Watch your backs Audi and BMW, because there’s a new C Class. At last Mercedes has delivered a compact executive saloon that you don’t have to be ‘retired’ to want!

Since the early 80s, when the '190' (later to become the C Class in the 90s) was launched, the less than thrilling C Class has been the entry-level saloon from posh car German car maker Mercedes Benz.

Conservative to a fault in the looks department the new saloon manages to turns the tables on its rivals with an injection of attitude.

The exterior of the five seat motor is available in two guises namely Classic/Elegance and Avantgarde. Elegance has a conventional grill and sombre but sophisticated look that is aimed at the traditional conservative buyer while Avantgarde versions feature a far more aggressive look. The big bold grill is reminiscent of beefed up CLs of old and therefore gorgeous.

Under the bonnet the cars are pretty much the same but the two versions are miles apart in their visual appeal. Mercedes has finally copped on to the fact that we buyers are fickle and often just want the ‘show’ without the ‘go’ – hence the whole SUV craze.

Inside the materials/layout is an evolution from the outgoing car. The cabin is a pleasant place to be and being a compact executive car it's cosy. The boot is relatively big for the class and the only niggle inside concerns the foot-operated parking break, which proves a little awkward in the small footwell.

The original C Class scored a meagre two stars in Euro NCAP but those days are long gone and the new car has a commendable safety setup called ‘Pro-Safe’, which is a collective name for a comprehensive array of passive and active safety features.

On Irish roads the C Class performs well on smooth surfaces while on twisty sections the Merc is less involving than say a rear wheel drive BMW 3 Series, but more entertaining than a front wheel drive A4. ‘Agility Control’ is Mercedes speak for the standard fit handling package that consists of active suspension. A special sports ‘Advanced Agility’ package is an option that allows the driver adjust the vehicles suspension stiffness with the press of a button.

I drove the C Class extensively on country roads recently and found myself wishing for a Mondeo on twistier sections, even though my test car was a sporty version.

My 170bhp C220 CDI A/T has a base price of €54,500, but when extras like ‘Avantgarde’ specification (€3,675) and the ‘AMG’ styling kit (€3,905), parking sensors (€1,620), metallic paint (€1,498) etc. are factored in the price rises to a whopping €66,183!

Higher-end models (C280/C350/C320CDI) can even benefit from optional ‘4Matic’ all wheel drive. These versions will be rare in our over taxed state. The entry level C180 with its 156bhp will be a big seller however.

If you feel the need to go over the top there is a C63 version (pictured above) that was launched at the Frankfurt show. The 450bhp V8 beast can accelerate faster than a scalded cat, not to mention 99.9% of the cars on Irish roads.

Michael Sheridan