New car review

Mercedes-Benz C-Class saloon test drive

The updated Mercedes C-Class does everything you’d want an executive saloon to do

What is it?

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the most popular premium compact saloons on sale, going up against the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. In fact, it’s Mercedes’ best-selling model – the German manufacturer registered 46,000 of them in 2017 alone.

To keep things current, the C-Class was refreshed earlier in 2018, ensuring it remains competitive against several capable rivals. We’re trying it here in C200 form, which uses a 1.5-litre petrol motor and something called EQ Boost technology – though we’ll look at this in a little more depth later on.

What’s new?

The 2018 C-Class has been, as we mentioned, updated with a variety of new functions and touches to keep things fresh. Our test car was supplied in AMG Line specification, which includes an exterior body styling package, heated sports seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The biggest change here is the inclusion of a ten-inch infotainment screen, which is superbly clear and elevates the look of the cabin. This can be combined with the optional 12-inch digital cockpit screen to create a really good-looking system – though not quite as pretty as the fully widescreen version you’ll find in E- and A-Class models.

Unfortunately, the digital cockpit has to be specified as part of the so-called ‘Premium package’, which adds another £2,795 to the car’s price.

How does it look?

The latest updates to the C-Class do make it a sharper-looking machine – not that the original car was ever much of an ugly duckling.

The new single-bar grille gives it a purposeful appearance, while the overall effect of the AMG Line bodykit is to give the car just a little more presence and bring it closer to (in appearance terms) the full-blooded, high-performance AMG versions.

What’s the spec like?

Prices for the C200 in AMG Line trim start at £35,730 on-road. For that, you get 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, parking sensors and a full connectivity package including smartphone connectivity and satellite navigation. Of course, AMG Line cars also get the extra bodykit bits, as well as the nine-speed automatic gearbox (a must-have for long-journey drivers).

The C200 AMG Line is available in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive versions, with the additional drive costing an extra £1,600.

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As well as all-wheel drive, our test car came with a few optional extras as well. The Premium Pack includes the aforementioned 12-inch digital cockpit display, satnav, improved sound system, heated seats and wireless phone charging.

We also had open-pore grey oak trim for an extra £195, while an Artico leather dash cost £400 and metallic paint was £895. So in total, our test car came in at £41,615 on-road – just under £6K over and above the sticker price.

What’s it like inside?

The interior of the C-Class is now dominated by that widescreen infotainment system we’ve mentioned, and it does help to lift the overall look and feel of the cabin.

There are some harsher plastics to be found – not something you’d expect for a car costing the thick end of £42K – but the overall fit and finish feels good enough. The seats are supportive for long-distance driving, and the rear seats offer up a decent amount of legroom.

The large, thin pop-cover for the storage area ahead of the rotary infotainment controller remains flimsy, just as it did on the previous-generation car. It’s a trim piece that we’d gladly see removed, as it really does bring down the feel of the cabin.

What’s under the bonnet?

This C200 uses a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine to send to (in our case) all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s also available with rear-wheel-drive.

Peak power output is 185hp, and you get a useful 280Nm of torque too. Emissions are decent at 148g/km of CO2, and Mercedes claims that you’ll get 53.3mpg on the combined cycle.

The C220 d diesel, which is the most popular C-Class drivetrain, returns a claimed 61.4mpg combined and emits 121g/km.

Then there’s EQ boost. This uses a 48-volt onboard power network with a belt-driven starter motor which can boost the car’s power output – it throws an extra 15hp in the mix, in fact. It’s a system you’re likely to see applied to more Mercedes-Benz models moving forward.

What’s it like to drive?

The C-Class really needs to be able to handle all situations, be it a long motorway slog or a quick dart down a rutted B road. Fortunately, it delivers in all areas.

The ride is firm but well-damped, and the engine settles down to a distant thrum when you’re travelling on the motorway. The steering lacks any real feel – but we’ve come to expect this from new electric power racks – but it remains accurate, which allows you to easily place the car where you want it.

That new 1.5-litre engine does feel a touch underpowered for this size of car and is noisy under heavy acceleration. If you’re planning on frequent long journeys then we’d still look towards the diesel, despite the negative press oil-burners have been getting of late. That said, around town it feels quiet and refined.

Summary

The C-Class does all of the things that you’d want a premium saloon to do. It’s comfortable over long distances, feels special enough both inside and out and comes with plenty of standard equipment too.

This C200 model is fine for urban and mixed-use driving, but doesn’t quite make as much sense as the diesel for high-mileage users, especially on longer journeys.

A year ago we would have simply recommended the diesel version for any customers, but as the market continues to shift away from diesel, petrol units with some form of electrical assistance are making more sense to more people.

Similar cars

Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE

Key specifications

Model: Mercedes-Benz C200 4MATIC AMG Line
Price: £39,415
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Power: 185 hp
Torque: 280 Nm
Top speed: 145 mph
0-60mph: 7.9 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 148 g/km

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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