Meet the new C-class. It's sportier to look at, more spacious inside and packs more powerful engines. Crucially, Mercedes says it's sportier to drive, in an attempt to tackle the BMW 3-series head on.
The new C-class takes on a family look that's reminiscent of the larger S-class. It's also bigger, putting on 55mm in length at 4581mm, 42mm in width at 1770mm and 42mm in height at 1448mm. Top-of-the-line Avantgarde models get a coupe-like grille with an oversized three-pointed star, while Classic or mid-range Elegance models retain the traditional three-pointed star atop the bonnet.
The changes inside are as radical as those outside. The dashboard has a new design that combines cues from the S-class together with a high-mounted monitor that folds away when not in use. It works via a rotary control placed between the front seats. The bigger body makes for increased shoulder room (40mm more up front and 20mm more in the rear, plus a little extra rear legroom. Despite the new car’s shorter rear overhang, boot space has also risen by 20 litres to 475 litres.
Safety kit is comprehensive: seven airbags are standard including two twin-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger, a kneebag for the driver, two sidebags in the front seat backs and two curtain-style airbags in the roof. Buyers can also add side airbags in the rear and Mercedes' Pre-Safe system.
Longer, wider, bolder
To accommodate the new C-class’s larger body, Mercedes has comprehensively re-engineered its entry-level saloon’s chassis. The wheelbase is 45mm longer, and the track is 44mm wider up front and 76mm at the rear. This larger footprint helps to improve weight distribution, shifting more of it rearwards than ever before – something that should benefit handling and make it more entertaining to drive.
The suspension retains the same three-link MacPherson strut (front) and five-link (rear) design but has been completely overhauled with new lightweight components, altered geometry and variable-rate dampers. Further changes have been concentrated on the rack-and-pinion steering, which now operates with a more direct ratio.