Diesel still offers a solution for many and the new Mercedes C300d estate proves that when done well they are hard to fault

estates

Evo rating

Price

from £50,960

  • Does everything you’d expect of such a car better than most
  • Let down by some interior quality

In a world of electrified this and plug-in that, there’s little time for the once backbone of the British car buying public: the diesel-engined estate car. Frugal, practical and for many the only car they ever needed, now they’re a dying breed. Not that anyone has told Mercedes-Benz this, because amongst its new C-class line-up remains a C300d wagon that for some still remains the car they can’t do without. With good reason too, because it’s really rather good at what it’s designed to do.

Ignore the numerical element of its name, because the ‘300’ doesn’t signify a brawny, large capacity six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine but one with a two-litre capacity and just the four-cylinders. Not that this hampers output with 261bhp and 406lb ft at your disposal, dispatched via a nine-speed auto. Mercedes has also included its mild-hybrid technology that fills in the torque gap at low engine speeds and eradicates the lethargy previous generations diesel engines had when promoted to get off the line.

> BMW 3-series review – does it still reward the keen driver?

While it’s responsive to throttle inputs you won’t set any land speed records in a C300d – you’ll reach 60mph in 5.8sec and top 155mph – but you are instantly reminded why high-torque turbo-diesels became so popular with their blend of performance and fuel efficiency. With nine-ratios at its disposal you’re never far from its 1800-2200rpm torque band, which while narrow suits the way Mercedes has engineered the car to be driven. Power tails off as you breach 4000rpm but remind yourself that this is no AMG, and the powertrain ticks the boxes presented to it. We’d normally chastise a car that lacks an engine brimming with character, but this is the exact kind of car where the engine isn’t expected to take centre stage.

Despite its fresh set of clothes the new C-class undergarments are a heavily updated version of what has gone before, with the chassis tuning that has taken place tightening up areas that were previously slack and adding some polish to those components that didn’t sparkle so brightly.

estates

It doesn’t steer as well as a current BMW 3-series, there’s a numbness to the steering that results in a vagueness during its initial response before it adds some meat to the bones. But it’s not a car you buy to seek out interesting roads, although should you find yourself on one it won’t embarrass you or itself, and is capable enough to settle and flow rather than stumble and trip.

Coupled with ride quality that’s a step up from its predecessor, with damping that feels more polished and therefore capable than before, the body control is much improved on poor surfaces and far more settled when you’re covering big miles. It feels like Mercedes has finally understood that chasing BMW dynamically isn’t why someone buys its more mainstream models.

Where Mercedes has pushed its individuality further is its interiors. Gone are the days of bland, flat surfaces and in comes the faux-chrome, big screens and a level of tech functionality that for some will be a deal clincher, for others an irritant. However, there’s intuitiveness to the majority of the controls that as an owner you’ll quickly learn. There is, however, still a question mark over current Mercedes interior quality, with some bits of trim feeling cheap and rattles still persist around the cabin. It’s been an issue for a number of years that Mercedes needs to address.

estates

Cars such as the C300d still have a big role to play for some, this latest example proving that once again there is sometimes nothing better than a car that will run and run only requiring a refuel long after you will (55mpg is the claim, providing more than 600 miles of range). There’s practical space, comfort and refinement you’d expect from a company that also makes the S-class. That it also places refinement over dynamics might seem strange for something for evo to applaud but for many customers the former will be far more important than the latter, and as a car to accompany something more exciting it’s hard to ignore.

All new cars are expensive today and the C300d estate is no exception, with a £50,960 price tag. BMW’s M340d xDrive Touring costs £51,565 but remains our choice in this segment, with all-wheel drive and a much smoother, more refined six-cylinder engine.

Audi’s six-cylinder diesel-engined S4 Avant starts at £49,970 and it too offers four-wheel drive as standard. But it’s not as sharp to drive as either the Mercedes or BMW and while its quality is hard to fault, it remains a little forgettable when behind the wheel.

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