"The revised C-Class Estate marks a big step forward in quality, and the new engines offer a class-leading blend of performance and economy."
Mercedes knew there was room for improvement with the C-Class, and the latest estate doesn’t disappoint. The interior has been redesigned, with higher-quality materials, a more attractive dash and a slick integrated media screen. Changes outside are more subtle, and include new bumpers and lights. It's still not the most spacious estate, but with a clean new range of direct-injection petrol and diesel engines, all featuring stop-start technology, it's one of the most efficient premium models on the market. It's as comfortable as the C-Class saloon, too, plus has the same wide range of options.
The new C-Class Estate has a relaxed, quiet character when fitted with the larger V6 engines, and the suspension is biased towards comfort rather than cornering. There's plenty of grip, but the car is less engaging than BMW's 3 Series Touring. All the engines have been updated for stronger performance and economy. We’d go for the C220 CDI: it offers 168bhp and does 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, but has tax-friendly emissions of 128g/km. The optional seven-speed auto box is a must. Its seamless shifts suit the Estate's character, although it can be hesitant to change when driving fast.
Some of the effortless luxury of the bigger S-Class is captured in the refined, comfortable C-Class Estate, although Sport models have a harder ride, due to their stiffer suspension and bigger alloy wheels. The C-Class is also very quiet, with only the smaller diesels sounding a little coarse when pushed. There's lots of passenger space inside, but while the driver's seat has plenty of adjustment, the rear seats are surprisingly firm – which is a real downside on longer trips.
The previous C-Class was a big step forward in terms of reliability, and there have been few major problems with the 1.2 million-plus cars sold worldwide. This new model has moved on even further in terms of build quality, plus it's safer than ever, with 10 new passive and active safety systems on board. These include a pedestrian-friendly pop-up bonnet and attention assistance as standard, while Pre-Safe emergency braking, active lane keeping, blind spot assistance and speed limit assist feature on the options list.
This isn’t the biggest estate around. With the seats up, the C-Class has 485 litres of space – less than an Audi A4 Avant – although that rises to an impressive 1,500 litres with them folded. All cars have an electric tailgate, plus storage rails and hooks to stop loose bags from moving around. The fixed parcel shelf can make folding the seats tricky, however. Rear legroom is decent, although passengers may find the firm back seats uncomfortable on longer journeys.
Value for money
There are three trims, and all are generously equipped. The entry-level SE has alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control, parking sensors and a leather multifunction steering wheel. The luxurious Elegance adds chrome trim, LED running lights and a storage pack for just over £1,000 extra, while the top-spec Sport gets xenon headlights, sports suspension and seats, steel pedals and steering wheel paddles for the auto box. The C-Class is more costly to buy than its premium rivals but, as before, should retain its value well.
All the engines in the range are more fuel efficient than in the previous car, particularly the clean-burning petrols, which all have direct injection. The 3.5-litre V6 boasts an extra 34bhp, but fuel economy has been improved by 31 per cent, too. All models come with stop-start as standard to reduce emissions. This helps keep day-to-day running costs quite low, although parts, servicing and insurance bills will be above average, as on most cars in this class.