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2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class – first drive

Mercedes-Benz has just released their sixth-generation C-Class and with it their best selling Sedan has been significantly overhauled. It’s bigger than before, sleeker in style, comes with a full range of mild-hybrid enhanced powertrains and a suite of technical goodies that are straight out of their flagship limo S-Class. In fact, it sounded so good that we had to take it for a spin and review while in the UK.

The C-Class was first introduced around 1994 as a small (smallest in the range back then) executive sedan and quickly became the brand’s best seller. It offered Mercedes luxury and refinement in a more compact and (arguably) more affordable package and as such, made the 3-pointed star that much more accessible. So accessible In fact, that millions of them have been sold over its five previous generations.

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

The new sixth-generation C-Class not only brings with it over twenty-five years of sales experience and adulation but it is also fully dialed in with other members of the family. Taking inspiration from the likes of the A-Class, CLA, CLS and E-Class, it has shorter overhangs front and rear, a more angular front end and new light-cluster designs. What’s more, the bonnet features the twin power-bulges as seen on the new E-Class too.

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

Proportionally the 2021 C-Class remains very familiar, however, the roofline appears lower, more energised, more ‘in-motion’ and its character lines have been minimised in order to accentuate its shoulder line. 

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

Despite sitting on a reworked version of the previous model’s Modular Rear Architecture (MRA) platform, the new C-Class has a longer wheelbase (+25mm) and is longer overall by an extra 65mm, this in turn offers more passenger comfort although still not as roomy as the E or S classes.

As with all Mercedes models, the new A-shaped grille design differs depending on the trim level, with higher-specification cars gaining added chrome and bling, my glorious blue review model was the 220d (we’re not getting the diesel engine in NZ) AMG Line Premium, so came with an open 3-pointed star mesh behind a ‘single wing’ Mercedes logo. Added to this, 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloy wheels which looked amazing but gave me huge amounts of ‘kerb rash’ fear, AMG body-styling, privacy glass, LED lights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus and twin chrome exhaust pipes.

The exterior improvements look really good but get ready, the interior is even better. 

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

I recently reviewed the new S-Class and was blown away by the technology that it possessed. Everything from augmented reality navigation to wing mirrors that know when you’re looking at them. And the new C-Class comes with virtually all of this amazing tech too.

Instrument cluster

The instrument cluster is a 12.3-inch digital screen that seems endless in its personalisation and configuration. If you want simple ‘just the facts’ you can, or maybe you want a sci-fi looking 3D warp warp look in front of you, the choice is yours. Then there’s the huge, free floating, high-resolution 11.9-inch portrait-style central media display complete with the latest (2nd) generation MBUX media system and ‘Hey Mercedes’ virtual assistant. What it has on offer in terms of apps and driver easing aids are way too many to list but some of the highlights include augmented reality navigation that integrates with the outside cameras and superimposes street signs, Parking package with 360° camera, live music streaming and Apple/Android connectivity. It’s slightly angled towards the driver too, making it clear to view and simple to access. 

Steering wheel

While on the subject of simple access, my C-Class came with a multifunction sports steering wheel finished in nappa leather (just like the rest of the furniture). It has a bi-plane look about it with thumb access to both screens and adaptive cruise control.

All models have the parking package, with a reversing camera, along with heated front seats and wireless smartphone charging and my model also had the Driving Assistance Package Plus with active steering assist, and advanced Active Distance Assist function which does mess with the brakes a bit, traffic sign assist, lane assist and other Mercedes advanced driving aids – there is a lot going on in this ‘junior’ executive saloon.

I won’t dwell too much on what was under the bonnet as my C-Class came with a 2L four-cylinder diesel engine (200hp/440 Nm) and an ISG (integrated starter generator) that produces an additional 20hp and 200Nm. I believe NZ will be getting the petrol-only C200 (1.5L 204hp/300Nm) and C300 (258hp/400Nm + 20hp/200Nm available from the ISG). Whatever we get, all engines feature the 48v mild-hybrid ISG technology. 

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

I spent the whole weekend behind the wheel of the new C-Class and felt very special indeed, driving around the rough streets of Swindon (enjoying the raised speed bumps and multiple potholes) and out in the countryside towards Hungerford and Newbury with its tree-lined avenues and stunning old stone houses. 

It’s as quiet as a churchmouse on the road and (in comfort) that mouse must be wearing slippers as its revised front four-link and rear multi-link suspension offers a silky smooth ride. Its low front valance does mean you have to approach the aforementioned speed bumps with care but when free of the urban jungle (and in Sport) the firm, low ride is both agile and fun – yes even for a diesel.

The 48V belt-integrated starter generator allows the motor to ‘glide’ when not pushing down hard on the accelerator and offers extra boost when you are, the start-stop process at the lights or junctions is seamless, however, the new braking system that anticipates vehicle’s movements ahead takes a bit of getting used to. 

The nine-speed automatic gearbox is now standard across all models and I for one wouldn’t grumble at that, it’s faultless in choosing the right gear at the right time and incredibly hard to surprise. 

Floating door handle

In so many ways the new C-Class is a bite-sized S-Class, with a sense of luxury, refinement and groundbreaking tech that’s impossible to miss. From its floating door handles and floating infotainment screen to its jet-engine inspired air vents and high-gloss pinhead-style dash it’s truly a plethora of plushness. But it’s also ‘daily driver’ practical, it’s roomy enough for the family and compact enough to navigate even the narrowest of British side streets. Simply put, the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is seriously next level.

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

The new-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class is poised to reinforce its leading position as the most advanced vehicle in its segment by showcasing a new progressive interior and sporty exterior design, electrified engine, innovative comfort features and groundbreaking technology. Taking cues from the all-new flagship S-Class, the C-Class takes comfort, safety and the overall driver and passenger experience to a new level. 

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