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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has solid build quality, stylish looks, along and good cabin space. Sport models are great to drive.

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

Verdict The C-Class is great, regardless of whether you want your ride to be traditional and comfortable, or sporty and dynamic.

Go for… C220 CDI Sport

Avoid… C350 Sport

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
  • 1. All C-Class models come with Agility Control suspension system
  • 2. Sport models have the Mercedes star in the grille
  • 3. Early automatic models require a software update to improve gearchanges
  • 4. The electronic key can stop working. Make sure you buy a car with spare keys.
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Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon full review with expert trade views

The Germans have a monopoly over the fiercely contested compact executive market, and the C-Class is Mercedes-Benz's answer to the all-conquering BMW 3 Series, and the understated Audi A4.

The C-Class is a step forward in build quality, refinement and dynamics when compared with the previous generation car, yet it doesn't quite match up against the BMW 3 Series, which just shaves it in all three areas. However, the Merc is a better bet than the Audi A4.

All C-Class models come with the Agility Control suspension system, which adjusts the suspension to match the prevailing road conditions. Engine and wind noise are not intrusive, but there is some road noise on coarse surfaces.

The cabin has classy-feeling soft-touch plastics and a clutter-free dashboard.

The C-Class is big enough to carry four adults in comfort, although the narrow fifth seat is best reserved for children. The boot is big and and free from intrusions.

Trade view

The trade considers small petrol-engined 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 versions are straight from the traditional Merc mould, coming with a three-pointed star on the bonnet and comfort as a priority. The Sport is a more contemporary C-Class, with an aggressive look (the three-pointed star is on the front grille) to compliment its lowered and stiffened suspension.

Entry-level SE trim gets alloy wheels, climate control, Bluetooth, electrically adjustable seats and an MP3 socket, while Elegance ups the ambience with wood trim and extra chrome, along with automatic wipers. Sat-nav or leather seats weren't standard on any C-Class, so look for used cars with these desirable options.

Petrol engine options are a supercharged 1.8-litre with either 154bhp or 182bhp or V6s of 2.5-, 3.0- and 3.5-litres producing 204-, 231- and 272bhp. There are three CDI diesels: 134bhp and 168bhp 2.1-litres, which are badged C200 and C220, and 221bhp 3.0-litre C320.

All are up to the job, but the C220 CDI strikes the best balance between performance and affordability, and has the best 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.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

The smaller supercharged petrols manage an average of 39.8mpg - 40.9mpg, but the V6s are noticeably worse: ranging from 29.1mpg down to 31mpg.

Diesels fare better starting at 49.6mpg, dropping to a respectable 38.7mpg for the C320. The diesels are much cleaner, too, with the C200 CDI emitting just 149g/km of CO2.

In 2008, Mercedes released its eco-friendly BlueEfficiency versions of the entry-level petrol and diesel engines. These have noticeably better fuel economy, with the C180K managing 43.5mpg and the C200 CDI 55.4mpg. CO2 emissions are also improved.

The BlueEfficiency cars are worth looking out for, but expect to pay a premium for them.

Servicing costs for a compact executive are never going to be cheap, but the C-Class is on a par with other vehicles in the class.

All C-Classes 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 check with a franchised dealer before you buy. The scheme covers breakdowns, mishaps (such as lost keys), accidents and vandalism, and the car is covered throughout most of Europe.

Trade view

The trade considers small petrol-engined 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 proved relieable so far, and owners are impressed with the quality and durability of the car. However, some problems have been reported.

Early cars suffered from an automatic gearbox issue, which causes long hesitations between gearchanges. This should have been fixed with a software update, so make sure the car you're looking at has had the fix.

The electronic key can stop working, leaving owners stranded. Sometimes the key stops working altogether, or it will suffer from an intermittent fault. Make sure you buy a car with spare keys, as it's rare for both to fail.

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

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor
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