All this electrification talk may seem like a recent development, but it’s been going on for years. Take the current Mercedes C-Class, which has had up-to-the-minute hybrid and plug-in hybrid alternatives in both petrol and diesel forms throughout its run that used buyers can now take advantage of for as little as £9000.
The diesel engine range starts with a 136bhp 1.6-litre in the C200d that has enough poke for most, but the 170bhp 2.1-litre C220d feels a little livelier and comes close to matching the smaller engine for economy and CO2 emissions. The thirstier 204bhp 2.1-litre C250d, while admirably brisk, is harder to recommend, as is the later 245bhp 2.0-litre C300d.
Petrol cars kick off with the 156bhp 1.6-litre C180. Then there’s a 184bhp 2.0-litre C200, which is a refined and adequate performer. A 258bhp 2.0-litre C300 was later added to fill the gap between the top-performing 390bhp 3.0-litre C43 and 476bhp (or 503bhp S version) 4.0-litre C63 AMG models that put sheer pace and agility above any considerations of comfort and economy.
Fuel economy is best served by the C350e petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, C300h diesel-electric hybrid or C300de diesel-electric plug-in hybrid. However, you’ll need to regularly charge the batteries of the plug-ins to get near their headline figures.
Opt for entry-level SE trim and you get 16in alloy wheels, automatic wipers, cruise control, a reversing camera and Mercedes’ Collision Prevention Assist Plus system fitted as standard. Inside, there’s a 7.0in infotainment system with DAB radio and electric seat height and backrest adjustment for those at the front.
SE Executive brings heated front seats, Garmin-powered sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and 17in alloys. Sport models get LED headlights, lowered suspension, electrically folding and dimming mirrors and leather sports seats.
Range-topping AMG Line includes 18in AMG alloy wheels, an aggressive bodykit and sports suspension. On the road, the regular C-Class’s dynamic behaviour isn’t as sharp as that of the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series. Where it disappoints most is in refinement, with too much road noise and, most noticeably in the diesel variants, too much engine noise entering the cabin.
It does has a very attractive interior that mimics that of the larger S-Class, but there are plusher materials in the A4. Still, there should be no complaints from anyone up front, because there’s lots of room, storage space and adjustment in the seats and steering wheel. The boot, however, is smaller than rivals’, is an odd shape and has a restrictive opening.
Cars with a decent history and an average mileage start at around £12,000, but we’d suggest increasing you budget to £15,000 for a tidy 2016 C220d in well-specced Sport trim.
Engine Some 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol models have experienced premature thermostat failure, so keep an eye on the temperature gauge. It's a difficult job to replace, so expect a large bill. Can you smell petrol? Loose or porous fuel lines have been reported on a number of cars. It's around £150 to fix. The 220d diesel engine has simplex chain tensioner issues, while the plastic inlet manifold can crack and the plastic fuel filter housing can leak.
Electrics Some reported issues with the central locking system. Make sure the charging cable for any of the petrol or diesel plug-in hybrids is present and in good condition, because it could cost hundreds of pounds to replace.
Suspension, tyres and brakes Early models reported to be heavy on brakes and tyres.
Interior Sunroofs and door seals are known to creak loudly and the Comand infotainment system can freeze up. Make sure you get the latest map software as part of the deal. Where fitted, check the MB-Tex upholstery for discolouration and staining. Soon after launch, the front seats were updated to comfort seats, so is if it's an early car, check they're comfortable.
Need to know
Fuel economy is among the best in class according to the old NEDC system, with the popular C220d rated at a combined 70.6mpg in some versions. If you want petrol, the C200 gets 53.3mpg.
There have been quite a few recalls for this C-Class generation, ranging from emissions software updates on 1.6-litre diesel engines to faulty welds on the frames of AMG performance seats. Speak with your local Mercedes dealer to find out if your car is affected.
C220d Sport: This is where the smart money goes. However, look out for cars with the Premium Plus pack, because not only does this add fully electric front seats and a panoramic glass roof but some highly sophisticated LED matrix headlights, too.
AMG C63 S: Imagine 503bhp shredding the rear tyres and the turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 bellowing as you bury the accelerator pedal from rest. You can even have it as an estate…
Ones we found
2015 C250d Sport Premium Plus, 120,750 miles, £12,984
2016 C220d AMG Line Premium Plus, 44,000 miles, £17,300
2018 C200 Sport Premium Plus, 14,800 miles, £21,550
2019 C300de Sport Edition Pre’m Plus, 2750 miles, £32,500