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Premium contender's latest incarnation aims to prove it's what's inside that counts.
LED headlights, leather upholstery, heated seats, 12.3in driver display, 11.9in central display, MBUX infotainment system with wireless smartphone integration, wireless phone charging, blind spot assist, rear view camera.
Petrol mild hybrid:
204hp 1.5, 258hp 2.0
Diesel mild hybrid:
200hp 2.0, 265hp 2.0
Sport, AMG Line, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus
When you first see the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class - the sixth-generation version of Merc's upper-medium model - on the road, it's possible you won't take much notice of it. The exterior design is stylish enough, but it's broadly business as usual, and you'd likely have to be a three-pointed-star aficionado to really find it noteworthy. That is almost certain to change, however, should the driver then invite you to climb aboard and allow you to see the technological tour-de-force that adorns the car's interior.
It's the latest generation version of Mercedes's MBUX infotainment system, making only its second appearance in the brand's model range after debuting in the S-Class luxury saloon. With an 11.9in portrait screen swooping up out of the centre console like a Tate Modern sculpture's depiction of an ocean wave, it's a showstopping piece of design even when it's switched off, but turn it on and the initial impression is backed up by great graphics and a highly responsive touch interface. Among the features of the updated MBUX are upgraded 'Hey Mercedes' voice recognition - though it still struggles with this reviewer's radio station requests - along with a detailed profile system for different drivers, regular over-the-air updates, and also direct integration for music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
In practice, some available features are more useful than others - the augmented satnav, for instance, which displays graphical route instructions on a front-camera view as you approach a junction, just feels like an unwise incitement to look down at the screen while driving along. But the features you don't like can be switched off or ignored, and there's sure to be plenty else of interest.
Away from the screens, interior material quality is also generally very good, with the exception of areas around the centre console feeling a bit more tinny than expected - our test car was in a European spec that doesn't directly correspond to a UK equipment grade, but will perhaps most closely fit the mid-range AMG Line offering.
According to Mercedes, rear-seat passengers have more head, elbow and kneeroom than they did with the old C-Class, and space in the back is indeed good, if not totally mind-blowing. A 455-litre boot in the saloon tested here - an estate is also available - is slightly smaller than those found in the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 saloons.
One of the main fleet interest points when the new C-Class was first announced was the availability of two plug-in hybrid powertrains, but they won't be arriving until the end of this year. Instead, for now, we have to make do with mild hybrids, which comprise the rest of the engine range. The 48V mild hybrid system, which allows the C-Class to coast with the engine off and offers a small power boost when accelerating, is attached to a choice of two petrol or two diesel engines. We tried the most powerful diesel and found it highly impressive, delivering strong acceleration throughout the rev range and also offering very good refinement.
In corners, the C-Class stayed nicely flat and had plenty of traction, but was just a bit lacking in driver involvement, though it should be noted our left-hand drive test car was fitted with four-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering, neither of which will be offered in the UK.
Still, with the aforementioned refinement the C-Class is at its best as a cruiser, which will probably be most drivers' priority, with the suspension delivering a generally comfortable and compliant ride, although with a hint of a slightly harsher edge than expected.
With full UK specs yet to be revealed at the time of going to press, we'll have to wait to see the expected cost figures to reach a full verdict on the C-Class, and see how it compares with its old rivals from BMW and Audi. However, it's made a fundamentally solid first impression - and that Star Trek interior could be a major trump card when it comes to working its way into drivers' hearts.