- We like...The way it drives
- We don't...Cheap-looking dash
Load-carrying small Merc is cleverly designed and satisfying to driveMercedes makes good, big estate cars. They’ve been at it longer than most and have built a band of fans so loyal that, once aboard, they join for life. But the C-class estate, being that bit smaller, hasn’t quite got there. Until now.
Where previous ones weren’t the biggest or the best to drive, this latest is, dare we say, a bit of a find. Mercedes has laboured to ensure that it’ll work hard for you. And the company’ll bang on to anyone who cares to listen about the size of wardrobe or the length of wood plank it’ll lug home for you. But what we wanted to know most is whether it works well enough as a load-hauler .
It ds. There are hooks and straps, a useful hidey space under the main floor that also houses a fold-down crate to keep bottles upright, and a sturdy-looking net that hooks into the roof to keep luggage from nudging occupants. The seats drop easily to make a flat floor and the hatch on all models raises and lowers automatically on electric motors. And, if you tick the correct options box on the order, you’ll get a fearsome looking set of tethers and grapples, enabling you to lash down all manner of loads.
And all for about £1600 more than you’d pay for the equivalent saloon ‘C’. Where past models weren’t anything special to drive, this latest delivers the wonderful ‘planted’ feel of Mercs past. Our C220 CDi Sport felt so solid and secure as it moved along the road, it felt as if little could shake it. The steering and ride is firmer on this model than on other Cs but it’s never jarring.
And, oh, the other thing about the Sport is that you get a big Merc badge on the front rather than the time-honoured motif atop the bonnet. If glimpsing that three-pointed star every time you look out through the screen is essential, you’ll want a SE or an Elegance instead.
The diesel in our 220 isn’t quiet, but makes an agreeable noise and works well with the five-speed auto to return a respectable 172g/km of CO2 and up to 41.5overall. However, you’ll do better with the six-speed manual gearbox, which improves economy to 46.3mpg and drops CO2 to 159g/km.
Inside, everything feels solid and of quality, although we must say that the look and fit of the dash isn’t even close to the standard what you’d find in a BMW or Audi. And while there’s as fair level of kit included in the price, it’s easy to go mad and overspend on pricey extras. The car in our pictures packs near-on £10,000-worth of options, bringing its price close to £40,000.
Its nearest rivals are Audi’s A4 Avant and BMW’s 3-series Touring. A new Avant is due soon and, if the A4 saloon’s prices are anything to go by, it’ll undercut the Merc on price. The BMW, meanwhile, is as expensive.
As it stands, the C-class is a good choice, if pricey. The strong prices that used ones fetch will offset this in part if you’re spending your own money. But if your company is leasing one on your behalf, the fleet manager may protest at the size of the monthly payment.
- Engines2.2 CDi
- 0-60 mph8.4sec
- Insurance groups14E
Motors.co.uk value verdict: