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What is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

The C-Class is Mercedes’ answer to the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. German rivals aside, it also faces competition from the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Jaguar XE and Lexus IS. In spite of arriving almost 20 years after the 3 Series, the C Class enjoys very nearly as much standing in its segment.

At present, it spans four generations, with the first W202 model debuting in 1993 to replace the much-loved Mercedes 190. At the spicy end of things, AMG-fettled C-Class models have always offered a blunt-instrument antidote to the surgical BMW M3.

At a glance 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class specs

  • Top speed: 136-155mph
  • 0-62mph: 4.0-8.5 seconds
  • Fuel economy: 27-69mpg
  • Emissions:112-227 g/km
  • Boot space: 260-1,510 litres

Which versions of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class are available?

Like everything in this class, there is an enormous range of engines available in the Mercedes C-Class. Everything from modest four-cylinder engines, through bigger six-cylinder units, to diesels and the AMG V6 and V8. That’s across four different body styles, too. You can have your C-Class as a Saloon, Estate, Coupe or Cabriolet. Talk about versatility.

All bar the big-power models are available in SE, Sport or AMG-line specifications, with some engines also offered with 4Matic four-wheel drive. Plug-in hybrids have been available at times, but EQ-branded models with more electric range and cleverer hybrid systems are due before long.

What are the Mercedes-AMG C 43 and C 63?

Want a fast C-Class? Look no further than long-time Mercedes modifiers AMG, and the latest C 63. It comes with more than 500hp from its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 if you get the fastest C 63 S. As above, it’s available in all four body styles. If the 63 is a bit too racy for you, Mercedes-AMG offers a ‘diet’ performance model in the C 43 – with 395hp from its V6.

The C-Class is in the latter half of its life. Given the previous C 63 went out with a Black Series-flavoured bang, expect an even hotter C 63 before long, to help send off the current generation.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class styling and engineering

The latest C-Class was the first Mercedes to use the Modular Rear Architecture platform when it was launched in 2014. It shed 100kg versus its predecessor, thanks to an emphasis on lightweight aluminium. The C-Class followed the S-Class with a new minimalistic and curvaceous styling language. While handsome, many find it difficult telling the core Mercedes saloons apart, especially now the similarly-styled E-Class has joined them.

Inside, the C-Class does differ further from the S-Class, but not in a good way. An awkward jutting screen protrudes from the dashboard, though it’s now larger, with Mercedes’ new user interface for the facelift. The latest A-Class Hatchback actually has a much nicer-looking, premium-feeling cabin.

How does the Mercedes-Benz C-Class drive?

If you’re in either of the AMG models, very swiftly indeed. The diesel V6 will waft you along at commendable pace, too. The C-Class was well-engineered for this generation to be more competitive with sharp-driving rivals like the BMW 3 Series. The equivalent C-Class has always been considered to have a more luxurious edge, and that doesn’t change with the current car – especially with the optional air suspension.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class rear

For optimal comfort, avoid opting for bigger wheels. It’s certainly a more stately and svelte drive than the agile and focused 3 Series, without feeling sloppy, though the steering is a little numb. The AMG models are far more alert these days, too. No longer the V8-powered sledgehammers they once were, they now have dynamic prowess to worry the BMW M3.

How much does the Mercedes-Benz C-Class cost?

The C-Class is typically more expensive than rivals from Audi and BMW. Out of the gates, it’s roughly £1,500 more than the 3 Series, and £2,000 more than the A4. Nothing else will do if you’re a three-pointed-star diehard, but for the rest of us, a premium is a premium.

Then, of course, you have to pick the engine and spec you want, as well as the optional extras. Never is a starting price more deceptive than with German executive cars... It’s worth remembering that a lot of the Mercedes style and luxury seen here can also be had in a smaller, more up-to-date package, in the form of the new A-Class or CLA.

Find out what C-Class drivers think of their Mercedes? Find out with our user-generated owners’ reviews.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Model History

Third-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2007-14)

Mercedes-Benz C-Class third generation (2007-14)

The third-generation C-Class, like the one that came before it, was lauded as a ‘miniature S-Class’. Indeed, it came loaded with premium trim, impressive tech and great style, all in a smaller package. It also had a monstrous rip-snorting 6.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 engine in the C 63 AMG.

Estate and Coupe versions were available, although the latter only came after the 2011 facelift of the model. This brought new lights with LED accents front and rear, plus an updated cabin. The model was sent off in style, with the widened and be-winged C 63 AMG Black Series.

Second-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2000-07)

Mercedes-Benz C-Class second generation (2000-07)

Development for the second-generation C-Class was a long process. Design work began in 1994 and, by the time it was approved, patented, and the car tested and launched, it was 2000. The more curvaceous design reflected the direction taken by the E-Class, S-Class and CL.

Inside it was very luxurious by comparison with rivals, although it was pricey and there were some questions over quality. The second C-Class also got a big AMG V8, in the short-lived C 55 AMG of 2004. Before the mid-life update to the C-Class, the biggest and best you could get was the V6-engined C 32 AMG.

First-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class (1993-2000)

Mercedes-Benz C-Class first generation (1993-00)

The first C-Class of 1993 had seriously big shoes to fill. The 190 was beloved by all, but progress and a changing Mercedes-Benz line-up demanded that it be usurped by the C. In hindsight, it’s not remembered as fondly as the 190. It heralded the first V8-powered AMG, with the rare C 43 and C 55 of 1997 and 1999. You’ll be lucky to find a clean one, mind. Sadly, his generation of Mercedes is not known for rust resistance or reliability.