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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

The model we’re concentrating on here is the C 220 d, because its likely to be among the more popular choices in the UK.

There are two things of note here: the amount of performance that the 168bhp C 220 d offers, and the manner in which it offers it.

Mercedes really needs to ensure that its new diesel engines are as quiet as possible

First things first, then, and the raw performance figures: the C 220 d is marginally slower to 60mph than the (manual, admittedly) BMW 320d Sport that we tested previously. The BMW managed the sprint in 7.7sec to the Merc’s 8.1sec.

Although the fitment of a seven-speed automatic transmission to the variant we tested, which understandably doesn’t have any nonsense like launch control, is a significant factor in that difference, the pattern is repeated in the arguably more relevant 30-70mph through-the-gears time: BMW 7.4sec, Mercedes 8.1sec.

The Mercedes has a slight advantage in fourth gear – 10.5sec versus 10.8sec – but, by and large, the BMW shades it. Still, the C-Class feels perky enough, with its best work done through the mid-range, which is okay because the automatic transmission is reluctant to shift into higher gears too early.

It’s sometimes recalcitrant if you’ve asked it for a downshift into the higher echelons of a lower gear’s rev range, too. Little change there, then, which means that, we suspect, most owners will never trouble the manual override on the auto ’box.

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What the gearbox does mean, however, is that the C-Class is a quieter car than the BMW. Actually, it’s quieter even at idle, where its 44dB clatter is 4dB less than the BMW’s, and it’s a couple of decibels quieter at other speeds.

Partly that’s because the auto doesn’t let the revs stray too far out of their comfort zone if it can help it, and partly it’s just because it’s generally more hushed. The ride’s pretty quiet, too, on the Airmatic suspension, but we’ll come to that in a second.