With sharper styling, the Mercedes-Benz C Class Estate certainly looks the part.
The rear-wheel drive car features seating for five - or ideally four - adults. The added versatility of the large cargo area makes the 4.6-metre long C Class estate more desirable than the saloon as a family bus. 'Lifestyle' estates like the C Class or Audi A4 Avant are all about cutting a dash and therefore don't have to be able to carry huge amounts like, say, a VW Passat or Ford Mondeo. Audi are masters at making beautiful-looking estate cars and the C Class is certainly hot on Audi's heels – especially with the C 63 AMG estate version.
Outside, thanks to a makeover in 2011, the C Class looks more purposeful. Mercedes-Benz is trying very hard to reduce the age profile of its buyers and the latest styling is helping. Inside, you know straight away that you are in a classic Mercedes. The switchgear and controls we are familiar with are present, e.g. the large indicator/wiper stalk on the left-hand side of the steering column plus the foot-activated parking brake. The cargo area can hold up to 1500 litres. Combine the car's 540kg carrying capacity, flat floor and adjustable 'Easy-Pack' luggage rack system and you get a pretty versatile machine.
As a driver's car, the rear-wheel drive C Class is far from dynamic - it is just not in the car's nature. You can specify the optional 'Dynamic Handling Pack' that gives the driver a dash-mounted 'Sport' button. When pressed, the suspension stiffens, throttle response sharpens and the steering becomes more sporty. Overall, C Class Estate is composed and delivers a civilised ride and driving experience. C Class isn't a car you feel like thrashing around the place.
C Class Estate prices start at just under €40,000 for the Classic C200 CDI (2.2-litre). The standard transmission is a manual gearbox and for a couple of grand more you can get an automatic box. My test car, the C200 CDI 'Avantgarde' BlueEFFICIENCY, cost €48,410, which is a lot of cash - but you do get a premium car with a decent load carrying ability and some toys thrown in.
The 'Command' stereo/navigation (optional) interface works well and is easy to use. The optional 'Driving Assistance Package Plus' adds a host of electronic driving aids like lane assist, blind spot detection, distance assist etc. to keep you on the black stuff and should be looked at closely when purchasing. Classic, Elegance, Sports and Avantgarde are the trim levels. Only diesel power is available in Ireland, using Mercedes' 2,143cc engine with three different power outputs: the models are called 200 (136bhp), 220 (170bhp) and 250 (204bhp).
Ireland is slowly coming around to loving estates cars but is still way behind Europe in terms of actual percentage of sales (circa 50%). In Ireland estate versions account for between 5-15% of sales. The C Class Estate is compact, good-looking, economical to run, well-built and worth a closer look.