What Car? says...
You can get more practical estate cars than the Mercedes C-Class Estate but there's a lot of cool tech in this posh load-lugger to justify its premium billing.
We’re not kidding. The latest C-Class Estate is fitted with hybrid or plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology, plus a large touchscreen from the much more expensive Mercedes S-Class.
Job done, then? Well, not quite. The estate version of the Mercedes C-Class still has to prove itself against some strong rival cars – many of which are available as PHEVs too.
On that front, the C300e PHEV has a 25.4kWh battery pack that’s said to be good for up to 66 all-electric miles. No rivals can match that at the moment – and the rest of the engine range benefits from mild-hybrid electrification too.
Mercedes gives you a choice of petrol or diesel power, and there are even high-performance AMG versions with a Boost feature (to make sure you’re always first in the queue at the tip), for those more concerned about performance.
That sort of versatility is a hallmark of the Mercedes C-Class Estate. On the one hand, it's a refined and desirable executive car that can impress the neighbours and deal with cross-country dashes, while on the other it's a little van for transporting bulky items.
This review will give you our in-depth impressions of its capabilities in terms of performance and handling, practicality, efficiency and more, along with our recommendations for trim levels and engines.
We'll also tell you how the C-Class Estate compares with its talented estate car rivals, which also include the Audi A4 Avant, the BMW 3 Series Touring, the Skoda Superb Estate and the VW Passat Estate.
When you've decided on your next new car, we can help you find it for the best price if you use our New Car Buying service. It has discounts on most makes and models, including some of the best new estate car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
While all the engines in the Mercedes C-Class Estate range feature electrical assistance for extra shove at low speeds, you have to work the entry-level 201bhp C200 petrol quite hard to get it from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds.
For a bit more low-end urgency, you’re better off with the diesel C220d. Its 194bhp is slightly down on the C200, but because of its extra pull at low revs, it manages to get from 0-62mph in a similar time of 7.4 seconds. The 3-Series Touring 320d is a slightly swifter diesel choice and the 261bhp C300d C-Class Estate is quicker still.
Company car drivers will be more interested in the PHEV C300e. Its electric motor is more than capable of keeping up with traffic to motorway speeds, and it can travel around twice as far on electric power than the rival BMW 330e Touring. When you need to use the C300e's full 309bhp potential, the switch between electric and conventional power is seamless and acceleration is swift (0-62mph takes a mere 6.2 seconds).
Suspension and ride comfort
Most C-Class Estates come with adaptive sports suspension, and the ride varies from impressively absorbent to really quite sporty. Meanwhile, the C300e PHEV gets special comfort suspension, which adds air suspension to the rear wheels to counter the heavy battery.
First up, the adaptive suspension. In Comfort mode, it deals with the worst effects of bumps and potholes better than the 3 Series Touring, although there's a slightly floaty sensation over undulating roads. To avoid that, you want Sport mode, which significantly tightens up the body control without the C-Class losing its ability to round off harsher humps and holes.
As with many PHEVs, there was every chance that the C300e’s heavy battery could have upset the ride. Thankfully, though, instead of stiffening everything up, the rear air suspension means that you don’t feel the extra weight and the C300e remains really comfortable – if anything, it actually rides better, removing the float that you can experience in the normal versions.
The C-Class Estate's handling treads a fine line between the A4 Avant and the 3 Series Touring. The steering is accurate and easier to gauge than the A4's overly light system, but doesn’t give you as much confidence as a 3 Series does.
As mentioned, in Sport mode, you won’t find a great deal of body lean, but while the agility matches the A4, it's still not what you’d call dynamic, and a 3 Series is more fun.
Once again, the C300e impresses more than you might expect, with its clever rear air suspension controlling the extra weight with ease and quelling the pendulum effect some PHEVs display during cornering.
Noise and vibration
The C-Class Estate keeps engine noise to a minimum when cruising on a motorway, and there's just a touch of wind noise from around the panoramic glass sunroof (when fitted). However, you do hear a fair bit of road noise, most noticeably on coarse road surfaces.
There's some buzz from the petrol engine of the C200 model at higher revs. The C220d diesel is similarly smooth to the BMW 320d, but the Audi A4 40 TDI is quieter still. The quietest C-Class is the C300e, especially when it's running on electric power. Its engine gets a bit raucous under hard acceleration, but we found it quite a pleasant sound.
A nine-speed automatic gearbox is standard across the range, and gets on with the job of shuffling through the gears without much fuss. The brakes of non-PHEV C-Class models are easy to operate, but the PHEV's brakes are not as confidence-inspiring, with some mushiness in the middle of the long pedal travel as they switches from regenerative braking to mechanical braking.
Strengths C300e has a great electric range; comfortable ride; engines have plenty of oomph
Weaknesses Not as dynamic as the 3 Series Touring; quite a lot of road noise; brakes aren’t the smoothest
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
You should find it easy enough to find a comfortable driving position in the C-Class Estate because all models have plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel. Lumbar adjustment is standard, making long-distance driving less taxing on your back, as is full electric adjustment with memory settings.
You won’t find many buttons on the dashboard of the C-Class, but at least the touch-sensitive controls for the air-con are permanently displayed on the lower section of the display. They’re still not as easy to use as the physical controls in the A4 Avant, which you can almost use with muscle memory.
Instead of analogue dials, the C-Class has a 12.3in digital display that can show trip and media information, as well as a small sat-nav map. The top-tier AMG Line Premium Plus trim adds a head-up display showing road speed, traffic sign information and navigation instructions. We prefer Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system because it's easier to navigate your way around the various menus, and it comes with physical controls on the steering wheel, where the C-Class has fiddlier touch-sensitive ones.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Visibility is fine looking forwards, but the chunky side pillars, the placement of the rear head rests and the small rear window mean that the over-the-shoulder view is no better than in the C-Class Estate's rivals.
A reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors are fitted as standard to assist when parking, though, and you get a 360-degree camera if you plump for mid-range AMG Line Premium. LED headlights are provided as standard, with fancier adaptive units coming on AMG Line Premium trim and above.
Sat nav and infotainment
The C-Class Estate's interior is dominated by digital displays. Along with the crisp 12.3in driver’s display, there’s a large portrait-oriented 11.9in central infotainment screen that can be operated by touch, voice, or by using some touch-sensitive controls on one of the steering-wheel spokes.
The central touchscreen responds quickly to inputs and has super-sharp graphics, although we prefer the shortcut keys and rotary controller of BMW’s iDrive system because it’s less distracting to use on the move. We also find the iDrive menus easier to fathom, requiring less head-scratching to navigate.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included as standard, and there’s wireless phone-charging and two C-USB sockets in the centre console to top up your devices. Music lovers will need to shell out for the priciest AMG line Premium Plus trim if they want the 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system, which provides really rich sound quality.
Interior quality has become a weak point for most Mercedes models and, while the C-Class Estate manages to buck the trend slightly, it's still not the best. You get some appealing materials on the dashboard and in most of the places you’ll touch often, but there are still more cheap-feeling hard plastics than you’d expect to see in a premium estate car like this.
The main culprits are below the middle ambient lighting line of the dashboard and around the air vents. The quality of the materials in the A4 Avant are far better, while the 3 Series Touring and, to a certain degree, the Superb Estate provide a plusher environment.
Build quality is a step up when compared to other Mercs, and the C-Class Estate feels nice and sturdy. Even when you tug at the floating infotainment screen, it doesn’t flex all that much, as it does in some Mercedes models.
Strengths Comfortable driving position; good digital driver display
Weaknesses Interior materials aren’t as fancy as you’d expect; touchscreen climate control can be fiddly
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Most people will be able to get comfortable in the front of a Mercedes C-Class Estate because there’s plenty of room for a six-foot driver up front. If a panoramic sunroof is fitted, anyone over six feet might have to drop the seat to its lowest position because it steals a little head room.
There are lots of storage areas to hide your belongings, including within the splitting armrest in the centre console and the sizeable door bins.
It’s unlikely that three people will be able to travel in comfort in the back because of the large central tunnel they’ll need to straddle. For more space, you’ll need to go for a bigger Superb Estate or perhaps even choose a large SUV instead, such as the Peugeot 5008 with its three individual rear seats.
Head room should be fine for those under six feet tall, but for anyone taller, things might not be so rosy, especially with the panoramic sunroof fitted.
There are decent-sized rear door bins to put bottles in, plus map pockets on the backs of both front seats.
Seat folding and flexibility
You won’t be able to recline the rear seats of your C-Class Estate, let alone slide them fore and aft as you can in many similarly priced large or family SUVs. There is a useful 40/20/40 split and fold configuration that betters the likes of the V60 though.
The front passenger seat doesn't fold flat for really long items, but they will automatically move out of the way as the second row folds down, and return to their original position when you’ve put the rear seats back up again.
Regardless of which version you go for, your front seat passenger should find it easy to get comfortable, thanks to electric adjustment and even seat heating coming with every trim.
The C-Class Estate comes with a standard electric tailgate and motorised luggage cover. The capacity with seats up is a match for that of the A4 Avant, but is just shy of the 3 Series Touring. There's nothing in it between the C-Class and the 3 Series when the seats are folded down, but it comes up short compared with the Superb Estate. All models except the C300e have underfloor storage (and a handy foldable plastic tote box), and there’s only a small lip to lug items over.
A change in how the batteries are packaged means there isn’t an annoying step in the floor of the latest C300e. As a result, loading longer items is now much easier. What’s more, the C300e’s rear air suspension means it can maintain normal ride height regardless of the load. Of course, there’s still a luggage capacity penalty due to the battery pack robbing some space, but the same is true of the PHEV 3 Series.
Loose items can be held in place using either the four rings provided in each corner, the straps and netting provided on the sides, or by using one of two bag hooks.
Strengths Lots of front space; loads of interior storage space
Weaknesses Not as practical as other estates; large central tunnel removes middle seat leg room
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Pricing for the C-Class Estate is pretty punchy and a fair bit higher than for the A4 Avant and the 3 Series Touring. That has a knock on effect for company car drivers, because it drives up the P11D value. On the plus side, the C220d stacks up well against the A4 Avant and 3 Series Touring for CO2 emissions. Even so, company car tax is still likely to be more than the 3 Series.
The saving grace, then, is the C330e plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Its extra electric range affords it a lower benefit-in-kind tax rate than the BMW 330e Touring, meaning you’ll have to sacrifice less of your salary to drive one. Indeed, despite the fact that you can only have the C300e in the most expensive AMG Line Premium Plus trim, it’ll still cost you less in tax than the 330e Touring in entry-level Sport trim.
Fuel economy – particularly for the C220d, at just over 60mpg – is ahead of the A4 Avant and 3 Series Touring. Similarly, 42mpg for the C200 petrol compares well with estate car rivals. You'll need to offset that against insurance and servicing costs, both of which tend to be quite pricey with a Mercedes. Residual values are on a par with the A4 and 3 Series.
Equipment, options and extras
No matter which trim you go for, you can expect to get plenty of standard kit, with even the entry-level AMG Line trim getting sporty exterior and interior styling, 18in alloy wheels, keyless start, dual-zone climate control and the touchscreen infotainment system.
Stepping up to mid-spec AMG Line Premium adds an electrically-adjustable steering wheel, keyless entry, augmented reality navigation, upgraded LED headlights and 360-degree camera.
Range-topping AMG Line Premium Plus will be the one to go for if you want all the bells and whistles – it’s also currently your only choice if you want the C300e. It gets all the kit you could ever need, though, including three-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, the excellent Burmester sound system, a head-up display and 19in alloy wheels.
The latest C-Class Estate is too new to feature in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. Mercedes as a brand didn’t do very well, coming in joint 23rd place with Vauxhall out of 32 manufacturers, below BMW in 16th and Audi in 21st.
You get a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty and three years of breakdown cover, which is similar to BMW's offering. Audi's three-year warranty covers you up to 60,000 miles.
Safety and security
When it was tested by Euro NCAP for safety in 2022, the C-Class Estate was awarded five stars out five, and scored highly for adult and child occupant protection.
The 3 Series Touring was tested using different procedures and the A4 Avant rating has expired, so drawing useful comparisons is impossible.
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Strengths Great safety rating; C300e is good value as a company car; lots of standard equipment
Weaknesses High list price; reliability could be more impressive
It depends whether you go for the C300e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or one of the other versions. The C300e has a 360-litre boot, while the rest have 490 litres.
Every C-Class Estate comes with adaptive suspension, but only the C300e gets air suspension. Even then, it’s only at the rear, but that’s not a bad thing because it offsets the hefty battery without Mercedes needing to make it unreasonably firm.
Thanks to its 25kWh battery, the C300e Estate has an electric range of around 66 miles – almost double that of its main rivals. Combined with the efficient engine, that gives an official fuel economy figure of more than 560mpg.
|RRP price range||£46,725 - £99,715|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||8|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||diesel, hybrid, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||31 - 60.1|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£847 / £5,269|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,695 / £10,538|