Despite the plethora of SUV’s out there, the premium C Sector still has an awful lot of fans. Audi, BMW & Mercedes-Benz all target this sector especially when it come to corporate customers. To say it’s competitive would be an understatement. Audi’s latest A4 is a very good car. BMW are about to launch a new 3 Series. Mercedes have just revamped their C-Class, with updates to the fourth generation version mainly coming in the cabin & under the skin. Company Car & Van had the chance to drive a C-Class 220d for a week to see if it could be top of this very good pile.
Over the past five years, Mercedes have caught & overtaken both Audi & BMW in the corporate sector. They have done this with a combination of guile, offering sharp leasing & contact hire prices on the A, C & E Class models, with some outstanding design both inside & out. The fourth generation C-Class looks fantastic & is miles better looking than the more boxy models of old. The updates to the range include a new 2.0-litre diesel in the 220d, which we were eager to try out.
As well as the regular saloon, you can buy a C-Class Coupe, a C-Class Cabriolet & a C-Class Estate, further enhancing it’s appeal. An entry level SE manual cost’s a shade under £30,000, but it is the AMG Line model that we got to try.
Spec & features wise, the whole range has been improved. The C-Class range features seven airbags & a reversing camera as standard. SE features gloss black trim, air-con, a reversing camera, a 10.25″ infotainment unit with SatNav, DAB, Bluetooth, cruise control, Artico leather seats & a choice of driving modes. It also comes with rain sensing windscreen wipers, park assist, automatic emergency braking at speeds of less than 65mph, and Mercedes’ Pre-Safe collision protection system. Tyre pressure monitoring & a driver attention warning system are also standard across the range.
Next up is Sport, which adds different 17″ alloys, a lowered by 15mm suspension, gearshift paddles, Artico heated leather sports seats & LED lights. Our AMG line model comes with larger 18″ alloys, an AMG body kit & AMG sports seats, with upgrades to the brakes, steering & suspension & in our test model, an all new 9-speed automatic gearbox, with the new 2.0 litre 191bhp diesel engine.
What Mercedes have cleverly done with the C-Class is to have stolen the look of the larger far more expensive S-Class, with the C-Class Coupe for example, actually looking cooler than it’s larger sibling. Fronted by the classic Mercedes grille which features the large Mercedes badge in the centre, the new model is all curves rather than straight lines & is all the better for it.
Inside, the cabin feels luxurious with a high quality finish throughout. Standouts include the five chrome air vents, the metal facia finished dashboard & the leather trimmed steering wheel. Upgrades include a new multi function steering wheel & new infotainment screen that features digital dials. All models now have a 10.25″ central display as standard. This is a big step up from the previous set up, being far more intuitive, with much clearer graphics. It’s still operated through the COMAND rotary dial, which works pretty well.
The latest C-Class was the first car to be built using Mercedes’ new rear-wheel drive architecture , which uses up to 50% of aluminium in it’s construction. This has meant a bodywork weight reduction of 70kg & with new finishes across the rest of the car, the C-Class is 100kg lighter than the previous model. This results in better fuel economy, with the C 220 d offering a combined figure of 61.4mpg, with CO2’s of 117g/km.
Front seat passengers get plenty of room, with comfortable, easily adjusted seats & a good all around view. Rear passengers find decent leg room & head height is adequate for six footers. Storage comes in the form of a glove box, two sizeable front door bins, large enough for a drinks bottle in each, a flip open/close metal finished cubby in the centre dash, with a single USB & room for two more drinks holders & a flip-open central armrest, which conceals two USB connections. The rear armrest incorporates two cup-holders, but sadly, there’s no rear USB connection. The boot offers 455 litres of useful storage. When loading, the boot opening is surprisingly easy to access, although there is a large load lip to negotiate.
The first few journeys I undertook in the C-Class were on the motorway & it proved to be a comfortable companion. The interior cossets the driver & once you get used to the Mercedes auto gear stick, located on the right of the steering wheel, the dash mounted handbrake & the rotary dial that controls the infotainment system, it’s a fun car to drive. I utilised the infotainment system for SatNav, which worked really well. You can connect your phone to utilise Apple CarPay or Android Auto. Setting up Bluetooth & connecting my iPhone was simple, as was making & receiving hands-free calls. Even at motorway speeds, the cabin is quiet with little outside road or wind noise intrusion.
For the motorway drives, I selected the Eco driving mode from the menu, which can be brought up using the steering wheel controls on the digital screen in front of the driver. For a bit more fun I changed to Sport mode, when negotiating some local country roads & this plus Sport+ mode, increase throttle response, add weight to the steering, stiffens the ride & gives the car an altogether sharper feel. Comfort mode is also an option. Overall, I found the C-Class to be agile, especially on winding flat roads. The stand out though, is when you’re driving on the motorway, where you can sit back, select adaptive cruise control & watch the miles disappear before you.
Any negatives ? The interior is finished beautifully, but the black roof lining & dark interior can feel a little claustrophobic. In common with other sporty saloons, the C-Class’s 18″ alloys & narrow tyres aren’t the greatest when negotiating our well pot-holed roads, resulting in some bumpy vibrations in the cabin on poorly surfaced roads. Economy too, we found is some way shy of the claimed combined of 61.4mpg, with our average reading just failing to hit 50mpg, which to be perfectly honest, I though was excellent, for such a fun car to drive.
After an enjoyable week in the C-Class. our conclusion was that before we drive the latest 3 Series, when you factor in looks, quality, equipment, economy & driving experience, the C-Class is the new Number One. The AMG Line 220d can be had for £389 per month + vat, on contract hire, but I’d probably go for the SE which still comes very well equipped, in 200d form & will cost you around £80 per month less on a 6 + 47, 10,000 MPA contract.
It’s another triumph for Mercedes-Benz 4.3/5