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Mercedes C-Class buying guide

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Mercedes C-Class buying guide
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Mercedes launched the third-generation C-Class in 2007. Known internally as the W204, it was — as ever — pitched as a rival to the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Once again, Mercedes stuck to its traditional strengths with its latest compact executive car — namely, fairly conservative styling and a focus on comfort and refinement rather than out and out handling fun. So while a 3 Series is more daring to look at and will be more entertaining from behind the wheel, the C-Class will get you to your destination feeling fresher and more relaxed. 
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The Mercedes C-Class

Crucially, the W204 also brought a significant improvement in quality inside, answering criticism of the previous model’s lacklustre finish. This was a car worthy of the Mercedes badge again.
The Mk3 C-Class was face-lifted in 2011, with new looks and tweaks under the skin to improve efficiency. And as the car has been replaced by an all-new Mk4 model this year, second-hand prices are tumbling. Stuart Morton from Auto Express talks you through what to look for. 
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Which one to buy?

Entry-level C180 and C200 Kompressor models featured 1.8-litre petrol engines, plus there were 201bhp C250 and 268bhp V6 C350 petrol models. However, in a market dominated by company car users, most C-Classes were diesels.
The 134bhp C200 CDI, 168bhp C220 CDI and 201bhp C250 CDI used the same 2.1-litre four-cylinder to mix decent pace with strong efficiency — they claimed up to 69mpg and emissions as low as 125g/km. This diesel can be a bit rough when pushed, so if you have a big budget, the silky smooth 3.0-litre V6 C350 CDI still promises 48mpg. Most buyers also went for the excellent optional seven-speed automatic gearbox, as it’s smoother and more pleasant to use than Mercedes’ vague six-speed manual.
At launch, there was a choice of SE and Elegance models featuring a traditional Mercedes grille, with the three-pointed star on top, while top-spec Sport versions had a more purposeful nose, with the badge in the centre of the grille. Sport models still stand out on the road now, although they also have slightly firmer suspension that combines with bigger wheels to impact ride quality. 
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The C-Class saloon provides plenty of space for driver and passengers, while its 475-litre boot is right up there with the BMW 3 Series. A split/fold rear seat was only available as an option, but if you need more load space, there’s a C-Class Estate. This has a class-leading 485-litre load area that expands to 1,500 litres, along with useful hooks and nets and an additional 12V socket. The Estate is available in the same specs and with the same engines as the four-door.
Buyers who were more interested in performance than practicality could also get their hands on a storming 457bhp 6.2-litre V8 C63 AMG. Although it can’t quite match the likes of the BMW M3 or Audi RS4 for handling thrills, it’s still an entertaining supersaloon that comes packed with hi-tech driver aids to make the most of the performance on tap. There was a C63 AMG estate, too.
As part of a facelift in 2011, more economical BlueEfficiency engines were added to the range, with stop-start and up to 31% better fuel economy. As a result, the C220 CDI claimed 58.9mpg and 117g/km emissions. At the same time, trim levels were renamed Executive SE, AMG Sport and AMG Sport Plus.
Throughout the Mk3 C-Class’ life, Mercedes also offered a wide range of cutting-edge safety equipment. Seven airbags are included as standard, as is a driver fatigue sensor. Plus, you get adaptive brake lights, which flash repeatedly if you’re braking suddenly to warn drivers behind you. Options include the Pre-Safe system, carried over from the flagship S-Class, as well as neat features for motorway driving like adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. This kit was expensive in the showroom, but find a well-stocked used example and it can be great value.
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Mercedes C-Class dashboard

Costs

When you look at how much a Mk3 C-Class cost when new, you can get a lot of car for your money by buying second-hand now. For example, a 65,000-mile 2008 58-reg C220 CDI Sport can be yours for £6,550, while you’re looking at £11,000-plus for one of the earliest, 60,000-mile C200 CDI BlueEfficiency SE models from 2011.
Don’t forget that this is still a premium car, though, so while the more efficient models in the range shouldn’t cost too much in terms of fuel or tax, things like servicing and tyres are likely to set you back more than they would for a mainstream model.
To help take the sting out of maintenance, Mercedes offers a pre-paid servicing package on used cars, which it claims works out from as little as £1 a day. Plus, the earliest examples of the Mk3 C-Class will soon come under the company’s 7+ fixed-price servicing scheme (for Mercedes cars over seven years old), so buyers will be able to get a full main dealer check-up for around £140.
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Rear seats

Problems

You expect a car from a prestige brand like Mercedes to be reliable, and the C-Class has been so far, with owners yet to report any major problems. It helps that all engines are chain-driven, so there are no cam belts to worry about.
The company has been forced to recall the car over a number of fuel leaks, but it should be easy to check whether this work has been carried out on any potential buy, as Mercedes logs all servicing on a central digital database — ask your local dealer. But the car was highly rated for build quality in the Auto Express Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey.
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Mercedes C-Class dashboard

Verdict

It’s not as good to drive as a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, but that won’t bother most people considering a second-hand Mercedes C-Class Mk3. This car still stands out with its classy image and high-quality feel inside and out, and remains a refined, practical and efficient choice on the compact executive market. And with prices starting from just over £6,000, it’s great value for money.
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