect you’ll find it hard to resist the AMG Line versions, which offer the look of the full-fat AMG cars (see the performance section below), but without the explosive pace or potentially ruinous running costs. If you do opt for AMG Line trim, be sure to add air suspension to the mix, as it dramatically improves the ride quality.

Interior blends the latest tech with classic detailsMercedes-Benz C-Class review - interiorAvailable to lease Lease Now

On the inside, all models except the entry-level S get an excellent 10.25-inch colour display, while the AMG Line boasts a brilliant 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Everything is controlled via a scroll wheel and touch pad, which are a joy to use.

If I’m honest, the Audi A4 edges the C-Class for quality, fit and finish, but it lacks the sense of occasion and wow-factor of the Mercedes, especially with all available tech on board. The A4 feels like a premium executive car, while the C-Class just edges into luxury car territory. Trust me, there’s a big difference between premium and luxury.

It’s not all comfort and tech. There’s enough space for four adults to sit comfortably, although the transmission tunnel means that the middle rear seat is best reserved for occasional use only. A 460-litre boot is adequate for the class, and if you want more space – or room for your dog – there’s always the C-Class estate.


Driving

Keen drivers will love the AMG versions, in particular the C63 S. It’s powered by a 503bhp 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbocharged engine, which is powerful enough to go 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. You also get a thunderous soundtrack, along with many features that are optional elsewhere in the C-Class range.

The C43 is no slouch and is arguably easier to live with than the riotous C 63 S. Its 3.0-litre V6 engine is powerful enough to polish off the 0-62mph sprint time in 4.8 seconds, with four-wheel drive on hand to keep you on the straight and narrow (the C 63 S is rear-wheel drive, which can be… interesting when it rains).

The AMG models are outstandingly fastMercedes-Benz C-Class review - C63 S AMG front, red, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

AMGs aside, it’s best to kick back and enjoy the smooth serenity of the C-Class driving experience. Historically, diesel engines dominated C-Class sales, but the backlash against this much-maligned fuel has resulted in Mercedes-Benz reintroducing a 1.6-litre petrol engine to the range, badged C180.

This is a bit lame, so I’d recommend the all-new C200 1.5-litre mild hybrid, which offers the brilliant combination of 184hp and CO2 emissions of just 136g/km. Thanks to its engine cut-out and coast facility, it’s a terrific companion on long motorway drives.

Which, let’s be honest, is where the C-Class excels. Ignoring the AMG cars, cornering isn’t a C-Class strong point – for that, the BMW 3 Series remains top dog.  Almost everything has been designed to while away the hours on a lengthy commute, with all engines delivering the mid-range punch required for overtaking duties.

Better on the commute than a country roadMercedes-Benz C-Class review - rear view, driving, blue, 2020Available to leaseLease Now

The latest tech update means the C-Class can also all but drive itself. Active this and active that will attempt to stop you from hitting the car in front, leaving your lane on a motorway and even help you take evasive action if it senses you’re in trouble.

Finally, the new nine-speed automatic transmission introduced in 2018 is far superior to the old seven-speed unit, and better suited to the C-Class than the six-speed manual gearbox.


Cost and economy

Leasing deals start from £325 a month, so there’s not a huge jump from the A-Class to the C-Class.

The eco hero is the new C300e hybrid. It combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver ridiculously high claimed fuel economy (148.7mpg to 188.3mpg) and CO2 emissions of 37g/km to 42g/km, depending on the size of alloy wheels fitted. In reality, those economy figures will be hard to achieve unless you plug-in regularly – the 13.5kW on-board charger allows fast charging of the battery within two hours.

Running costs vary loads between modelsMercedes-Benz C-Class review - C63 S AMG interior, 2020Available to lease Lease Now

Opting for a diesel engine should see a return of 43.5mpg to 55.4mpg in the saloon, with the non-AMG petrol versions offering between 35.8mpg and 44.1mpg. If you achieve the claimed 25.2mpg to 25.9mpg in the C63 S AMG, you’re not enjoying the car properly.


Verdict

The Audi A4 might boast higher quality cabin and the BMW 3 Series might be better to drive, but the C-Class still beats the pair for all-round appeal. Even more so following the update in 2018.

There’s no doubt that it can get expensive once you’ve had a play with some of the options, but the C-Class looks and feels great straight out of the box. I argue that an SE or Sport could deliver all the C-Class you could ever need, but I can see why so many fall for the charismatic machismo of the AMG Line.

Let’s face it, the Mercedes-Benz badge holds stronger appeal than both Audi and BMW. Even the relative ubiquity of the C-Class has failed to remove the shine from the three-pointed star, so it’s the saloon to lease if you want to feel a class above the rest in the office car park.

Good luck counting those 6,500 new parts, mind.

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