What's the used Mercedes C-Class saloon like?
When it comes to a rock-solid premium image, there’s little to beat a Mercedes. After all, who doesn’t want to ride behind that famous three-pointed star?
The only problem for the Mercedes C-Class is the stiff competition it faces in the executive car class from the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series. However, the comfort and relaxed driving experience, not to mention the air of dependability, of this 2014 to 2021 C-Class have been enough to win it plenty of admirers.
Not surprisingly, considering it stretches back so far, it’s the diesel-engined cars that are most plentiful on the forecourts. The 136bhp 1.6-litre in the C200d has enough poke for most, but the 170bhp 2.1-litre C220d feels a little livelier and comes close to matching the smaller engine for economy and CO2 emissions. The thirstier 204bhp 2.1-litre C250d, while admirably brisk, is harder to recommend, as is the later 245bhp 2.0-litre C300d.
Petrol cars kick off with the 156bhp 1.6-litre C180, and then up to a 184bhp 2.0-litre C200, which is a refined and adequate performer. A 258bhp 2.0-litre C300 was later added to fill in the gap between the top-performing 390bhp 3.0-litre C43 and 476bhp (or 503bhp S version) 4.0-litre C63 AMG models, that put sheer pace and track car agility above any considerations of comfort and economy.
Fuel economy is best served by the C350e plug-in petrol hybrid, C300h diesel hybrid, or C300de plug-in diesel hybrid. However, as with all similar hybrid cars, the headline figures should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt.
Opt for the entry-level SE trim and you'll find 16in alloy wheels, auto wipers, cruise control, a reversing camera and Mercedes' Collision Prevention Assist Plus system fitted as standard, while inside occupants are treated to a 7.0in infotainment system with DAB tuner, multimedia interface and touchpad, and electric seat height and backrest adjustment for the front seats.
Upgrade to the fleet-friendly SE executive edition and you get heated front seats, Garmin-powered sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, and 17in alloys. Sport models get LED headlights, a lowered suspension, folding and dimming mirrors, and leather sports seats. The range-topping AMG Line specs include 18in AMG alloy wheels, an aggressive bodykit and sports suspension.
Those opting for the beefy AMG models also get a bespoke trim for their fire-breathing monsters. The C 43 comes with a bespoke AMG bodykit, brake calipers and details, Artico leather upholstery and red seat belts, while the C63 comes with a mechanical rear axle differential lock and a Nappa leather upholstery. The range-topping C63 S comes with much of the same equipment except for 19in alloy wheels, grey seatbelts and AMG performance seats.
On the road, the C-Class’s dynamic behaviour and ride comfort are a step up from the older variants, even if it’s not quite as sharp to drive as its two major rivals. Where it disappoints is in refinement, with too much road noise and, most noticeably in the diesel variants, too much engine noise making its way back into the interior.
Much like the larger and more expensive S-Class, the C-Class has a very attractive looking interior. However, once you take a closer look at the materials used, you can tell where the cost-cutting has been made. The Audi A4 certainly has the edge of this Mercedes when it comes to the quality of materials used.
Still, there should be no complaints from anyone up front because there is plenty of space, lots of storage areas and tons of adjustment in the seats and steering wheel to find a comfortable position. Rear leg room is decent too and even the tallest of folks shouldn't find their heads brushing the ceiling - even with a panoramic glass roof - due to the high roofline of the C-Class. The same can't be said of the boot which is smaller than rivals, has a restrictive opening and is of an odd shape that makes packing for a road trip quite tricky.
However, the C-Class remains a solid and mostly dependable buy, with plenty of trims, a well-equipped interior and lots of class-leading safety and security kit. Facelifted models from 2018 onwards gained a bigger infotainment screen of 10.3in and additional driver assistance tech.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Mercedes C-Class saloon?
A prestige brand image isn’t always an indicator of superior quality, as the data for the Mercedes C-Class shows in our reliability survey, with nearly a third of cars presenting a problem.
This list of faults reported have been numerous, so you'll need to check everything. Try all the electrical items work while you poke around the interior, try the sat nav and make sure the air-con blows cold air and that there are no weird smells. During your test drive, listen out for any interior rattles; pay attention to the gearbox and that it operates smoothly and that there are no nasty knocks and bangs from the suspension over bumps.
Check also that the car doesn't pull heavily to one side as you're driving down the road, and that it also doesn't deviate under braking. The engine should have a smooth power delivery and not have any flat-spots or surges of acceleration. On automatic versions, make sure the kick-down function works under full acceleration - when it is safe to do so.
What are the most common problems with a used Mercedes C-Class saloon?
The switches used in the seatbelt buckles of some examples made between 1 June 2018 and 31 October 2018 could be faulty. Check with a Mercedes dealer to find out if this applies to your car because they'll need to fit new buckles if it does.
Incorrect engine undertray
The wrong engine undertray was fitted to some C-Class' built between 1 March 2018 and 31 March 2018, but this can easily be rectified by a Mercedes dealer who will check and replace it if necessary.
Front seat frame
The welds on the seat frames of the front AMG performance seats fitted to cars manufactured from 8 June 2017 and 2 June 2018 could fail during a collision. Find out from a Mercedes dealer if your car is affected because they will need to inspect the seats and repair them if found to be faulty.
Emissions software update
A number of C200d models fitted with the Renault-sourced 1.6-litre diesel engine and were made from 1 August 2014 to 31 May 2018 will need to have a software update performed by a Mercedes dealer to improve exhaust emissions, and have a supplementary booklet added alongside the owner's manual.
A software issue could lead to the start/stop function being disabled and cause the engine to stall. This issue can be rectified with an update that can be performed by a Mercedes dealer.
A small number of vehicles built between 6 February 2019 and 12 February 2019 might have incorrectly fitted tie rods on the front suspension. If your car is affected, it will need to be checked over by a dealer, who'll rectify the issue for you.
Cracked lock nut
A lock nut used in the steering gear of some models made from 1 March 2015 and 31 October 2018 could be cracked, and will need to be inspected and replaced by a Mercedes dealer.
Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
A certain number of cars made from 1 June 2017 to 30 November 2018 have a software issue with the electronic stability program (ESP) that will need to be reprogrammed by a Mercedes dealer to ensure it works as intended.
The crankshaft fitted to a small number of engines installed in cars built from 1 February 2019 to 31 March 2019 could have surface damage that'll reduce its durability. Speak to a Mercedes dealer to find out if this applies to your car, because it will require a new engine if it does.
Engine wiring harness
A wiring harness in the engine bay might not have been installed correctly and any affected vehicles will need to have this checked out by a Mercedes dealer, who'll carry out any necessary repairs to prevent any future issues.
Front passenger airbag
There have been two recalls for the front passenger airbag. The first applies to C-Class models made between 1 August 2017 and 31 October 2018 regarding a software glitch that'll require an update at a dealer. The second is for a bad connector that could prevent the airbag from deploying in a collision on some pre-June 2018 cars.
This applies to the high-performance AMG models made between 1 June 2014 and 31 May 2016 where the rear axle mountings could break under extreme circumstances, such as full acceleration on a wet surface or when repeatedly breaking traction of the rear wheels. If your car is affected, it'll need to have some software updates applied by a Mercedes dealer to the ESP and electronic chassis control units to limit performance during such scenarios.
Mounting bolts of the turbocharger oil return line
A small number of cars made from 1 December 2018 and 31 January 2019 that need to have the bolts that hold the turbocharger oil return lines in place replaced, but a Mercedes dealer will be able to inform you if your example is affected.
There have been three recalls to the power steering of the C-Class. First is the motor itself that can fail on models built between 1 August 2014 and 31 December 2016 and will need to be replaced. Then there was a software problem on some cars built from 1 November 2017 and 30 April 2018 that require an update. Finally, there is a sensor issue in the system of examples manufactured between 1 July 2018 and 31 August 2018 that could fail. Speak to your Mercedes dealer who'll be able to say if any of these applies to your car.
There has been an issue found with the driver's airbag of some cars made from 1 January 2018 and 30 March 2018 where the bag itself won't perform as intended in a collision. Your dealer will be able to find out if this applies to your car.
Rear beltline trim
The rear beltline trim on the exterior of examples manufactured from 1 January 2016 and 30 November 2017 can come loose, and will need to be inspected at a Mercedes dealer to determine if it needs replacing.
Front seatbelt pre-tensioners
Both the left and right front seats of cars made between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017 have been found to be faulty, meaning that front seat occupants aren't restrained correctly in a collision. Find out from a dealer if yours is affected and have the pre-tensioners replaced.
Radar control unit
This software issue applies to cars made from 1 February 2017 and 31 July 2019 and affected cars will require an update to the radar control unit in order for all the various automatic safety systems to function correctly.
Is a used Mercedes C-Class saloon reliable?
In our most recent reliability survey, the diesel-engined Mercedes C-Class finished 23rd out of 26 cars in the executive car class. The petrol-engined models finished in 17th place.
Reliability rating 87.3%
What went wrong? Non-engine electrics 11%, exhaust 6%, fuel system 4%, battery 3%, bodywork 3%, infotainment/sat-nav 3%, brakes 2%, steering 2%, engine 1%, gearbox/clutch 1%, interior trim 1%
A third of C-Classes went wrong, according to owners, who reported a wide range of issues. Faults rendered more than a third of cars undriveable, and one in four was off the road for more than a week. Although 81% of cars were fixed for free, a small percentage of owners paid out more than £1500 in repair bills.
Owner’s view “This is the worst car I have ever bought. Faults haven’t been properly fixed and the service from the dealer has been poor”
Mercedes as a brand finished in a disappointing 23rd place out of 32 manufacturers in the same survey.
If you would like to see the full reliability list, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
What used Mercedes C-Class saloon will I get for my budget?
The C-Class has enjoyed considerable success in the UK over the years, so there are plenty of examples to choose from. Indeed high mileage ones can be bought for around £9000, but we'd recommend spending upwards of £12,000 to secure a car from 2015 with average mileage for the year, and full service history.
Spend around £16,000 and you could find yourself with an immaculate 2017 C220d Sport, our chosen trim, with an average mileage from an independent dealer. Meanwhile, you'll need around £20,000 for a facelifted late-2018 car. Spend between £20,000 and £25,000 on a good 2019 or 2020 car. You should be able to pick up the last 2021 cars for between £25,000 and £32,000.
If you're feeling tempted by either of the AMG models, budget on £28,000 for a C43, or £29,000 for the full-fat C63.
Check the value of a used Mercedes C-Class with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Mercedes C-Class saloon?
Once bought, fuel costs should be reasonable. The diesels are the most economical, with the C300de hybrid version recording an official claimed figure of 217.3mpg and an all-electric range of 33 miles. The plug-in petrol hybrid gets 134.5mpg and 19 miles of electric range, while the C300h diesel hybrid has a claimed figure of 78.5mpg.
The most popular model, the C220d, can claim 70.6mpg in some versions – almost a match for the C200d’s top score of 72.4mpg. The C250d is the least economical diesel at 61.4mpg.
The C200 petrol-engined car can produce a claimed figure of 53.3mpg, depending on wheel and tyre size. Even the high-performance C43 and C63 seem to have reasonable numbers at 35.3mpg and 34.5mpg, respectively.
However, all figures those are based on the older NEDC tests. Under the more stringent WLTP tests, the C200d averages 61.4mpg, the C220d 55.4mpg, the C300d 47.9mpg. The petrol C180 gets 43.5mpg, the C200 44.1mpg, the C300 40.4mpg, the C43 30.4mpg, and the C63 dropping to just 28.5mpg.
All of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models produce less than 100g/km of CO2 and qualify for free road tax (provided the example you're looking at was registered before 1 April 2017). Then follows the C200d at 101g/km and the C220d at 104g/km. The C250d isn't as good at 117g/km, but it'll hardly break the bank.
Neither will the C200 petrol 123g/km hurt your wallet too badly. Mind, the 183g/km of the C43 and 192g/km of the C63 might seem like a lot, neither are horrendous given the performance on offer.
Road tax (VED)
Cars registered before the tax changes of 1 April 2017 came into force will pay the annual car tax (VED) according to CO2 emissions, while those registered after that date will pay a flat rate, currently £165 a year and £155 for the hybrids. Be warned, though, if your C-Class cost over £40,000 new, it will then attract a supplementary luxury car tax, payable from years two to six and currently £355 a year. To find out more about the current road tax costs, click here.
Servicing costs for the C-Class can be expensive, as can replacement parts, but you are able to split them into monthly payments to soften the overall costs. Two services for a C-Class that's less than 12 months old would be £816, while anything older is £912. For comparison purposes, the same number of services for an Audi A4 would be £468 for one with an engine of less than 2.0-litres, or £594 if it happens to have something bigger.
Which used Mercedes C-Class saloon should I buy?
The 2.1-litre C220d is the best bet, being cheap to run and blessed with a decent amount of shove. It’s the version we’d choose.
The entry-level SE is well-equipped with climate and cruise controls, a DAB radio and a reversing camera, but we'd pick Sport, which adds parking sensors and smarter interior trim. Try and find one with the Premium pack for additional goodies.
Our favourite Mercedes C-Class: C220d Sport Premium pack
What alternatives should I consider to a used Mercedes C-Class saloon?
The Audi A4 is more practical than the C-Class, with more space inside and a larger boot. It’s more refined, too, with a number of highly efficient and very smooth engines. It’s also better to drive, thanks to its sharper steering and more eager handling. The interior has always impressed us for its relative simplicity yet high-quality feel and its infotainment system, operated by a rotary-style controller, is clear and intuitive to use.
The BMW 3 Series has been the class leader for so many years that it’s become the very definition of the compact executive car. It is, to most degrees, still the class leader in this segment, edging ahead of even the brilliant A4. Its success is centred on its entertaining rear-wheel-drive handling, an effortlessly upmarket feel and the excellent build quality. Here is a premium car that will more than satisfy the demands of the high-mileage executive plodding the UK’s byways, a family in need of decent space and reasonable running costs, as well as the enthusiastic motorist wanting something fun to drive.
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