We use cookies on whatcar.com to improve your browsing experience and to provide you with relevant content and advertising, by continuing to use our site you agree to this. Please see our privacy policy for more details. Continue

What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Comfortable, refined and classy, but a decent workhorse, too

Against It's not as much fun to drive as a 3 Series, and it's only comfortable for four

Verdict C-Class makes a better estate car than most compact executives

Go for… The C200 Elegance - best value engine and decent specification

Avoid… The hot AMG version is too pricey, and insurance costs are steep

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate
  • 1. Don't worry if you hear clonks when turning the wheel. It's a sign of worn bushes in the anti-roll bars and steering joints, but they're cheap to fix
  • 2. Unlike most compact executive-based estates, the C-Class estate is genuinely spacious and practical
  • 3. Electrical faults aren't unknown, so make sure that all the gadgets work before you buy
  • 4. The C180 and C200 both perform well, but we'd have the C200 given the choice
  • 5. Go for Elegance trim, and avoid any car that doesn't have the automatic gearbox
advertisement

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate full review with expert trade views

The estate version of the C-Class came out in 1996, a full three years after the saloon, and it seems that the time was spent making sure that the boot was designed properly. Unlike most compact executive-based estates, the C-Class is a genuinely spacious and practical load-lugger.

It's just as roomy in the cabin, too. The head, leg and shoulder room is better than any similar car of the day, and only an uncomfortable centre rear seat stops it being a roomy five-seater.

Solid all-round build quality is accompanied by very good reliability, and Mercedes of this age can go way past the 100,000-mile mark. What's more, provided it's in good nick, even a C-Class of this age will give the prestige impression Mercedes is famous for.

Granted, it isn't as good to drive as a BMW 3-Series, but excellent refinement and a ride that stays smooth on any surface make this a very capable cruiser.

Trade view

John Owen

Excellent build quality and strong engines. Later CDI models are in demand

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

The C180 (1.8 petrol) and C200 (2.0 petrol) are the most common, and very affordable to buy and run. Overall, we prefer the C200, as its fuel economy doesn't suffer too much from the extra performance.

The C230 (2.3 petrol), C240 (2.4 or 2.6 V6), C280 (2.8 V6) and the supercharged C230K (also 2.3 petrol) are all good, but none of the mainstream C-Class estates are especially quick. The hot AMG (4.3 V8) version is a different matter, but it's extortionately expensive to buy and run.

The C250 TD (2.5-litre five-cylinder diesel) gives decent fuel economy and performance, bearing in mind it's old technology. A direct-injection 125bhp 2.2-litre C220 was introduced in February 1999, and a common-rail version in March 2000 - these are more refined and economical, but harder to find and more expensive.

No trim is particularly well-stocked, but Elegance provides the best balance of kit and cost. And, if you can, find a car with an automatic gearbox - the standard manual is notchy.

Trade view

John Owen

Looking tired and dated. Avoid basic trim/engine/gearbox combinations

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Early cars cost only a couple of grand, but that will only get you a high-mileage car in basic trim without air-con. So, it's worth paying more if you can, and £5000 should buy a clean, reliable example with a good amount of kit.

On any car, choose an automatic version, even though they cost around £650 more than the standard manual.

Insurance costs are mostly reasonable. The mainstream models range from group 11 to group 15, while the AMG model is in a frankly daft group 19. Stick to our favourite engine, and you'll get a very fair group 12 rating.

Fuel economy isn't terrific, and doesn't compare well with the equivalent 3 Series. No car in the range will beat 40mpg, except the later C220 CDIs (45.6mpg), but remember they're dearer to buy in the first place. The older 2.5 diesel manages 37mpg. Our favourite C200 gives 30.1mpg - a fraction thirstier than the most frugal petrol engine.

Trade view

John Owen

Excellent build quality and strong engines. Later CDI models are in demand

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

People who had the cash to buy a Mercedes from new usually had the cash to maintain them properly, so most should have been well looked after. This will have contributed to the impressive reliability record enjoyed by this generation of C-Class. Warranty Direct reckons it's well above average.

However, repair bills can be steep if the car does go wrong, with the average cost of repair given by Warranty Direct as over £450.

The suspension accounts for most of the C-Class' problems, so check the service history for previous work done. Don't worry too much if you hear clonks when turning the wheel. It's a sign that the bushes in the anti-roll bars and steering joints have worn, and it isn't nearly as pricey to fix as the noise suggests.

Check that all the gadgets work, too, because electrical faults aren't unheard of.

Trade view

John Owen

Looking tired and dated. Avoid basic trim/engine/gearbox combinations

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
Haymarket Logo What Car? is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media
What Car? is part of Haymarket Motoring
© Haymarket Media Group 2014