What is it?
More a range reconfiguring than a facelift, the 2013 Mercedes C-class line-up now includes models that are cheaper to run for company car buyers, a choice of two Sport models and a new engine for the C180 petrol, while the entry-level trim has been rebadged Executive SE.
The popular Sport trim option has been split into two trim grades, labelled AMG Sport and AMG Sport Plus, the former costing £960 less than previously, while the Sport Plus costs just £35 more than the previous Sport trim. It gets you a striking set of bi-colour 18-inch alloys (the Sport has 17s), a 15mm lower ride height, an AMG boot spoiler, AMG sports seats plus red seatbelts and some red trim stitching for good measure.
What is it like?
We sampled this package on a C220 CDI BlueEfficiency with a paddle-shift seven-speed automatic gearbox and the Dynamic Handling Package, which gets you a Sport mode that quickens throttle response and gearchanges via a button on the dash, besides firming the continuously variable dampers whose inclusion in the all-up price of £500 makes this pack quite good value. Which is not a phrase used that often when it comes to Mercedes-Benz option prices.
The 220 CDI is the best-selling engine in the C-class range, and with good reason. Its combination of near-sporting acceleration, strong economy and low CO2 emissions making it a shrewd choice. Even hooked to an auto it scores 58.9mpg combined, making 50-plus consumption a real possibility, and it’ll break 62mph in 8.1sec.
The motor’s torquey power delivery – the peak surfaces at 1400rpm and is sustained through to 2800rpm – has the curious effect, however, of making this Merc seem no more than brisk as it accelerates, but once on a motorway it seems to climb to an inadvisable 90mph in no time. Cruise control is standard but the more advanced Distronic radar-managed system which comes as part of the £1895 Driver Assistance Package - which includes blindspot monitoring, lane keeping assistance and Pre-Safe Brake - seems a sensible box to tick.
The auto shifts with tremor-free dispatch and the alloy paddle shifts are pleasing to use. And with seven speeds and the relatively narrow power spread typical of a diesel, you’ll be using them often if you select the manual mode. The CDI motor to which the ’box is hooked is pretty subdued, but the light diesel grumbling that you do hear makes this car feel un-AMG-like at times.
What is more sporting, however, is this Benz’s low-roll cornering and eager front-end bite, making it a pretty effective and mildly entertaining device over a snakey section of B-road. Its steering is accurate and provides decent feel when you push the car, despite feeling unpromisingly light at low speeds.
Should I buy one?
The updated C-class is an excellent motorway cruiser with a nice balance between performance and economy and tidy, low roll handling.
It has to be said that its ride is a little less impressive. Though far from uncomfortable, it often turns pattery and lacks the sophisticated pliancy of the latest BMW 3-series. And while we’re moaning about subtle crudities, the buttons in the centre stack are prioritised for left-hand drive and the instruments are a little hard to read, even if their silvery faces appeal. They sit within a dash that’s beginning to seem dated, too.
But the C-class retains a strong appeal that is mildly sharpened by these titivations, even if they’re far from enough to displace the latest 3-series as the best car in this class.
Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI
Price £28,305; 0-62mph 8.1sec; Top speed 143mph; Economy 58.9mpg (combined); CO2 136g/km; Kerb weight 1610kg; Engine type 4 cyls, turbodiesel, 2143cc; Power 168bhp at 3000-4200rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1400-2800rpm; Gearbox 7-spd automatic