Mercedes is hoping to steal a march on its premium rivals when it launches a sub-121g/km car with an automatic gearbox in the upper medium segment.

The 170hp C220 CDI Blue Efficiency auto will be launched at the beginning of 2011 with CO2 of 119g/km, putting it into the 13% benefit-in-kind tax bracket, and with a fuel economy figure of 62.8mpg. The CO2 saving is achieved mainly by the introduction of the firm’s new seven-speed gearbox to the C-class.

“This should be an opportunity for us, we’re doing it to open new markets,” UK boss Wilfred Steffan told BusinessCar. “This could be a big seller – around 80% of C-class sales are autos and now we can offer the best of both worlds.”

There’s no word yet on how the new version will be priced.