Growing 80mm between the axles and almost 100mm overall, the new C-class offers 45mm more second-row legroom than its predecessor. Our test car still felt a bit smaller in the back than the roomiest cars in the class, but without the optional panoramic sunroof it’d be fine for all but the very tallest adults.
Space up front is excellent, and the boot is well packaged. It offers flat sides, a flat, wide loading lip and a handy storage compartment for loose items.
Performance, ride and handling are very much as we found them in the C-Class saloon: suitably laid back and more than respectable in every case, but generally not outstanding.
Despite some background noise, the cabin’s very well isolated from what’s going on under the bonnet, although the combination of 19in alloy wheels and air suspension on our test car made for more road roar than is ideal.
Mid-range urge is definitely better from the C 250 than the lesser C 220 diesel, and there seems little refinement penalty from choosing the more powerful of the two – something you’d never have said of the previous-generation C-Class.
With less than £3k between a C 220 and C 250, more than half of that premium offset against a standard automatic gearbox on the latter, and no gain on economy or emissions for choosing the former in automatic form, the C 250 instinctively seems better value.
The transmission selects ratios intelligently and shifts smoothly at all times, though it could be quicker in manual mode. Pedal response is good and the power delivery – while biased for that gutsy mid-range – is flexible enough.
Air suspension makes for a very comfortable motorway ride. The C-Class has a cushioned gait at high speed and, though always eddying around on its suspension ever so slightly, the Mercedes’ a calming place in which to cover distance.
But the car doesn’t have the deft, subtle body or wheel control of steel-sprung ‘Sport’-spec cars; occasionally its air suspension is caught out by a sudden ridge, which thumps through into the cabin and disturbs the ride.
Steel sprung C-Classes, in our experience, also steer with a shade more precision and feel than their air-sprung counterparts – particularly those without Mercedes' troubling, artificial-feeling ‘Direct-Steer Sport’ extra-direct variable-ratio steering rack, which is certainly to be avoided.