By Breda Corrigan
Three decades since its original introduction, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has proven its success with just under 11 million units sold worldwide. In fact, the predecessor to the new C-Class sold over 2.5 million alone since its launch in 2014, so the new (sixth-generation) C-Class has a lot to live up to. The underlying platform is the same, but everything that the new C-Class driver interacts with is all-new. It is slightly longer, wider and lower than what went before it, but the cab-rearwards profile ensures that the new C-Class looks like the bigger E-Class from a distance, and not too dissimilar to the super-luxurious S-Class limousine that sits at the top of the Mercedes-Benz saloon car family tree.
Engine & Trim Variants.
Also new to the C-Class are a range of mildly-electrified drivetrains. Petrol engines consist of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre units with the former available with 170bhp or 204bhp (badged C 180 and C 200 respectively), while the latter produces 258bhp and is badged as a C 300. Diesel power comes courtesy of a 2.0-litre turbo-charged unit with 163bhp (badged C 200d), 200bhp (badged C 220d) or 265bhp (badged C 300d). All engines come with a 9G-Tronic automatic transmission as standard. A major advantage of the mild-hybrid engines in the new C-Class is the refinement on offer, with the stop/start systems almost imperceptible, and the engine shutting off at high speeds (and times of low resistance) quite frequently, thereby resulting in outstanding fuel efficiency. The new C-Class is available in a choice of Avantgarde and AMG Line trim variants, with body styles consisting of a four-door saloon and a versatile estate.
My test car was a new C 200d Saloon AMG Line, which was finished in Graphite Grey metallic paint with grey/black ARTICO leather seats and an AMG Night Package fitted as optional extras – priced at €280 and €838 respectively. A hugely comprehensive array of comfort, convenience, safety and infotainment features come as standard in Avantgarde trim, with key AMG Line features consisting of distinctive AMG Line bodystyling, AMG brushed stainless steel sports pedals with black rubber studs, sports suspension, larger brake discs on the front axle, flat-bottomed steering wheel, and sports seats. The AMG Night Package consists of 18” AMG 5-spoke light alloy wheels in high-gloss black, AMG front apron and rear bumper trim in high-gloss black, black door mirror casings, heat insulating dark tinted rear glass, black window line trim, and a front grille with pins in high-gloss black for a distinctive sporty look. Producing 163bhp and 380Nm of torque, the refined and punchy engine in my test car can propel the C-Class saloon from 0-100km/h in just 7.7-seconds, on its way to a top speed of 230km/h (where permitted). Fuel consumption as low as 4.2-litres per 100kms driven on a WLTP combined driving cycle is achievable, with an emissions figure of 120g/km leading to annual road tax of just €190. The C-Class has admirable handling characteristics, with it being capable and entertaining in equal measure. Accurate steering, a strong brake pedal feel, and very little body lean in corners ensure that the car is fun to drive. The C-Class is a quiet motorway companion at cruising speed, with little in the way of engine or road noise, while the standard nine-speed automatic transmission shifts through the gears in a fuss-free manner.
The new C-Class is a very handsome car in every respect. The vertical taillights of its predecessor have been replaced by striking horizontal lights, with slimmer headlights and a distinctive new front grille providing terrific visual drama when viewed head-on. It is easy to find a comfortable driving position in the C-Class as all models benefit from multiple adjustment options for the seat and for the multi-function steering wheel. There are not many physical buttons on the dashboard of the C-Class, but touch-sensitive climate controls are constantly displayed in the lower section of the infotainment screen, rather than hidden in a menu. In place of traditional analogue dials, the new C-Class has a crystal-clear 12.3-inch digital display that can display driving and media information, along with navigation information, if selected. An additional large portrait-oriented 11.9-inch central information screen can be operated by touch, voice or via the touch-sensitive controls on the leather-bound steering wheel. Voice control is included on all trim levels and has the capability to recognise requests with great efficiency, and can do anything from changing the interior temperature, to programming a location into the navigation, and can even tell a joke when asked to do so. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration comes as standard, and there is wireless phone charging, along with two C-USB ports in the centre console to charge devices.
Impressive Space & Comfort.
Thanks to a 25mm longer wheelbase, passenger space within the C-Class saloon is generous, and there are decent sized rear door bins to put bottles in, plus a map pocket on the back of each front seat. The rear seat has a practical 40/20/40 split folding configuration as standard, with 455-litres of cargo space on offer behind the rear seats. Inspired by the cabin of the new S-Class, the C-Class’ dash is a masterpiece of creativity that adds a real sense of occasion to every journey. Once settled into the nicely sculpted seats with ergonomically-designed headrests, occupants will truly appreciate the massive effort that Mercedes-Benz has made in terms of comfort, space and safety. Small touches such as the backlit air vents add a feeling of tactility and substance to a largely digitised cabin, with all major controls located within easy reach of the driver at all times. The reach and rake-adjustable steering wheel incorporates a new design with two spokes per side, and slim stalks behind on the column for indicating and selecting drive function. The spokes each have their own bank of touchpads to control functions – for example, to increase the volume of the audio you simply slide your left thumb up and down, with the instrument cluster controlled by the top-right wheel spoke. Driver comfort and safety features include distance assist, steering assist, lane keeping assist, improved surround sensors, emergency braking functions, and a feature that can detect and raise the body height in anticipation of an impending collision. High Performance LED headlamps are standard while optional items include a host of passenger comfort, safety and wellness features already familiar in the S-Class and other Mercedes-Benz models.
Verdict & Pricing.
Buyers in the mini-executive car market want a car that looks cool, is packed with the latest technology, is terrific to drive, and has a sensible range of engines that are economical and refined. The good news is that, with the new C-Class, Mercedes-Benz has delivered on all of the above, and more. In terms of interior displays, build quality, ride comfort, refinement, and elegant design, the new C-Class remains a class leader in my mind. Pricing for the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class saloon starts at €56,425 with my test car specification priced at €63,330 (including optional extras outlined). The new C-Class Estate is priced from €65,120. All prices are quoted excluding dealer and delivery charges.