The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is usually the benchmark compact luxury sedan, the same way its larger S-Class stablemate is a technology benchmark, the Porsche 911 a sports car benchmark, or the VW Golf a mainstream passenger car benchmark.
So when a new one launches, it’s kind of a big deal.
Earlier in 2022 the latest fifth-generation model – dubbed W206 – finally arrived in Australia having already arrived in Europe the year prior. It was a much-needed overhaul to reinstate the C-Class as a leader in the segment.
The sedan range has been pared back somewhat, currently offering just C200 and C300 variants, with the hotter AMG C43 due early in 2023, and the as-yet un-revealed AMG C63 plug-in performance halo to follow after that.
Here on test we have the most affordable new C-Class, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C200. It’s about $12,000 dearer than its predecessor, which is not an insignificant amount of money irrespective of the added equipment.
Can the base C-Class justify its premium over its predecessor as well as its rivals?
The C200 is the most affordable variant in the new-generation C-Class line-up, priced from $78,900 plus on-road costs.
It’s quite a bit up on the previous generation, around $12,000 in fact, though the local arm says the new model comes with about $10,000 of extra equipment in addition to the engineering developments under the skin.
Our test car was loaded with options too, which brought the as-tested price to $88,870 plus on-roads (incl. LCT). Eesh.
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan pricing:
- Mercedes-Benz C200: $78,900
- Mercedes-Benz C300: $89,590
Prices exclude on-road costs
Key rivals include:
Prices exclude on-road costs
It’s hard not to get in and involuntarily say “wow”.
The new C-Class impresses straight away with its big screens and sweeping dash design, which certainly feels a lot more modern than its predecessor. Perceived build quality feels like a step up too, though there’s a lot of finger print-prone gloss black surfaces and some harder, scratchier materials used lower down in the cabin.
Ahead of the driver is Mercedes-Benz’s latest steering wheel design with double-decker touch-capacitive spokes and a chunky, perforated Nappa leather rim. It really does feel special.
With that said the new controls may take a bit of getting used to. As I found in my review of the updated AMG E53 as well as the AMG C43 overseas, the funny shape and small control area means you may not always find these controls to be consistently accurate, and at times it’s just plain annoying.
For example adjusting the cruise control requires a diagonal swipe on a curved surface, so I was regularly going up or down by too many digits or just plain pressing the wrong thing. After some time you’d probably warm to it, though.
Behind the steering wheel is a new free-standing 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, with a familiar Mercedes look at feel that we’ve seen in other models. Being MBUX 2.0 there’s new layouts and features that debuted in the S-Class.
As we’ve come to expect from the Three-Pointed Star, graphics are crisp, refresh rates are slick and there’s plenty of configurability without feeling like a mini-me of an Audi virtual cockpit – it has its own personality.
Comfort up front is pretty good thanks to the well-bolstered, supportive front sports seats that come as standard with electric adjustment (including lumbar), though the memory presets you see here form part of the optional Vision Package.
I also found the footwell to be unusually tight, with my left foot too large to sit on the foot rest without wedging against the plastic lining.
Mercedes has been working hard to minimise the switches and buttons it puts in its cabins, and one area this is immediately apparent is the door-mounted seat controls. The buttons don’t move in the direction you press them anymore, rather a touch sensor which can be a little trippy the first few times you use them.
It’s a similar story for the row of buttons below the touchscreen, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Storage up front is a big improvement over the old car, finally thanks to wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto you can fit a larger smartphone into the wireless charging tray without having to clutter it with wires. There’s two adjustable cupholders underneath a damped lid as well as a slot for keys and wallets.
Further back there’s a deep centre console cubby that hides an additional USB-C port if you prefer to charge your phone the old-school way.
The pièce de résistance is the stunning 11.9-inch portrait oriented touchscreen infotainment system, which juts out of the centre console and dashboard fascia as if Mercedes has bonded an iPad Pro to the C-Class’s interior.
Running the new MBUX 2.0 interface, the new system supports over-the-air (OTA) software updates and even features a fingerprint scanner to unlock – much like we’re used to in smartphones.
Being an evolution of the first MBUX, the overall look and feel is familiar but with a larger display and integrated climate controls. It all works pretty well, and you could spend hours flicking through all the menus and settings – I made one whole TikTok video for the different ambient lighting themes alone.
Our test vehicle’s high-spec version of this infotainment system brings augmented reality (AR) navigation as well, which uses the vehicle’s front camera to project navigation prompts and street names onto a live video feed.
It’s a really cool, if novel function that has made a step up over the previous MBUX system thanks to the larger display and more sophisticated AR animations. Keep in mind also, this is the first C-Class with any form of MBUX.
Despite the medium tag, the premium mid-size passenger class has never been a standout for rear practicality.
That said, the C-Class offers more room than its predecessor, partly thanks to an additional 25mm of wheelbase. At 6’1 I fit behind my driving position just fine, but if you want more luxurious accommodation you’re better off looking at an E-Class.
Rear air vents, a fold-down armrest with cupholders, rear map pockets and bottle holders in the door are standard fare, though it’s disappointing a third zone of climate control isn’t available on non-AMG C-Class models locally.
Kids will be fine back there, particularly if they’re in car seats. There’s ISOFIX anchor points for both outboard seating positions, and top-tether points across all three rear pews.
The C-Class Sedan offers 455 litres of boot capacity, which is the same as the previous model.
Unfortunately the C-Class Estate has been culled from the Australian line-up for this new generation, meaning if you like the C-Class look and feel but want more space for the family’s luggage, you’ll have to wait for the new GLC which isn’t due to hit local showrooms until the first half of 2023.
Like the previous model the new C-Class’s chunky rear bumper makes for a fairly high load lip, but the boot is pretty wide and square.
As the C-Class gets run-flat tyres across the range, there’s no spare wheel under the boot floor. Vehicles fitted with the 19-inch AMG alloy wheels (as tested) get the brand’s TIREFIT repair kit which includes an air compressor as well.
Power in the C200 comes from a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, teamed with a 48V mild-hybrid system which the company dubs EQ Boost – consisting of an integrated starter-generator and lithium battery.
Outputs are rated at 150kW (5800-6100rpm) and 300Nm (1800-4000rpm), while drive is sent to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The C200 claims to dash from 0-100 in 7.3 seconds, while fuel consumption is officially rated at 6.9L/100km.
Mercedes-Benz requires 98 RON for the C200’s 66-litre fuel tank, and emissions are rated at 157g/km of CO2.
While a 1.5-litre petrol engine doesn’t sound like it’d cut it for a mid-sized, premium vehicle, the C200’s drivetrain actually impresses by punching above its weight in most areas.
With 300Nm on tap from 1800rpm, the C200 is well-suited to everyday driving and has more than enough punch in reserve to get up to freeway speeds or overtake. Just bear in mind the 1.5-litre turbo gets a little gruff under load.
The bulk of our time with the C200 was spent driving to and from the office as well as typical weekend activities driving in a mix of urban and highway roads.
Performance off the line is decent, with the 48V mild-hybrid system helping to smooth out the idle stop/start system when coming to a halt or setting off from the lights. As you decelerate, it’ll switch the engine off at up to 20km/h, and we found it pretty darn seamless and isolated from the cabin.
However, at times we found the nine-speed automatic transmission to be a little clunky, mainly when you get back on the accelerator after slowing down to about 20-30km/h. It’s as if the automatic transmission can’t figure out whether it should be in gear 2 or gear 3, and at times can clunk or jerk into said ratio.
The C-Class is otherwise quite a refined and relaxed sedan to drive. Despite the AMG Line styling there doesn’t seem to be any ambitious focus on dynamics as we’ve seen in this segment before, so it does the luxury sedan thing quite well.
I enjoyed the almost wafty ride quality in its Comfort setting, and the light, fluid steering which makes the C200 a very easy thing to live with. Decent insulation from road and wind noise – despite the run-flat tyres and larger wheels – only added to this.
Conversely, this is not the most engaging luxury sedan to drive, and even in its firmer, sportier settings cannot match the likes of the Alfa Romeo Giulia or BMW 3 Series from a dynamic standpoint. Whether this is a deal-breaker or selling point is really down to your personal preference.
The C200’s more basic driver assistance suite works well, though we were left wanting for the full catalog of features given the base model’s more premium price positioning and the fact that this is a Mercedes-Benz after all.
Standard adaptive cruise control and a basic lane-keep assist are handy inclusions on the freeway, as is blind-spot monitoring. It’s all pretty easy to engage and use in daily life, though as noted earlier adjusting the cruise control speed and following distance with those new touch-capacitive spokes can be a little fiddly.
If you want features like junction AEB, a proper highway driving assistant, lane change assistance and a traffic jam assistant, you’re going to have to spend another $10,000 over base pricing for the C200, as Mercedes-Benz doesn’t even offer the enhanced suite as a cost option for the C200.
That’s a pretty disappointing oversight, given most brands these days either include a fulsome assistance portfolio as standard or offer extended functions as an option. Mercedes-Benz’s pitch as a technology pioneer likewise doesn’t fit well with not having these features available on all grades.
- 18-inch Tantalite Grey five-spoke alloy wheels
- AMG Line grille insert
- AMG body styling
- Electric, heated, folding side mirrors
- LED headlights
- Automatic high-beam
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- 11.9-inch MBUX portrait-oriented touchscreen
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Satellite navigation
- Fingerprint scanner for driver profiles
- Mercedes me Connect app functionality
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Nappa leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Artico leatherette upholstery
- Powered boot closing
- Electric front sports seats with four-way lumbar support
- AMG Line interior trim
- AMG floor mats
- 64-colour ambient lighting
- Illuminated front door sill with ‘Mercedes-Benz’ lettering
- Keyless entry and start
- Dual-zone climate control
- Dynamic Select system with four selectable driving modes
Sport Package ($1307, as tested) adds:
- 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloys
- Run-flat tyres
- Rear privacy glass
Vision Package ($3154, as tested) adds:
- Premium Package
- Keyless entry
- 360-degree cameras
- MBUX Navigation Premium
- MBUX AR navigation
- Powered front seats with memory
- Heated front seats
- Panoramic sliding sunroof
- Head-up display
- Traffic Sign Assist
Options (as tested)
- Anthracite wood trim – $538
- Burmester 3D premium audio – $1615
The C-Class wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP tests in 2022.
It scored 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child occupant protection, 80 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 84 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- 10 airbags incl. front-centre airbag
- AEB with Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Active Parking Assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind-spot monitoring with Exit Warning
- Driver attention monitoring
- Lane-keep assist (steering assist)
- Active bonnet
- AEB junction assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Blind-spot assist
- Lane change assist
- Lane following assist
- Evasive steering assist
- Side-impact anticipation, protection system
- Traffic sign assist
It’s disappointing the Driving Assistance Package Plus is exclusive to the C300 in Australia and not available as an option on the C200, meaning you cannot have the base engine variant with the brand’s full suite of assistance features.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class range is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Mercedes-Benz offers a three-, four- and five-year servicing plan for the C-Class and service intervals are 12 months or 25,000km, whichever comes first.
- Three services: $2650
- Four services: $3600
- Five services: $5200
As for real-world fuel consumption, our test car was showing an indicated figure of 8.2L/100km after 420km of mixed driving. It’s decent if not standout, given the brand’s thrifty 6.9L/100km claim.
The new-generation C-Class is as much a baby S-Class as it’s ever been, with a renewed focus on comfort, refinement, technology and interior presentation.
It’s a long-needed upgrade to keep it fresh against its BMW 3 Series arch rival, as well as competitors like the Audi A4 and Volvo S60.
While it’s a comfortable and refined luxury sedan, the entry-level C200 is mighty expensive compared not just its predecessor but also the competition, and isn’t available with a full catalogue of luxury and technology features either.
Our test vehicle’s near-$90,000 sticker price is a tall ask, and that sort of cash will almost buy you performance versions of rival models, or even an entry-level E-Class.
There’s still plenty to like though, and the C200’s 1.5-litre engine is more than enough motor for a vehicle like this despite early doubts. Fans of the Benz brand will no doubt be swayed purely by the fact it’s a Mercedes too.
My money would be either on the no-cost-option C200 Edition C package; which does without the AMG appointments for a more understated look and not ticking any other option boxes, or stepping up to the C300 for the full tech suite.
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