The quality of its interiors, or perceived lack thereof relative to times gone by, has been the source of many a stick with which Mercedes has been beaten over the head in recent years. But if you want proof that Mercedes has learned the lesson of the late 20th century and applied it not only to its big executive and luxury cars but also to its more family-orientated transport, the C-Class provides it in spades.

The plastics are almost uniformly soft and evenly textured and the leather feels thick and designed to last. Everything that looks like metal really is metal and the design of the dashboard offers the sheer functionality of a BMW with a sizeable slice of the style you’d expect from an Audi.

Steve Sutcliffe

The speedo needle sweeps around the exterior of the gauge only; the trip computer sits in the middle

But there are problems in here: not all will like the steering wheel stalks, with a main arm that controls everything from the wipers to the indicators and which can be too easily confused with the nearby cruise control stalk. Nor will the italicised numbers on the dials be to everyone’s taste.

Even so, no one’s going to quibble with quite the best driving position in the class, offering unrivalled amounts of rearward seat travel and similarly generous reach control for the wheel. Mercedes' Comand sat-nav system is now slightly feeling its age relative to BMW’s latest iDrive configuration, but it’s still one of the best you can buy.

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Those not blessed with a front seat view may be rather less chuffed about life on board a C-Class. Rear room is never generous in cars of this class because all the major players have larger, more profitable models that they’d rather sell you instead if back seat accomodation is a primary buying criteria, but the C-Class now offers a little less room for rear seat passengers than the BMW 3 Series.

As for luggage space, both the saloon and estate offer boots of decent shape and proportion but which are near-identical in size to those of rival models, even seats-down in estate form. In this regard the C-Class takes an entirely different approach to its vast E-Class sister model, whose unrivalled carrying capacity in estate form is a key USP.

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