In-depth reviews

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”

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.5 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Class-leading electric range
  • Hi-tech interior
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • 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 of their kind. 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 business users.

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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 new plug-in hybrid variant, which 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. Powering the electric motor is a hefty 25.4kWh battery – larger than the batteries 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.

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

A 62-mile electric range is nearly double what is offered by rivals and complemented by low BiK ratings

Starting from around £50,000, the C 300 e does not appear good value for money at first glance. However, the car’s frugal hybrid 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. In our short time with the car, we were able to get close to this number, meaning those without a heavy foot should easily be able to achieve 60 miles on a charge.

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. 

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

The C 300 e is a comfortable cruiser, rather than a true driver’s car

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 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 300d 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. 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.

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

The C-Class’s interior has as much wow-factor as it does cutting-edge tech

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, thanks to the electric powertrain doing most of the work at lower speeds; however, this is slightly disturbed by the thrum of the petrol engine whenever it kicks in. The Merc’s suspension is supple and almost appears to be designed for 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, despite it lacking the panache of the Merc.

The Mercedes C 300 e is available in two trim levels: 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. The Premium Plus package adds a 360-degree camera system as well as an augmented-reality sat-nav and electrically-adjustable front seats with memory function. 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 C 300 e’s hybrid powertrain compromises 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. 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.

The C 300 e stores its battery pack underneath the boot floor which means the C-Class’ boot has shrunk from 455 litres to 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

A strong safety rating is contrasted by a shaky reliability record

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. Hopefully the new model will fare much better when we get feedback in a couple of years’ time. Progress is being made, however, as Mercedes as a brand placed 13th out of 29 manufacturers, an improvement over previous years.

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 C-Class one of the safest cars on the road.

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