It’s never poor, but the acceleration of Mercedes' base C 200 CDI (which uses the same 2179cc motor as found in the C 200 and C 250) is never better than adequate.

For most people most of the time, however, the C 220 CDI will provide all the shove they need and quite a bit more besides. Six-speed manual transmissions are available with the lower-powered diesels and the C180 petrol model, but now the seven-speed automatic is available throughout the range (early in this generation automatic C-Classes had just five gears, which was an almost deal-busting shortcoming), it’s the clear choice for this car. So equipped, the best-selling C 220 CDI hits 62mph from rest in just 8.1sec and, given space and the legal freedom to do so, will proceed directly to 143mph.

The AMG version offers up supercar-like performance

Other engines are less satisfying. The C 250 CDI does offer a substantial performance upgrade but you have to bear in mind it will be of use to you only when road conditions allow; by contrast, the extra noise it makes and the lack of resulting refinement will be with you every time you drive it.

Similarly, the C 350 CDI makes attractive reading on paper and does bless the C-class with an unlikely amount of shove, but as we shall see in a later section, there’s a price to be paid at the pumps, too. It’s hard, too, to make the case for the petrol engines in the UK, save for those buyers who cover very low mileages and who won't be able to recoup the additional cost of the diesel-powered cars through the pump or better residuals. These four-cylinder petrol engines are effective and, of their type, quite frugal, but for almost all, diesel is better.

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As for the AMG version, it retains the older 6.2-litre V8 engine long since eschewed by bigger AMGs in favour of the newer, more punchy and more frugal 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8. Which means that if you like the old engine with its so-sharp snarl and ferocious top end, in can now only be found in the C-Class and, for rather more money, the SLS.

It’s a wonderfully characterful motor but, despite all its vast capacity, it needs revs to give its best and is terrifyingly thirsty. The next generation C-Class will have the normally aspirated version of the newer 5.5-litre motor, already used under the bonnet of the SLK.

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