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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Safe and solid: with good build quality and innovative technology to protect passengers, good cabin space and a big boot.

Against Not quite as good to drive as a BMW 3 Series, and there's some wind noise at higher speeds, but not much else.

Verdict This stylish estate has plenty of appeal, and is good to drive in either comfort-or sport-orientated models.

Go for… C220 CDI Sport

Avoid… C350 Sport

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate
  • 1. SE and Elegance models have the Mercedes star on the bonnet
  • 2. the C220 CDI strikes the best balance between performance and affordability
  • 3. Early cars suffered an automatic gearbox issue, with long hesitations during gearchanges
  • 4. The electronic key can stop working, stranding owners. Sometimes it can stop working altogether, or operate intermittently
  • 5. The estate version has a garage mode, so it doesn't open the tailgate fully when there's restricted headroom
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Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate full review with expert trade views

For style and space, the Mercedes C-Class is hard to beat. It's got an excellent reputation and is one of the best used estates available.

C-Class estates have always made great load-luggers, and this one is no exception. The boot space is one of the biggest in its class (beating that in the BMW 3 Series) and with the rear seats down stretches to 1500 litres. However, the boot floor isn't completely flat. The C-Class's cabin is big enough to carry four adults in comfort, although the fifth seat in the middle back is best for children only.

It's a step forward in build quality, refinement and drive when compared with the older C-Class, yet can't quite get to grips with the BMW 3 Series, which just edges it out. The quality of the materials used is up to scratch, with soft touch plastics and a clutter-free dash, and the driving position is fully adjustable. Passengers are sheltered from engine noise, and wind noise isn't intrusive, but there is some road noise if you're driving on poorly surfaced roads.

All cars come with the Agility Control suspension system, which adjusts the suspension according to the road conditions, and some models come with the clever Pre-safe safety system to help protect occupants in the event of a crash.

Trade view

The trade considers small petrol engine models with manual gearboxes to be less desirable, so if you're looking for a cheaper car, they may be worth hunting down and haggling over.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The SE and Elegance models are more in the traditional Merc mould, with a three-pointed star on the bonnet and comfort-orientated suspension settings. Sport cars are more contemporary C-Class, with an aggressive air, lowered and stiffer suspension settings and the Mercedes badge set into the radiator grille. Sport cars are more agile but not overly firm, while SE and Elegance models are smoother, but with some body roll.

The entry-level SE trim gets alloys, climate, Bluetooth, electrically adjustable seats and MP3 input, while Elegance ups the ambience with wood trim, chrome and auto wipers. Sat'nav wasn't standard on any model, along with leather, so look out for cars with these desirable options.

Petrol engine options range from supercharged 1.8-litres (154bhp or 182bhp), to V6s of 2.5-, 3.0- and 3.5-litres (204bhp, 231bhp and 272bhp respectively). There are three CDI diesels – 134bhp and 168bhp 2.1-litres (badged C200 and C220), or a 221bhp 3.0 (C320). All are up to the job, but the C220 CDI strikes the best balance between performance and affordability, and enjoys better resale values.

Trade view

The SE and Elegance models can look a little old-fashioned, but the Sport is eye catching, with its AMG-inspired styling. Avoid cars with 19-inch wheels or larger – they don't ride well on UK roads.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The smaller supercharged petrols give an average of between 39.8mpg and 38.7mpg. However, the V6 models are noticeably worse, ranging from 30.4mpg down to 28.5mpg. Diesels fare far better, starting at 49.6mpg and dropping to a respectable 38.7mpg for the most powerful. The C02 emissions from the diesels are also better, especially the smallest engine which emits 149g/km.

In early 2008 Mercedes released the Blue-efficiency versions of the smallest petrol and diesel engines. These noticeably improveed fuel economy, with the C180K giving 42.8mpg and the C200 CDI 55.4mpg. CO2 emissions were also improved. These cars are worth looking for, but attract a premium.

Servicing costs for this type of car are never going to be cheap, but the C-Class is on a par with other compact executives. Any C-Class of this generation should be covered by the Mercedes-Benz Mobilo rescue service. The length of cover will vary depending on exactly when the car was first registered, so you'll need to check with a franchised dealer. As general rule, breakdowns, mishaps (such as lost keys), accidents and vandalism are all covered, and as driving in most of Europe is included, you shouldn't need to pay for rescue cover.

Trade view

The trade considers small petrol engine models with manual gearboxes to be less desirable, so if you're looking for a cheaper car, they may be worth hunting down and haggling over.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The C-Class has performed well to date, and owners are impressed with the quality and durability of the car. However, some issue have arisen.

Early cars suffered an automatic gearbox issue, with long hesitations during gearchanges. This should have been fixed with a software update, which any franchised dealer could carry out. Check that it has been done.

The electronic key can stop working, stranding owners. Sometimes it can stop working altogether, or operate intermittently. Cars should come with more than one key, and both rarely fail. Replacement keys are expensive, so check there's a spare key before you buy.

The estate version has a garage mode, so it doesn't open the tailgate fully when there's restricted headroom. However this can stick, giving you restricted access to the boot

The engine's crankshaft can cause a problem that results in a loss of engine power, or the engine refusing to start. This is widely known and covered by a recall. Other recalls include another software problem, which can paralyse the car. Again, a dealer can resolve the issues, or tell you if it's been already fixed.

Trade view

The SE and Elegance models can look a little old-fashioned, but the Sport is eye catching, with its AMG-inspired styling. Avoid cars with 19-inch wheels or larger – they don't ride well on UK roads.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor
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