Mercedes C-Class hybrid review
“The Mercedes C 300 e is the strongest version of the C-Class, and perhaps one of the best company cars you can buy today”
- Class-leading electric range
- Hi-tech interior
- Compromised boot space
- Expensive to buy
- BMW 330e more fun to drive
Mercedes began to electrify its range a long time ago, and its latest pure EVs are among the best in their respective classes. However, there are many people who are not quite ready or able to make the big step to a fully electric car – people for whom the Mercedes C-Class hybrid may really appeal. It combines the luxury of the C-Class with lower running costs, and is unashamedly aimed at company car drivers.
The C-Class has long been a staple of Merc’s lineup – often being one of its best-selling models along with the A-Class hatchback, GLC SUV and larger E-Class saloon. The C 300 e is the compact executive car’s plug-in hybrid variant, which – thanks to a big 25.4kWh battery – now bridges the gap between a fully electric car and a traditional petrol model.
Under the bonnet sits the same 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine as seen in the entry-level C 200. However, here it is paired with an electric motor, together producing 328bhp. The battery is larger than the one you’ll find in some small EVs – which gives the hybrid C-Class a class-leading 62-mile electric-only range.
All of this means that the C 300 e offers strong performance out on the road. That is not to say this is some kind of AMG model in disguise, however; the C-Class is generally set up for comfort and the PHEV is no different. Refinement is good over small bumps and potholes, and the serene silence of the electric motor further adds to the Merc’s cosseting feel.
But the biggest selling point of the C 300 e is its low running costs; most commutes will be covered by the Merc’s 60-odd-mile electric range, meaning some owners will rarely need to fill up with petrol at all. That range, plus its low CO2 numbers, means it sits in one of the lowest Benefit-in-Kind tax brackets, and while not as shockingly affordable as an EV, should result in huge savings compared to the equivalent C 220 d diesel.
This means the C 300 e is a tempting choice for company car drivers. A low Benefit in-Kind rating should result in huge savings compared to the equivalent C 220 d diesel.
It’s become somewhat of a cliche to say that the inside of a ‘lesser’ Mercedes is like that of an S-Class, but the new C-Class is perhaps as closely-matched to the high-end limousine as any model yet. Material quality is strong throughout and the huge central touchscreen is easy to use and an instant focal point of the interior.
Mercedes offers the C 300 e in both saloon and estate form, with the latter being the most practical choice. The plug-in hybrid powertrain has substantially shrunk the boot of the C-Class, however, making the estate a necessity for those looking to carry larger items frequently.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Starting from around £50,000, the C 300 e does not appear good value for money at first glance. However, it’s not that much more expensive than the entry-level C 200 petrol, and the hybrid’s frugal powertrain allows for rock-bottom running costs, making it ideal for company car drivers.
The C 300 e’s headline figure is its impressive 62-mile electric driving range; this dwarfs the 37 miles possible in the BMW 330e. During our time with the Mercedes, we were able to get close to this number (we saw less than 30 miles from the BMW) meaning those without a heavy right foot should easily be able to achieve 50-60 miles on a charge.
In some markets, The C 300 e also benefits from fast 55kW charging – this allows you to top up the car’s 25.4kWh battery from 0-100% charge in less than an hour when connected to a compatible public charger – but this option isn’t currently available in the UK. That shouldn’t be of great consequence to most owners; topping up using a normal home wallbox is easily achievable overnight, and most won’t charge more than once a day.
Mercedes claims the C 300 e can return up-to 404mpg in mixed driving, providing you keep the battery charged up. Emissions for the hybrid C-Class are equally as impressive, with the car emitting just 12g of CO2/km.
Consequently, the C 300 e has a much lower Benefit in-Kind (BiK) tax rating than the equivalent diesel model, keeping costs to a minimum for company car drivers. Regardless, it is worth noting that PHEVs are no longer exempt from the London Congestion Charge, meaning C 300 e drivers will now have to pay whenever they enter the city.
Engines, drive & performance
Executive saloons from the main German brands have always offered different things; the BMW 3 Series caters more towards the driver, whereas the Audi A4 tends to err on the side of comfort. The Mercedes C-Class has historically been a middle ground between the two and the latest generation is no exception.
The C 300 e is powered by the same 201bhp 1.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine as the entry-level C200 model. However, the plug-in hybrid system adds a 127bhp electric motor which brings the total output to 328bhp, making the C 300 e the most powerful model in the C-Class range, bar the upcoming high-performance AMG variants.
Thanks to the instant torque from the electric motor, the C 300 e gathers speed quickly and the nine-speed automatic gearbox changes gears smoothly. From a standstill, the C 300 e takes 6.1 seconds to reach 62mph, slightly slower than the top-of-the-range C 300 d diesel. This is because of the added bulk from the electric motors and battery, which increases the car’s overall weight by around 300kg.
As you would expect, this impacts the C-Class’s overall driving experience; while the latest iteration of the C-Class feels more poised than the outgoing model, it still lacks the overall dynamism of the BMW 3 Series. The added weight of the hybrid components means that the C 300 e is less spry than the ‘normal’ C-Class on a twisty road – although this is the same for the equivalent hybrid version of the 3 Series, the 330e.
Speaking of the 330e, that car is available with either rear-wheel-drive, or BMW’s slick xDrive four-wheel-drive system. However, Mercedes only offers the C 300 e in rear-wheel-drive form, which could be a problem for those living in colder climates, or wanting the reassurance that all-wheel drive brings.
Also, the added weight of the hybrid means that the C 300 e’s brakes do not feel quite as strong as they do in the lighter petrol and diesel cars. Our biggest gripe, however, is how the regenerative braking system mixes with the conventional disc brakes when you push the pedal. It’s a common problem in Mercedes hybrid and electric vehicles, and just doesn’t feel that natural. It’s a small downside to an otherwise pleasant driving experience.
Overall, the C 300 e should be fine for most drivers, with the car’s ‘Sport’ mode adding more weight to the steering and better engine responsiveness if you ever encounter an open stretch of road.
Interior & comfort
Mercedes has become renowned for producing some of the most avant-garde and hi-tech interiors in the business, and the latest C-Class has revolutionised the compact executive car cabin. Essentially a condensed version of the interior found in the latest S-Class limousine, the C-Class provides a sanctuary from the outside world that is loaded to the brim with luxury and technology.
Out on the road, the C 300 e is whisper-quiet – especially when it’s running on battery power. This is slightly disturbed by the thrum of the petrol engine whenever it kicks in, but take things gently and the Merc is a quiet place to spend time. The car’s suspension is supple and almost appears to have been specifically designed for rough British roads in the way it unflappably deals with bumps and potholes.
Stepping into the C-Class’s cabin for the first time, your eyes will immediately be drawn to the huge 11.9-inch touchscreen that dominates the centre of the dashboard. This runs the latest version of Mercedes’ MBUX software and benefits from the clever ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control function, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster sits directly in the driver’s line of sight; this is highly configurable via the touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel and acts as an extension of the central infotainment system.
The C 300 e’s interior material quality is befitting of any Mercedes-Benz, with plenty of sumptuous leathers and high-quality trim throughout. Having said that, the BMW 3 Series feels more sturdy and well-built – and given it’s now fitted with the latest OS 8 and a slick twin-screen setup, doesn’t give as much away to the Mercedes as it once did.
The Mercedes C 300 e is available in three trim levels: AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus. All models of the C 300 e come highly-equipped as standard, with kit such as LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring and a reversing camera. We’d stick with the standard car, despite the fact the Premium package includes 19-inch wheels, 360-degree cameras and augmented reality for the sat-nav system. Premium Plus brings goodies such as a head-up display and a sliding panoramic roof. Thankfully, every C-Class gets the aforementioned infotainment setup as standard, something that cannot be said for all cars in this class.
Practicality & boot space
The Mercedes C-Class has grown quite a bit over time, with the title of the brand’s smallest saloon now being held by the Mercedes A-Class, plus the sleeker Mercedes CLA. This means that unlike before, there is plenty of space in both the front and rear of the C-Class.
The wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) has grown by 24mm this generation; therefore, passengers in the rear have ample legroom as well as headroom. However, the large hump in the middle of the floor due to the transmission tunnel means that fitting three people abreast will still be a squeeze. If you need more space, we think the Mercedes E-Class hybrid is well worth a look, even if it can’t match the newer C-Class for electric range.
The C 300 e stores its battery pack underneath the boot floor which means the C-Class hybrid’s boot has shrunk from 455 litres in the standard car, to just 315 litres – significantly smaller than even the A-Class. This means that buyers wanting to carry larger items often may want to opt for the larger 360-litre boot found in the C 300 e Estate. Of course, this version has the added benefit of a boot that hinges from the roof.
Reliability & safety
You will be forgiven for thinking that a brand so closely associated with prestige and quality would have a strong reliability record. However, our recent Driver Power surveys suggest otherwise. In 2021, the previous-generation Mercedes C-Class placed a concerning 71st out of 75 cars, with customers complaining about poor reliability and build quality. It’s obviously worth noting that as a model comes to the end of its life, newer, higher-tech cars often supersede them – so Mercedes will be hoping for a much better result when the new C-Class appears in future surveys.
What’s less easy to justify is Merc’s poor showing in the manufacturer rundown; in 2022, the maker finished 23rd out of 29 brands – behind key rivals Audi, BMW and Jaguar. Customers complained that their cars didn’t offer decent value for money, and that they were particularly expensive to run.
On a more positive note, the latest Mercedes C-Class is packed to the brim with the latest safety tech; Euro NCAP has yet to test the new model, but recently awarded its larger sibling, the E-Class, with a five-star rating. Cars specified with the Driving Assistance pack can detect if and when you stray out of lane and adjust the car’s position accordingly. All of this and much more makes the Mercedes C-Class hybrid one of the safest cars on the road.