Mercedes-Benz C-Class C250 Estate road test | Charming space
BLAME fashion or perhaps school pick-up peer pressure. Sport utility vehicles have rocketed into the fastest growing sales segment, leaving the humble wagon in its tyre tracks.
It's for that reason Mercedes-Benz is expecting only 10% of its C-Class Estate sales to be this new variant, which has just been launched with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines.
Not even the posh "Estate" nameplate will drag it back in vogue - although if there is a car manufacturer which can inspire a wagon renaissance, Mercedes is the marque for the job.
Sales have been on an upward trajectory for the brand on the back of some outstanding new offerings, including the small A-Class and its GLA cross-over and CLA four-door coupe spin-offs, and the brand has featured in the nation's top 10 sellers on several occasions this year.
Adding fuel to the sales fire has been the all-conquering C-Class. The sedan has won countless plaudits, and even claimed the judges' choice award at Australia's Best Cars - the awards by Australia's motoring clubs which rates value for money among its key analysis criteria, along with safety and performance.
Starting from $63,400, it's a $2500 premium over the sedan, but at the national launch in Melbourne this week the C-Class Estate proved it loses none of the appeal.
Mercedes has delivered one of the best interior designs available across any genre with the C-Class range.
Looking and feeling sculpted, it reeks of expense, even with man-made leather. Chrome air vents, meld into the dash, where there is also a colour-screen controlled by a dial or touch-pad on the console.
Our preference is actually the base model glossy black finish across the dash and doors. The $1990 optional light-brown wood looks less appealing through our eyes, whereas the black-ash option with the AMG pack does have extra appeal, especially with the sports steering wheel.
There is no difference up-front between the wagon and sedan, but the obvious gains are in boot space, where you get 490 litres. Not a gigantic space by any means (similar to key rivals from BMW and Audi), and only 10 more litres than the sedan, although you do get 1510 litres with the rear seats folded.
Four adults can still be accommodated without any issues and there will be no complaints with the ride quality. The C-Class is well insulated and even copes well with coarse chip surfaces on its run-flat tyres.
On the road
There really isn't a bad engine choice.
In fact, for those looking at the value equation, it's actually hard to look past the C200 petrol.
Where the wagon has its bigger ML cousin covered - and all SUVs for that matter - is performance. Sitting low and feeling well-balanced, the C-Class slices through the bends with ease with direct steering. Having the wagon shell makes little, if any, difference and it maintains all the hallmarks of impressive grip and confidence that have seen the awards flow worldwide.
What do you get?
The C200s come with man-made leather trim, electric adjustable front seats, LED headlamps, digital radio, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, sat nav, keyless entry, 17.7cm high-definition colour display, Bluetooth compatible stereo system with touch pad control, dual zone air con, and an automatic parking function.
C250s also get real leather, 19-inch alloys, privacy glass, hands-free access, power rear door, along with the very cool Driver Assistance Package, which incorporates radar cruise control, lane keep assist which helps keep the car within the lines and functions which prepare the car for impact if it detects an accident is imminent.
Safety includes nine air bags, and an array of passive equipment, such as stability and traction control, as well as front and rear parking sensors, as well as blind spot warning.
Those wanting a spare wheel can get a 16-inch space-saver as an accessory, otherwise you have to go with the standard goop for the run-flat rubber.
With a 40-20-40 split of the rear seat, this is one useful chariot. Families traditionally have to cart around wide-ranging equipment - scooters, bikes and surfboards - and the folding functionality is a must for problematic gear.
Importantly, the pews are easy to fold, with electric switches in the boot and at the back seats to unveil a flat load space. Opening the rear door can also be done by waving your foot under the rear bumper - but it won't work if you have a tow bar.
Push on a console lid and it reveals a dual cup holder, another pair pop out of the rear centre arm rest, while up front there is a storage spot next to a 12 volt plug. In the console are two USB ports and an SD card slot.
All C-Class Estates are frugal beasts, rarely will you see the petrols get above eight litres for every 100km but it's the diesels, that hover around 5.0L/100km, that are the choice for those who hate making trips to the servo.
Part of the reason why there's not a massive boot area is the sleek rear end of the wagon. It still features ample prestige, looking stunning with the large three-pointed star in the grille up front.
Losing little in terms of interior space, the gains are in drivability and, in this case, no loss of kudos at the school car park.
What we'd like to see:
What we liked: Still a good looking thing and doesn't look like a sales rep car, quiet and fun to drive.
What we'd like to see: Spare tyre as standard, extra boot space... although that would mean a performance and aesthetics trade-off.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is at 25,000km or annually. There are sliver and platinum servicing plans, which covers between 2-5 years and 50-125,000km.
Model: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate.
Details: Five-door, rear-wheel drive, luxury, medium-size wagon.
Engines: C200 - 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 135Nm @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 300Nm 1200-4000rpm; C250 - 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol 155kW @ 5500rpm and 350Nm @ 1200-4000rpm; C200 BlueTec - 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel 100kW @ 3800rpm and 320Nm @ 1500-2600rpm; C250 BlueTec - 2.1-litre four-cylinder 150kW @ 3800rpm and 500Nm 1600-1800rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.2 litres/100km (combined average); 6.2L/100km; 4.3L/100km; 4.8L/100km.
CO2: 143g/km; 142g/km; 112g/km; 124g/km.
Bottom line plus on-roads: C200 $63,400, C200 BlueTec $64,900, C250 $71,400, C250 BlueTec $72,900.