It’s to this C-Class, that aspiring middle management executives will turn first in their search for something different from – and possibly a bit nicer than – their usual vehicle choices. There’s certainly more than enough reason for them to seriously consider this car. It’s slightly bigger, a lot more advanced and boasts what now universally seems to be acknowledged as the nicest cabin you can have in this kind of model. But more important than all of that is the way an advanced hybrid aluminium structure has brought the significant weight savings which have made possible the lowest running costs in the segment. This then, is the C-Class that others always feared Mercedes would build.
There are all kinds of reasons why this car is a more involving thing to drive than its predecessor. First and foremost, it really ought to be sharper, thanks to the fact that its structure now contains five times more aluminium than before. That, after all, takes over 100kgs from this fourth generation model’s total kerb weight and gives it a lower centre of gravity. Secondly, as a driver, you’ve all the necessary tools to make the most of this newfound appetite for corners, thanks to freshly-developed aluminium-fashioned rear wheel drive architecture.
You don’t really have to know very much about cars to know what this is. And if you know the Mercedes model range beyond this C-Class, it’s probably fairly obvious where the inspiration for this fourth generation design came from. By and large, customers come to this car seeking a scaled-down version of the brand’s S-Class luxury limo and the long bonnet, the set-back passenger compartment and the short overhangs are just a few of the things delivering exactly that. The result might not please those who’ve just spent their lottery winnings on a top S-Class model but buyers browsing in this car’s less exalted market segment will surely see it as a very desirable-looking thing indeed.
With a shapely silhouette you quickly appreciate the painstaking attention to detail that’s gone into things like the wafer-thin shutlines and the intricately formed jewel-like headlamps with their optional LED illumination. There’s real classic elegance here too, the ‘Dropping Line’ – that descends discreetly from the front to a rear section giving the rear end of the car a power-packed look that’s emphasised by softly sculptured LED rear tail lights. More important than all of this though, is of course what sits beneath the shapely bodywork – specifically a structure with an aluminium content which has risen massively, from 10% to nearly 50%, resulting in an overall weight-saving of more than 100kg.
One of Mercedes’ slogans for this car is that it sits ‘one class higher’ and that’s true here not only in terms of style but, arguably, also in terms of size. Almost everything is, after all, a little larger than it was before. Partly that’s because the brand’s introduction of their only slightly smaller CLA-Class four-door coupe model has given this ‘C’ licence to grow a little within the bounds of what was possible before it intruded into Executive-sized E-Class territory - something the designers only just avoided. Even as it is, this car’s extra 95mm of length and extra 40mm of width make it as spacious inside as E-Class model from the late Nineties.
The Three Pointed Star in this sector is more affordable than ever before. So affordable in fact, that taking the high residuals into account, C-Class ownership over longer periods could now end up costing you less than something much more mundane.
Don’t get me wrong – Mercedes still has work to do with this car, primarily in terms of diesel engine refinement. But on the evidence of this model, the signs are that its rivals are going to have to up their game.