Review: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Spacious, strong and safe

29 Oct 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Comfortable ride

  • Good visibility

  • Powerful and safe

Cons

  • Lacks room in the rear

  • Expensive, especially if adding extras

  • Not a great choice of models

Our expert rating

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a compact executive car, which replaced the older 190 model in 1993. It was Mercedes' smallest car until 1997, when the A-Class was introduced.

Performance

Although not set up to be athletic, the rear-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz C-Class is no slow coach. Petrols are free-revving and alert, but the diesels are best if you do higher miles. But they have far more low down pulling power.

This means they develop most of their pull at lower engine speeds. This makes them easy to drive because there is a larger safety net of ‘shove’ to help you from stalling or moving away too sluggishly.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class engine

Ride and handling

The C-Class is geared towards comfort. The result is that it glides along so well you feel relaxed and cosseted. The car is not as sharp to drive as its main opponent, the BMW 3 Series, but it is no slug and will power along a motorway all day.

That said, it’s weighty around town, but the model’s steering becomes more forthcoming at higher speeds. Used models with an auto gearbox are best because you will be able to take advantage of the silky-smooth gear changes.

Interior space

The C-Class has style but it isn’t the roomiest of cars. You will be fine in the front but rear seat adult passengers will find legroom is tight. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class does have lots of little cubbyholes dotted about, though, and the door pockets are generously proportioned. Handily, the boot is substantial enough to gobble up the family’s weekly shopping, and the odd buggy or two. 

Mercedes-Benz C-Class boot space

What to know before you buy

While most Mercedes cars will feel built to last in the cabin, used ones between 2000 and 2008 have had their fair share of issues. Electrical gremlins have been known, but a methodical check of all the components should reveal any glitches.

The easiest way to tell if anything is wrong is when warning lights are flashing away on the dashboard. If it’s lit up like a Christmas tree then you are probably test driving a car with a whole pile of problems.

The Mercedes-Benz’ automatic gearboxes aren’t invulnerable, either. On your test drive, ensure the transmission isn’t erratic. Also, listen out for knocking noises. This sort of sound when going over bumps or turning corners likely means the car has worn-out shock absorbers.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class rear view

Alternative cars

The main rival for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the BMW 3 Series. This is not cheap and the focus is more on sportiness than comfort – but the car is still arguably one of the best in its class.

The next real adversary is the Audi A4. This is a great car but can’t quite match the BMW for driving thrills. However, it’s built like a tank, just like the Volvo S60 – another alternative to the Mercedes. The Swedish car is refined but doesn’t have quite the same kudos as the C-Class.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class alternatives

Overall verdict

There are more useful and adaptable cars in which to carry a family, but the C-Class shouldn't be disregarded. It’s easy to move in tight spaces and offers good visibility.

As mentioned previously, space in the front is great, and even though the rear of this Mercedes-Benz may not be huge for an adult, kids will get comfortable there really easily. The car is powerful, strong and safe, and in saloon form all your possessions are kept out of sight in the boot – unlike in a family hatchback.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall