Model: Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI Sport Estate automatic
Engine: 2.15 litre diesel
Performance: 137 mph, 0-62mph in 8.5 secs, 41.5 mpg
Worth considering: Alfa Romeo 159 estate, Audi A4Avant, BMW 3 series Touring
This week our reader-testers try out the estate version of the latest Mercedes C-Class. When we tested the saloon counterpart of this car last year, it impressed with its handsomely chunky styling; not to put too fine a point on it, it looked like it should come off best in any sort of tangle with anything else, which is just the way a proper Merc should look.
The alterations required to produce the estate have been successful too, and Mercedes has managed to make the load space larger and more usefully shaped than before.
Our test car this time was the "Sport" variant, which features wide wheels and a body kit designed by Mercedes' sporting arm, AMG. Normally, this sort of thing doesn't do a Merc any favours, but I have to admit that it works well here, even allowing for the mounting of the three-pointed star in the centre of the grille instead of on the bonnet, a change normally associated with the tackiest of after-market Merc makeovers.
One of the reasons it works, of course, is that now, even the least powerful C-Class models provide the sort of agility and performance required to match those aggressive looks – although they don't always sound especially exciting as they go about their work.
So the new C-Class estate is a great all-rounder but it still gives away a few points to its rivals.
BMW has been making a series of technical changes under its Efficient Dynamics programme, which have given its cars an edge over competitors in terms of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions – and therefore an advantage in the battle for tax-conscious company car buyers. And the interior of this latest C-Class, while it is an improvement on that of its predecessor, still lags behind the best that Audi has to offer; that's especially true in the case of the "Sport" variant, which does away with traditional Mercedes touches such as the wood dashboard trim.
In all, the new C Class estate is a good effort – but with a few tweaks, it could be better still.
April Brown, 37
Journalist & Student, Birmingham
Usual car: Acura MDX
This Merc with its AMG kit is quite stylish. The inside, though, is understated in comparison. I'd have to bond with its navigation/phone/radio/dvd for some time before being comfortable with it. The cruise control stick is a bit close to the turn signal: I kept my speed steady but never let anyone know where I was going. I give high marks for the ride and handling as it tackled unruly country roads and motorways with ease. The supportive seats were brilliant for a long ride and the diesel engine came to life when called upon. There is enough room to make camp in the back or haul a family and its necessities around and the faux leather seats would make either more practical.
Steve Candler, 52, Daniel, 13, Gabriel Candler, 10
Kings Sutton, Nurse Director
Usual car: Honda Civic 2.2 ctdi, hatchback
I've never driven a Mercedes and, though I was concerned I might be disappointed, I was not. It was a very pleasing drive. It's a good looking car, though I did miss the Mercedes star on the bonnet, and a solid, smooth and comfortable drive, suspension well balanced – firm but not hard. I liked the "sports" mode – it gave a noticeable bite and a real growl as the revs picked up. Daniel and Gabriel had plenty of space in the back; Gabriel was impressed with the storage and cup holders in the arm rest. Daniel liked the button to bring down the rear door. Good family car, particularly if you have a dog (Gabriel's comment!).
Damien Keegan, 33
Development Manager, Redditch
Usual car: Audi A4 2.0 TDi S-Line Avant
The car looked stunning in deep red and I was eager to get behind the wheel. Having previously owned a C-Class, I was disappointed by the interior, which has no place in any £32,000 car, never mind a Merc! I could get fingertips into panel gaps, the dashboard looked cheap and scruffy and that plastic "leather" is just not good enough to get me out of my A4. Handling is terminal understeer, although the ride is refined on the 17" wheels. Sluggish, heavy and married to a clattery diesel engine with an antiquated five-speed auto, it's not sharp enough. When my new car is ordered later this year, I won't be knocking on a Mercedes dealer's door.
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