This Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the W204, if you’re keeping tabs on the model designations.

The design is solidly serious and, despite some depressing complications, the third generation is arguably the best buy of all.

It’s possible to be bewildered by the number of Cs to choose from. You can refine it down to the C220 CDI, which is all the compact business Mercedes-Benz that anyone really needs. It delivers up to 68mpg on a lucky day. However, the petrols are properly economical too: the C180 will do 40mpg all day long, and they’re all pretty future-proof.

There’s also the completely mad V8-engined C63 AMG, which ended up with 500bhp, if you want to show off. Then again, just fi nding a small diesel or petrol with an AMG bodykit and a set of black alloys would fool most onlookers.

There were a couple of revamps that explain today’s price spikes. In 2011, the car was restyled a bit inside and out, but mostly it was about turbochargers replacing superchargers on the petrols, plus the addition of engine stop-start technology. And in 2013, new trims were introduced, such as AMG Sport and AMG Sport Plus.

Rather worryingly, the instruments can go expensively blank and the Comand system can play up, so make sure the dashboard still does its stuff.

Although it’s not as corrosion-friendly as previous C-Classes, it’s still important to check around the edge of the bootlid and handle. Also check for bubbles around the wheel arches and look for flaking alloys while you’re down there.

As with most modern cars, the door mirrors cost a lot to replace, but the repeater units can act up, which is a few-hundred-quid’s chip against the seller.

Otherwise, failing fuel injectors in diesels and broken transmission valves in automatics are the big-ticket repairs.

Ones we found