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Mercedes C-Class C220 CDI review

Can the Mercedes C-Class be a BMW 3-Series killer? Read our review on the German executive car to find out

"But can the C-Class topple the BMW 3-Series?"

Inside, the Mercedes C-Class is all functional and slick. The cabin is well laid out, with clear dials and a superb driving position. Cars with the optional sat-nav unit get a flip-out colour screen, which is controlled by a version of the COMAND system seen in the S-Class. This is operated by a simple rotary dial on the centre console.

Space is pretty good. Legroom in the front is more than ample and, as long as you don't go for the optional twin sunroof (as fitted to our car), there's lots of headroom, too. In the back, it's bigger than its predecessor, so transporting five adults isn't a problem - but as with all the C-Class's rivals, it will be a squeeze.

However, there are some niggles. The German brand persists with its foot-operated parking brake on the latest model which, combined with our car's six-speed manual gearbox, makes hill starts very awkward. And while we're on negatives, the A-Class-style hard plastics on the dashboard compromise the feeling of quality.

Under its stylish skin, the C-Class retains its traditional front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout, and every variant now gets adaptive dampers all-round. Sport versions come with an Advanced Agility package which, at the touch of a button, sharpens the damping control and steering feel, as well as throttle response. The add-on includes lowered suspension.

The results are impressive. Overall, the C-Class feels secure through fast corners and offers loads of agility. In fact, only an over-light steering set-up really holds it back from bettering the 3-Series. However, the best news is that, while in normal mode, the new dampers provide a brilliant ride, which soaks up bumps and enables the car to float over them with ease.

Helping its cause is the 170hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel powerplant. It's smooth and punchy, and allows the C-Class to sprint from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds, while returning an excellent 46.3mpg on the combined cycle.

Motorway cruising is serene, and there's plenty of urge for overtaking. It's just a shame that the 7G-Tronic automatic box isn't available as an option on this particular engine.

Standard equipment is good, with automatic climate control, Bluetooth compatibility and safety items such as the marque's active headrests and knee airbags. Upgrading to the top-spec Sport package will set you back a hefty £2,895, though, and with the standard car being so good anyway, buyers may be better off without it.

Indeed, the new C-Class promises to satisfy both existing Mercedes customers and, thanks to its dual personalities, bring in new ones, too. It's an excellent alternative to BMW's 3-Series, and deserves to succeed.

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Car Specs - Mercedes C-Class C220CDI SE

Engine:2.0-litre diesel, 170hp
0-62mph:8.5 seconds
Top speed:141mph
Economy/emissions:47.9mpg/156g/km CO2
Price/On sale £24,248/Now

We rate:
Classy looks
Decent diesel engine
Briliant ride

We slate:
Foot operated handbrake
Some cheap plastics
Expensive options

Rating: Image removed.

by Bryce Richards

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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