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Monday 22 September 2014

Mercedes C-Class, better but still not right

Published 28/07/2014 | 09:12

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A tight cabin, a breakdown and high fuel consumption means the C-Class still isn’t there.

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Mercedes have been busy launching lots of new models on the market but the bread-and-butter C-Class has really only just landed and I really wanted to give it a test because the interior finally shook off that feeling of time warp. There used to be a radio on the dash that looked like a Gramophone dial, it looked out of place. All that has been swept away and now the C-Class has one of the finest looking interiors on the market, everything fits where it should and there’s a real feeling of luxury. The software update on the interface screen really looks modern and works really well.

There are some problems though.

There’s no cup-holders, there seems to be a hole where some cups would fit but its square. I had to put my coffee in the bottle holder on the drivers’ door, not ideal. The back seats aren’t as big as they should be in this class, they aren’t bad but if like me you have a small child that sits in a big seat they will be putting their feet in your spine quite often.

On the road the C-Class is quiet and comfortable, there’s little or no road noise but during acceleration the 2143cc diesel unit can sound very harsh. Mercedes claim around the 4.5ltrs/100kms but I got nowhere near that, 6.9ltrs is more like the average the car reported. At low speeds I found the suspension a little on the uncomfortable side and the turbo lag was noticeable. The various modes you can select like Sports can make the car get a bit of hustle on but you’ll probably just leave it in the most economical setting.

On Saturday morning I was bringing the family off to the shopping centre happily using the cruise control at 120kph when a big yellow light came on the dashboard, I knew it was the engine management light but chances are someone who isn’t mechanically minded wouldn’t have a clue. Now this light can mean lots of things and you need a computer to give out error codes to find out the underlying problem, I pulled over to get advice as driving the car on could cause more problems.

Usually there’s an emergency number on the windscreen of new cars, this isn’t just for Journalists it’s for any owner of the car. This number will get you access to the AA or a helpline somewhere, it wasn’t on the screen and I didn’t have a dealer number so I took to Twitter and asked Mercedes Ireland what I should do.

Drop into a dealer and they’ll sort it out was the answer, problem there because there’s no one in workshops on a Saturday. So I drove it on with the yellow light gleaming away and the fuel gauge going south fast probably released to the light. In fairness the car never stopped, I dropped it back on Monday morning with the light still on.

This kind of problem can happen to any car, new car gremlins are a standard feature and most of them are solvable with a quick trip to the dealership, but it’s how the problem is dealt with when it first happens. Perhaps Mercedes do have an emergency number for customers to call when there’s a breakdown but I couldn’t find it. The competition e.g. BMW and Audi have the numbers stuck on the windscreen and I’ve never had to call them but they are there and that’s what matters.

While the Mercedes C-Class does indeed move the brand forward with lots of tech, touchpads and a great stereo it still needs to get the basics right like cup-holders and breakdowns along with customer support because the €51,629 ex. works price tag suggests I should have at least free AA cover for 12 months and a five year warranty, it’s currently only two years in Ireland but three years in the UK. Getting these ingredients right would help push the whole brand forward and I think the C-Class will really be competition for other brands and would make Mercedes really stand out in the now rather crowded high-end segment that has not only the BMW 3-series but the Audi A4 and even the A3 saloon pushing the edges of the class.

Model Tested:

C220 BlueTEC Avantgarde Automatic

2143cc, 170bhp

Tax band: A3: €190 currently

Model price starting at €47,940

Model tested price €51,629 ex. works

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