First Drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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Does Mercedes-Benz’s latest C-Class rewrite the rules for the compact segment, asks Jonathan Musk…

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SECTOR Compact Executive PRICE €34,914-€61,850 FUEL 4.1-9.3l/100km CO2 108-213g/km

The brand’s bestseller accounts for a fifth of all Mercedes-Benz sold worldwide, with 417,000 units sold last year. With almost two-thirds going to businesses, this mid-life refresh is aiming to put it back at the top of the corporate wish-list – including some notable new engines.

From launch, there’ll be a wide variety of gasoline and diesel engines, ranging from the C 160 to the range-topping C 43 gasolines, through to the frugal C 180 d or powerful C 300 d diesels.

New to the range is the C 200; a 184hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline turbo equipped with a 14hp ‘EQ boost’ mild-hybrid system, which is designed to offer more accelerative torque. In its most frugal guise, the engine achieves 6.0l/100km and emits 136g/km CO2. With those performance figures, as one might guess, it drives much like a 2.0-litre, but is slightly let down by gruff undertones – at least in comparison to the range’s other new engines.

The C 200 d and C 220 d are the real stars of the show, using the brand’s latest four-pot 2.0-litre diesel engine. The specs do the talking: 4.1l/100km on the combined cycle – a 10% improvement over the outgoing model – and 108g/km CO2, thanks to increased outputs of 160hp for the C 200 d, while the C 220 d gets 194hp.

Enhancing frugality, the C 180 d and C 200 d are the only cars in the line-up to come as standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while the rest get nine-speed automatics. What the specs can’t tell you, is these impressive new engines are a big leap forward, and are rewarding to drive in any scenario.

A 1.6-litre diesel has also been developed, as has a diesel plug-in hybrid aimed at fleets. For the lucky few, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic’s fire-spitting V6 biturbo gains 23hp and 44Nm torque.

Half of the components – 6,500 – have been changed in the new C-Class. There’s a subtly redesigned interior and exterior that sports newly designed LED lights front and rear, while the grille and bumpers give the car more presence and help differentiate between the models.

With four body styles, four equipment trim lines and 28 upholstery variants there’s something for every taste, while sensible equipment options are now standard including keyless entry and start. A big change for Mercedes-Benz fans is that cruise control is now on the steering wheel rather than its own stalk. Missing are niceties such as augmented reality sat nav, like that found in the new A-Class.

Being a Mercedes, there’s plenty of tech on-board every C-Class. Clever driver assistance tech includes adaptive cruise control that detects roundabouts and other hazards, slowing the vehicle down accordingly. Of interest to fleets, a new ‘bump’ detection alert informs a driver that their C-Class has been knocked while parked, which could prove invaluable if needing to make a claim.

What We Think:

C-Class has always been a favourite in its segment and with the latest-generation’s sensible refinements and useful technology, it remains an obvious choice.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.