Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon & Estate (2013-2017)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

4dr saloon, 5dr estate (diesel - 1.5, 2.1 diesel, 2.1 diesel hybrid / petrol - 2.0, 2.0 petrol hybrid, 3.0 V6, 4.0 V8)


This fourth generation C-Class set out to really democratise Mercedes luxury for a wider audience at its launch in late 2013, lighter, cleverer, nicer to ride in and beautifully finished. True, pricing still reflects its premium positioning but in this guise more than ever, this more efficient, more desirable design has a look and feel worth every penny. A cut above its BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 rivals? Many will think so.

The History

The C-Class has traditionally campaigned in offering all that its brand knows about luxury saloons distilled into smaller form and in its first two decades of life, over 8.5 million global buyers happily bought into the concept. For all that though, this was in truth for too many years a car a little short on quality and a little long on price tag. In late 2013 though, we got a very different C-Class, this fourth generation version designed to change the status quo in this segment and redefine what a car of this kind should be.

That was a big ask, but it was clear from the beginning that this ‘205’ model series C-Class had a greater focus than its predecessors. These predecessors were often trying to be too many things to too many people. If you bought one, it was usually for a ‘quality feel’ rather than because it was the best contender in its segment to drive, the nicest to sit in or the cheapest to run. The MK4 C-Class model though, was a small Mercedes for BMW and Audi to take seriously. In the 2014 to 2017 period, it was to this car that aspiring middle management executives most often turned in their search for something different from – and possibly a bit nicer than – their usual 3 Series or Audi A4 choices.

There was certainly more than enough reason for them to seriously consider this car. It’s slightly bigger than the previous generation design, a lot more advanced and boasts the nicest cabin you can have in this kind of model. Our focus here is on the saloon and estate variants that were produced before the range was significantly facelifted in the Spring of 2017.

What To Look For

Our ownership survey revealed plenty of satisfied MK4 model C-Class customers, but it did throw up a number of issues you’ll need to look out for on the used market. The Audio 20 system’s Garmin sat nav set-up was universally disliked, so if you can get a car fitted with the upgraded ‘COMMAND’ set-up, you’ll be doing yourself a favour. Even there, voice control recognition tends to be patchy, apparently. There were lots of small issues reported too, like door handle lights ailing, issues with the engine stop/start system and air conditioning motor problems. One owner found his auto gearbox wouldn’t change higher than third gear. Another found one day that the engine management light came on, forcing the car to limp back at under 40mph. In another case, the engine diagnostics light in the dash illuminated because the temperature sensor in the exhaust had failed. In other words, you need to choose your C-Class carefully.

Insist on a full Mercedes dealer service history, especially for more recent models whose lengthy warranty - effectively for the life of the car - is dependent on proper servicing by an authorised agent. Check that all the accessories work and watch out for cosmetic damage which can be expensive to correct. These are popular family cars, so check for wear and tear in the rear. Also look for the usual signs of wheel kerbing and poorly repaired accident damage.

On The Road

There are all kinds of reasons why this car is a more involving thing to drive than its predecessor. First and foremost, it really ought to be sharper, thanks to the fact that this MK4 model’s structure contains five times more aluminium than that of the MK3 design. That meant a reduction of 100kgs from this fourth generation model’s total kerb weight and gave it a lower centre of gravity. Secondly, as a driver, you’ve all the necessary tools to make the most of this newfound appetite for corners, thanks to aluminium-fashioned rear wheel drive architecture freshly-developed for the MK4 model. This improved design also features ‘Agility Select’, Mercedes’ version of the ‘drive select’ and ‘Drive Performance Control’ systems you respectively find in rival Audis and BMWs.

On the road in a more ordinary C-Class, the exact level of handling sharpness you can have will inevitably be heavily influenced by whether you’ve bothered to click into either the ‘Sport’ or the ‘Sport+’ modes on the Agility Select driving system. And, more fundamentally, by the suspension choice made by the original buyer at point of purchase. Most cars came with the standard Comfort Suspension package, but this set-up was lowered by 15mm on ‘Sport’ models and stiffened on ‘AMG Line’-trimmed variants. Plus there was the preferable AirMATIC air-sprung set-up we mentioned earlier.

There’s lots of other technology on offer too. For example, from sat nav data, this car knows when you’re about to enter a tunnel and automatically closes its air recirculation flap to stop the cabin getting filled with fumes. At night, if you got the ‘Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus’ package fitted, you’ll never have to dip your full beam in the face of oncoming traffic thanks to the clever way the system masks out any other road users detected in the beams’ cones of light. And of course, like most modern executive cars, this C-Class can brake for you to avoid accidents at high or low speeds and to some extent, even steer and park itself. It’s state of the art.


It used to be quite easy to pigeonhole the three main premium contenders in the compact executive sector. A BMW 3 Series gave you a sporty drive, while an Audi A4 offered a nice cabin and a bit of hi-tech. If you went beyond these two and considered a Mercedes C-Class at all, you were probably a more mature buyer with priorities that didn’t really fit into either category. It was a bit of a compromise, badge equity choice. This MK4 C-Class model changed that kind of thinking though. It turned out to be more than good enough to make significant inroads amongst customers who once would have thought little before signing again on the dotted line for yet another German C-Class arch-rival. Find a well built, well looked-after version of this MK4 C-Class and you’ll get yourself a very sophisticated contender indeed.