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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

By / 2 months ago / Road Tests / No Comments

New C-Class brings impressive tech and refinement to the compact executive class, finds Martyn Collins.

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SECTOR Small Executive PRICE £38,785-£53,425 FUEL: 38.1-55.3mpg CO2 130-168g/km

The focus is moving to electric, but conventionally powered compact executive models remain a key market for fleet.

The current BMW 3 Series has been our class leader for the last two years, but Mercedes-Benz is back with the new C-Class, putting the pressure on.

Longer, wider and lower, the new C-Class’s styling is more evolution than revolution. The most obvious changes are the new front and rear styling, bringing the ‘C’ into line with other new models, such as the recently launched S-Class range-topper.

Bigger changes have happened inside the new C-Class, with the 11.9-inch iPad-style display dominating the centre console and another 12.9-inch display in front of the driver for instruments. There are no physical buttons for features such as the climate control, instead they’re all placed at the bottom of the screen. The MBUX operating system that controls all of this is similar to the one debuted in the latest S-Class. It is based around personal profiles that the driver signs into when getting into the car, notifying the car of things like the preferred seating position and favourite radio station.

Thankfully, despite a lot going on, it is easy to use – but not perfect. For example, the excellent augmented display obscures the map when making directional changes – wouldn’t it be better to have a head-up display such as in the latest Audis?

Quality feels a step up from the 3 Series, the driving position is excellent and the seats comfortable. Sadly, despite being longer than the old car, rear space is no better than average and headroom in the saloon compromised. Its boot space is also 25 litres fewer than both the Audi A4 and BMW 3Series. Still, there’s always the estate – which, for the first time, will be available from launch.

We got to try the C 200 petrol and the C 220d diesel, which like the rest of the engine range, benefit from mild-hybrid technology. The C 200 is powered by a 204hp version of the 1.5-litre turbo petrol, with fuel economy up to 43.4mpg and CO2 emissions from 143g/km, depending on version. The C200 feels a bit flat when starting off, although changing to Sport mode improves throttle response.

The C 220d on the other hand is powered by a 200hp, 2.0-litre diesel, with fuel economy up to 57.6mpg, and CO2 emissions starting at 130g/km, again depending on version. The C 220 was a more superior drive with improved torque and felt better matched to the nine-speed automatic transmission.

On the road, despite the chassis being a heavily reworked version of the outgoing car, the refinement and ride comfort impresses whether you choose petrol or diesel power. Yet at the same time the new C-Class still felt impressively dynamic. However, the German cars we tested had odd specifications and were fitted with optional adaptive dampers and rear-wheel steering that we’re told will not be available in the UK. Final judgement is reserved until we drive UK cars.

The Verdict
ICE engines might be out of fashion, but the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class still impresses with high levels of comfort and refinement.

The Lowdown
Key Fleet Model: C 220D AMG Line
Strengths: Interior tech, quality, refinement
Weaknesses: C 200 lacks torque, average rear space

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Martyn Collins

Martyn has 18 years experience as a motoring journalist, working across a wide selection of B2B and consumer titles. A car enthusiast since his early years, Martyn has a particular interest in the latest models and technology and in his spare time enjoys driving his own Minis.