Sean Carson | March 2014
As we remarked in our initial Launch Pad blog on the car, there was a palpable sense of anticipation surrounding the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. For years the BMW 3 Series has dominated the small saloon sector when it comes to dynamics, while the Audi A4 has had image all sewn up. The C-Class has arguably been third best in recent years.
Not now. With the new car Mercedes has hit the nail squarely on the head with a very large, efficient German hammer. From the interesting exterior design to the lovely interior, the way it drives to the C-Class’ vital statistics – this is a very impressive car indeed.
On the subject of looks, it’s very much the mini Mercedes S-Class, with a sleek profile and some interesting design details – including the head and tail light clusters, sharp creases and smooth surfaces on the flanks doing interesting things with the light, and an elegant overall appearance – there’s just enough Teutonic assertiveness with a nice dose of organic design.
When it comes to golf club car park one-ups, the new C-Class can hold its head high – especially given dual-zone air con, automatic windscreen wipers, cruise control, reversing camera, iPod connector, a 7-inch colour display, collision prevention and tyre pressure monitor all come fitted as standard.
What’s the 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class like to drive?
We sampled both the C200 petrol and the C250 Bluetec turbodiesel in manual and automatic flavours respectively.
The former is a 2.0-litre unit putting out 184hp and mated to a new ZF six-speed manual gearbox. With Mercedes AMG, Audi RS and BMW M all endowing their small saloons with weapons grade V8s, it’s easy to forget that just 184hp is still enough to hustle a car like the C-Class along at a surprising pace.
The motor is refined but willing to rev with a raspy tone higher up. It’s a sweet unit. The 0-62mph sprint takes 7.5 seconds while claimed efficiency stands at 53.3mpg combined with 123g/km CO2 emissions. A very respectable effort.
It does need revs to extract the best of its performance, which means you do have to work the gearbox often. But the new unit’s shift action is relatively positive and light, contributing to a very smooth feel. The only drawbacks we encountered were a fairly lengthy throw and the occasional notchy change.
The 204hp 2.1-litre turbodiesel C250 Bluetec is a more relaxed engine, helped by the seven-speed automatic gearbox and 369lb ft of torque. It’s quite and feels large-lunged at cruising speeds thanks to all that torque – although we did notice when using the manual shift function with the steering wheel paddles, working the motor harder, it tended to drone on.
Still, 8.1 seconds from 0-62mph alongside 65.7mpg combined with 103g/km CO2, according to Mercedes, means this will most definitely be a contender.
The new C-Class is the first car in its sector to offer air suspension front and rear, which yields astonishing ride comfort even on 18-inch AMG wheels and low profile tyres. It’s clever tech for a relatively small car, but we still found the conventionally sprung C-Class a fluid and flowing drive, although the test route was made up of fantastically smooth French roads.
The steering is light but accurate and the brakes have plenty of bite, while Merc’s new front axle setup rewards the driver with a reassuring feeling of solidity.
However, the BMW is more communicative still. But while the Mercedes might not ultimately be as sharp as the 3 Series, the extra agility afforded by the new 70kg lighter aluminium hybrid body means the 2014 C-Class is a massive improvement over the old car.
Can the 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class beat the BMW 3 Series with plenty of clever new technology?
That said, how often do buyers of small saloons take their cars to the very limit? Hardly ever – maybe even never, we reckon. Take this into account, and factor in the Mercedes’ amazing levels of technology cascading down from the S-Class range topper, and the C-Class looks like it’ll give the BMW 3 Series a very good run for its money.
That aluminium hybrid chassis now takes the ali content to around 50%, cutting overall vehicle weight by roughly 100kg. That’s great for performance and efficiency, with fuel consumption up by nearly 20%.
On top of the air suspension, the 2014 C-Class gets a space age air conditioning system – no, really. The car receives satellite signals constantly, so it knows when it’s going into a tunnel. It’ll then turn on the air recirculation automatically to keep the interior atmosphere optimum. It’s complimented by an air ioniser and a perfuming system, just like the S-Class.
Other S-Class derived technology includes Mercedes’ latest touch sensitive user interface; a rotary wheel combines with a touch pad on top, controlling the functions on the dash-mounted tablet.
With multi-touch recognition, it’s very intuitive and means even the least tech-savvy drivers should get to grips with it quickly. The real benefit, however, is it de-clutters the centre console – where there once was a mass of buttons, the C-Class’s dash is now more minimalist with fewer and more expensive looking controls.
The interior in general is a great step up. A high (ish) scuttle and a wraparound feel helped by certain trim inserts mean the C-Class cossets its occupants and is very upmarket. In a sector where image is everything, this is a big plus point.
Mercedes now offers an “Agility Select Switch”, allowing the driver to tailor certain settings on the car, just like Audi and BMW. The C-Class default is Comfort mode, while Eco changes the mapping of the throttle, auto transmission and air conditioning to improve fuel consumption.
Sport and Sport+ are the Ronseal settings, calibrating the car for more aggressive driving and adjusting the air suspension where fitted. It works and allows the Mercedes to swap between more terrier-like responses or a lazier St. Bernard style of motoring. Yes, we did just use a dog metaphor…
MR VERDICT: 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class firmly bats the ball back into BMW’s court. Appealing styling, a high quality interior, myriad clever systems and a much improved driving experience means the Merc gets closer to the 3 Series than ever.
As we said, it can’t ultimately match it dynamically, but in most other areas the C-Class bests the BMW. With prices starting at £26,855, it’s around £300 more expensive than the equivalent 320i SE, but that’s really not that big a difference. Honours even on price, then.
There’ll be a sub-100g/km 1.6-litre C200 Bluetec turbodiesel and a 231hp C300 Bluetec Hybrid coming later in September, as well as 4Matic four-wheel drive, giving buyers even more choice. Even right from launch, however, the 2014 C-Class is a firm favourite of ours.
BMW 3 Series
Engine 2.0-litre petrol, 2.1-litre turbodiesel
Gearbox Six-speed manual, seven-speed automatic
Price from £26,855
Power 170 – 204hp
0-62mph 7.5 – 8.1 seconds
Top speed TBC
MPG 53.3 – 70.6
CO2 103 – 123