From £15,285
Stylish and good to drive, but it's not cheap.

What is it?

Until September, when the C 180 K arrives, the C 200 K is the entry-level C-class.

It comes with a supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine producing 182bhp (up 21bhp on the old C 200 K) and 184lb ft – up 7lb ft.

What’s it like?

Desirable. The new C-class looks compact, powerful and sharp. We prefer the chunkier styling of the Sport model to the classic looks of the Elegance model tested, but either way it’s a handsome machine.

In an attempt to woo both traditional Merc buyers and younger, trendier types, you can have your new C-class two ways – with softer suspension, a traditional multi-bar grille and bonnet-mounted Star, or with sportier suspension and a coupe-like grille.

The interior’s quite sharp, too, with lots of straight edges and a high-quality ambience. Slam the glovebox, for example, and it feels like you’re shutting the door of a safe.

Specification is good. Even the most basic stereo has a Bluetooth function to make your mobile phone hands-free plus a socket for your MP3 player. Climate control is standard and all C-classes get front, side and driver’s knee airbags, ESP, ASR and Merc’s ‘Pre-Safe’ system.

The 200K engine’s really rather good. It feels surprisingly fleet, the five-speed auto ’box (the six-cylinder petrols get a seven-speeder) making the best of the power. 0-62mph takes 8.8sec (8.6 for the six-speed manual).

Only in the mid-range does the engine occasionally seem to struggle with the C-class’s 1490kg bulk, as it kicks down through the gears. However, all of the torque is available from 2800rpm, and the engine revs quite freely.

The cabin is seriously hushed, even at motorway speeds. Sadly, however, there’s not masses of room for those in the back. It’s not cramped per se, but headroom is tight for those over six feet tall (and, indeed, tighter than in a 3-series).

Should I buy one?

It’s not cheap, at £25,312 plus options for the mid-spec C 200 K Elegance (the auto ’box is £1095). But while a similarly specced BMW 320i SE is £23,415, that only has 148bhp and 148lb ft (versus 182 and 184).

The Merc also emits 169g/km of CO2 (187 for the auto), next to the BMW’s 178g/km, so it will cost less in tax for company car users. Residual values are also predicted to be good.

Rory Lumsdon

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