A new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a huge deal in the motoring world.
Sure, the S-Class is the car that steals all the headlines, but the smaller C-Class is almost as advanced as its bigger brother in 2022, and wears a price tag that puts it within reach of more people.
From the oversized central touchscreen to the flashy ambient lighting, the cabin alone makes the last C-Class look old, and it’s built on a platform designed to support more advanced plug-in hybrid powertrains than before.
It’s a long way removed from the boxy Mercedes-Benz sedans of old, which traded in straight lines and solidity.
The exterior is handsome in person, with sharper lines and more elegant proportions than the outgoing model as well. In other words, the new C-Class shows a lot of promise.
It’s expensive, though. The C300 on test is $90,000 before options, which is serious money for a four-cylinder sedan, and you still need to tick some options boxes to get a full list of equipment.
Can the new C-Class justify its steeper sticker price?
The C-Class range kicks off at $78,900 before on-roads, and extends to $90,400 before on-roads for the C300.
Our tester featured Selenite Grey Metallic paint ($1600) and the Vision Package ($3800), along with lime wood trim ($700) for a sticker price of $96,500 before on-roads. The Mercedes-AMG C43 is due later in 2022, while the as-yet unreleased AMG C63 PHEV will follow.
The C300 on test takes on the BMW 330i ($83,900) and, with a few options boxes ticked, is encroaching on the territory occupied by the much faster inline-six M340i xDrive Pure ($101,900).
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class pricing:
- Mercedes-Benz C200: $78,900
- Mercedes-Benz C300: $90,400
This price includes GST and luxury car tax (LCT) if applicable, but excludes on-road costs
First impressions matter, and the new C-Class makes a strong one.
At night it looks incredible, more concept car than executive sedan, thanks to its high-resolution screens and flashy ambient lighting. At first glance all the materials look expensive, although the myriad gloss black surfaces (along with the screens) are magnets for fingerprints.
The driving position leaves a bit to be desired though. There’s enough legroom for taller drivers to get comfortable, but the relationship between the seat, steering wheel, and instrument cluster just felt slightly off to me. Bundle in the fact the footrest was too small for my foot, and the C wasn’t as comfortable as it really should be.
A tight footrest is a really strange oversight given it wasn’t an issue that afflicted the last model, and the new C-Class is built on fresh underpinnings.
For all its showiness, the interior offers up a curious blend of high-quality and cheap-feeling bits. The leather-wrapped wheel is lovely, the padded split-opening central armrest is a Benz staple, and the damped lid on the central tunnel feels expensive.
The flip side, though, are plasticky air vents and slightly brittle-feeling stalks, not to mention the gloss black starter button. Sounds like a small thing, but you use it every time you drive, and it’s just not particularly satisfying to use.
There’s no questioning the quality of the MBUX infotainment system. The 11.9-inch vertically-oriented touchscreen is super high-resolution, and all the animations wouldn’t look out of place on an iPad or iPhone.
Wireless Apple CarPlay worked well for the most part, although it occasionally lagged in a way we haven’t seen on German rivals, and the fact Mercedes-Benz has committed to keeping your climate controls permanently at the base of the screen means you rarely need to go menu-diving.
The driver display doesn’t deviate from what you’d expect of a Mercedes-Benz, with a clean layout and the ability to view maps on the move, while the head-up display is like having a widescreen TV floating in front of the car.
Controlling it all is more complicated than it really ought to be though, thanks to the touch buttons on the steering wheel.
Not only is it harder to use than before, occasionally missing inputs and responding inconsistently to swipes, it’s stranger to look at.
It’s smart – there are sensors around the rim to register the driver’s hands when semi-autonomous driver assists are in use – but it feels like a backwards step in terms of day-to-day usability.
Storage spaces abound up front, from the configurable spot on the transmission tunnel to the big door pockets.
Rear seat space is average, but nothing more. Headroom is acceptable for average-height passengers, but taller folks will have their head brushing the roof lining. Legroom is also fine, but not standout.
Along with three top-tether and two ISOFIX points, there are air vents and USB-C ports back there, and a fold-down central armrest.
Mercedes-Benz would argue practicality-oriented buyers should look to the GLC, a new version of which is due in Australia soon, but the BMW 3 Series shows it’s possible to package a sedan with plenty of space for people.
Boot space in the C-Class is 455 litres with the rear seats in place, on a par with the previous model. It’s a shame the C-Class Estate won’t be coming Down Under for those who aren’t ready to move into an SUV.
Power in the C300 comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 190kW of power and 400Nm of torque, although the 48V mild-hybrid system can throw another 20kW into the mix for brief periods.
The 48V system also allows for smoother, smarter idle start/stop, and lets the engine shut down when coasting.
It’s mated with a nine-speed automatic, and the C300 is rear-wheel drive as standard.
Claimed fuel economy on the combined cycle is 7.3 litres per 100km, and the 100km/h sprint takes a claimed 6.0 seconds.
We saw figures as good as 7.8L/100km on a city commute, although heavy traffic saw that blow out closer to 9.0L/100km. The C-Class drinks 95 RON premium unleaded, and features a 66-litre fuel tank.
Refinement was clearly the priority for Mercedes-Benz here. The new C-Class is whisper quiet from the second you poke the starter button, and the ride on passive dampers focuses more on comfort than sportiness.
Noise suppression when you lean on the throttle is seriously impressive, with hardly any four-cylinder noise sneaking into the cabin, and there’s not a hint of vibration through the pedals or steering wheel. Mercedes-Benz wasn’t talking trash when it started referring to the C-Class as a ‘mini S-Class’.
The 48V mild-hybrid system means it starts and cuts out seamlessly in traffic, and the nine-speed transmission slurs through the lower ratios effortlessly in the city. No, it’s not electric, but it hides the fact you’re powered by a series of tiny explosions better than essentially anything else at the same price.
Despite its small displacement, the four-cylinder motor offers a decent shove in the back when you’re in a hurry. Its 100km/h sprint numbers confirm it’s hot-hatch quick, but the way it delivers its performance means it doesn’t necessarily feel it. That’s not a bad thing, given the C-Class is aimed at a very different audience to a Hyundai i30 N.
Ride quality is very good in town. Adaptive dampers, which allow owners to change how the suspension behaves based on their mood, are currently unavailable due to the global semiconductor shortage – and our tester missed out.
It floats nicely over pimply city streets, and feels impressively grown-up on the highway with a long-legged feeling that wouldn’t be out of place in a bigger car. The 19-inch AMG alloy wheels look sharp, but they do slap hard into potholes or expansion joints.
The way the C-Class handles sharp hits is the one knock on its otherwise impressive levels of refinement.
In town, even without the optional rear-wheel steer, the C-Class slots into tight carparks and through narrow lanes without headaches. Those AMG wheels are very kerb-able, though, so be careful and make sure to rely on the excellent surround-view camera when parking.
Unfortunately, it takes a very careful right foot to stop smoothly at low speeds. The brake pedal is super soft, and it’s tough to modulate your pressure as the 48V mild-hybrid system tries to harvest energy. A bit more weight and a more logical build up of brake pressure would be welcome, because even after a few days behind the wheel I couldn’t quite get it right.
Mercedes-Benz is pushing hard to put itself at the forefront of the autonomous driving revolution, and its investment shows in the sophistication of the systems on the C-Class.
The adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are among the smoothest, smartest systems I’ve experienced. The adaptive cruise was smart enough to slow from 60 to 40km/h when I indicated to turn into a right-hand turn slip lane, for example, but didn’t cut out entirely because it was a continuous flow intersection.
Once I’d turned right, it just accelerated back to 60km/h. Seriously impressive.
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Run-flat tyres
- LED headlights
- AMG Line exterior package
- Proximity key access
- Adaptive high-beam assist
- Puddle lamp projections
- Four driving modes
- Rain-sensing wipers
- AMG Line interior and mats
- Ambient interior lighting (64 colours)
- Artico synthetic leather trim
- Powered front seats
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Multifunction Nappa leather steering wheel
- Dual-zone climate control
- 11.9-inch portrait touchscreen
- MBUX with conversational voice controls
- MBUX ‘Premium Navigation’ with live traffic
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wireless)
- Digital radio receiver
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- Fingerprint scanner
- Mercedes Me Connect vehicle tracking, remote controls, emergency call
- 360-degree camera view
- Real leather trim
- 19-inch AMG wheels
- Tyre repair kit with compressor
- Rear privacy glass
- Driving Assistance Package Plus (detailed in Safety section)
Our tester was also fitted with the Vision Package ($3600), which brings a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, augmented reality (AR) navigation, memory front seats with heating, and traffic sign assist.
The C-Class wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, on the back of testing carried out in 2022.
It scored 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child occupant protection, 80 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 84 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- 10 airbags including a centre-front airbag
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Surround-view camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Active Parking Assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Driver attention monitoring
- Lane-keep assist (steering assist)
- Blind-spot monitoring w/ Exit Warning function
- Active bonnet
- Speed Limit assist
The Driving Assistance Package Plus (C300) adds:
- AEB junction assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Blind-spot assist
- Lane change assist
- Lane following assist
- Evasive steering assist
- Side-impact anticipation and protection system
- Traffic sign assist
All 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class models are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The brand offers servicing plans for three, four, or five years of maintenance, and servicing is required every 12 months or 25,000km.
Three years will set you back $2650, four services cost $3600, and five will cost $5200.
In a lot of ways, the new C-Class is quintessential new Mercedes-Benz.
It looks expensive inside and out, and it’s loaded with the sort of technology that previously was reserved for the S-Class. Plenty of people will sit in the car, fiddle with the screens, and immediately sign on the dotted line.
I was hoping for more, though. Given the price, the 2.0-litre engine and its 48V system didn’t immediately blow me away – maybe the C200 is the smarter buy – and the flashy interior is flawed in ways you wouldn’t expect from a brand with the tagline “The Best Or Nothing”.
The fact the footrest wouldn’t fit my left foot is the sort of thing you’d expect in a $20,000 supermini rather than a German executive sedan, and some of the interior materials left a bit to be desired.
They’re the sort of things the older, less flashy BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 get right. They’re the sort of things Mercedes-Benz used to get right.
For all its strengths, maybe what the the C-Class needs is a bit of that old Mercedes-Benz magic.
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