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Mercedes-Benz C 300e 2020 review


Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4/5

It's a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it's a plug-in hybrid, it's the C 300e. How good is that as far as an urban car goes! Actually, change that exclamation mark to a question mark, because that's what this review is here to find out.

Yep, on paper (or screen) the C 300e's urban credentials look great: all the luxury and refinement of a prestige European car, but with the outstanding fuel efficiency that comes with a petrol-electric powertrain.

So, what's the Mercedes-Benz C 300e like to live with in the real urban world – mine? I live in an apartment, less than 10km from Sydney's CBD, have a small family and access to a power point. I'm not joking about that last one either... you'll need it.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Mercedes-Benz C 300e lists for $82,300 and is the hybrid version of the C 300 that sells for $8K less. This means the C 300e has the same standard features as the C 300, such as leather upholstery with black piano lacquer and aluminium trim, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch media display, sat nav, Mercedes Me assistant, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity, shifting paddles, drive modes, proximity unlocking, power opening boot, rear privacy glass, push-button start and LED headlights.

The C 300e has 18-inch alloy wheels (the C 300 has 19-inch) and picks up a few extra standard features over the petrol car it's based on, such as air suspension and pre-entry climate control, which will allow you to set the cabin temperature while you finish your coffee before leaving for work.

The C 300e looks exactly like a C 300 except it has 18-inch alloy wheels not 19-inch rims. (image: Richard Berry) The C 300e looks exactly like a C 300 except it has 18-inch alloy wheels not 19-inch rims. (image: Richard Berry)

The safety features on the C 300e are impressive, too, and many have a focus on urban environment hazards. You can read about those below.

The C 300e's direct rival is the BMW 330e, listing for $81,900, and while Audi doesn't have a plug-in hybrid version of its A4, the 45 TFSI grade is $73,300. You may not have considered the Lexus IS 300h, which offers great value but still has a similar list price at $81,160.

  • This cabin still feels and looks beautifully crafted and stylish. (image: Richard Berry) This cabin still feels and looks beautifully crafted and stylish. (image: Richard Berry)
  • Cabin storage is good with a large split-opening centre console bin, large door pockets and four cup-holders (two up front and two in the rear). (image: Richard Berry) Cabin storage is good with a large split-opening centre console bin, large door pockets and four cup-holders (two up front and two in the rear). (image: Richard Berry)

My test car was fitted with the optional Vision Package, which costs $6300 and adds the panoramic sunroof, Multibeam LED headlights, 360-degree camera and a head-up display. There was also the $900 Seat Comfort package, which adds memory settings for all seat positions, heated front seats and power-adjustment steering wheel and head-rests.

The car was also optioned with wireless phone-charging – it's $400.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The C 300e looks exactly like a C 300 except it has 18-inch alloy wheels not 19-inch rims, there's subtle hybrid badging on the front wheel guards and a charging flap on the rear bumper. Oh, and then there's the 'e' for 'electric' in 300e on the tailgate. The outward signs that the C 300e is a plug-in petrol electric hybrid are so discreet most people would have no idea it was anything other than a regular Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan.

When say I regular though, the car is stunning in its design. While our photographer was taking the shots which accompany this review he was 'oohing and aahhing' all over it. There's the way the light brought out the sharp crease running from the front wheel guard through the rear door; the wide stance seen front-on; the LED DRL eyebrows; and the curve of the rear window as it meets the boot lid, which flicks up into a spoiler.

The C 300e’s dimensions are the same as any other C Class sedan. (image: Richard Berry) The C 300e’s dimensions are the same as any other C Class sedan. (image: Richard Berry)

If you were hoping the hybrid would be more futuristic and more radical looking then you might be disappointed, because the C 300e is unmistakably classic C-Class and that goes for the interior, too.

The black leather and stitching, the piano lacquer and aluminium trim, the large displays for media and the instruments – this cabin still feels and looks beautifully crafted and stylish, even though this generation of C-Class has been around since 2015.

The C 300e's dimensions are the same as any other C Class sedan too at 4686mm long, 2020mm wide (with mirrors out) and 1442mm tall.

There’s subtle hybrid badging on the front wheel guards and a charging flap on the rear bumper. (image: Richard Berry) There’s subtle hybrid badging on the front wheel guards and a charging flap on the rear bumper. (image: Richard Berry)

How practical is the space inside?

The C 300e is a four-door, five-seat, mid-sized sedan with plenty of room up front for even me at 191cm tall with good elbow-, shoulder-, leg-, and headroom, although rear seating isn't overly spacious.

I couldn't sit behind my driving position without my knees up against the seat back and my head was getting pretty friendly with the ceiling thanks to the sunroof housing.

Still there was enough room for us to install my five-year-old's car seat.

  • The cargo capacity of the C 300e’s boot is 300 litres, down from 455 litres in a C 300. (image: Richard Berry) The cargo capacity of the C 300e’s boot is 300 litres, down from 455 litres in a C 300. (image: Richard Berry)
  • If you plan to frequently use the boot for large bulky items, such as prams or boxes, I’d take them to the dealership and test to see if they fit in the C 300e. (image: Richard Berry) If you plan to frequently use the boot for large bulky items, such as prams or boxes, I’d take them to the dealership and test to see if they fit in the C 300e. (image: Richard Berry)

Being rear-wheel drive, the C 300e has a prominent drive-shaft hump, which eats into the floor space back there, too.

Cabin storage is good with a large split-opening centre console bin, large door pockets and four cup-holders (two up front and two in the rear).

For charging there are two USB ports in the centre armrest and one for rear-seat passengers.

  • This test car was fitted with the $900 Seat Comfort package. (image: Richard Berry) This test car was fitted with the $900 Seat Comfort package. (image: Richard Berry)
  • Rear seating isn’t overly spacious. (image: Richard Berry) Rear seating isn’t overly spacious. (image: Richard Berry)

Sounds just like a regular C-Class, right? Well, it is until you see how much of the boot space the hybrid batteries take up. Take a look at the images – the cargo capacity of the C 300e's boot is 300 litres, down from 455 litres in a C 300. That was a real problem; even a trip to the park with just scooters and skateboards meant we had to do a bit of clever arranging in the boot.

So, if you plan to frequently use the boot for large bulky items, such as prams or boxes, I'd take them to the dealership and test to see if they fit in the C 300e, because, as you can see from the images, there's not a lot of room.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The C 300e is a petrol electric plug-in hybrid. There's a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 155kW and 350Nm and an electric motor producing 90kW and 440Nm. The drive goes to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission.

There’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 155kW and 350Nm and an electric motor producing 90kW and 440Nm. (image: Richard Berry) There’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 155kW and 350Nm and an electric motor producing 90kW and 440Nm. (image: Richard Berry)

How much fuel does it consume?

Mercedes-Benz says that after a combination of urban and open roads the C 300e will have used just 2.1L/100km.

For this urban review, my testing took place only on the streets of Sydney's CBD and inner-city suburbs and I found out a few things.

First, there are four drive modes: Hybrid, E-Mode, E-Save and Charge.

  • Mercedes-Benz says that after a combination of urban and open roads the C 300e will have used just 2.1L/100km. (image: Richard Berry) Mercedes-Benz says that after a combination of urban and open roads the C 300e will have used just 2.1L/100km. (image: Richard Berry)
  • If you’re going to own the C 300e and get the best mileage out of it, then you’ll need to charge it almost every day. (image: Richard Berry) If you’re going to own the C 300e and get the best mileage out of it, then you’ll need to charge it almost every day. (image: Richard Berry)
  • Charging can be done through a regular 240V power point using the cable provided and if you plug it in empty at night, it’ll be full by the morning (eight hours). (image: Richard Berry) Charging can be done through a regular 240V power point using the cable provided and if you plug it in empty at night, it’ll be full by the morning (eight hours). (image: Richard Berry)

In my first fuel test I chose Hybrid Mode and drove the 8km from my home to Sydney's CBD and when I arrived the trip computer told me I'd used 0.8L/100km of premium unleaded petrol. For most of that peak hour journey I was being powered by electricity alone and my average speed was 21km/h. That's outstanding.

Then I drove home in E-Mode which is electric-only and the only time I used fuel, was when I accelerated hard to merge. Acceleration is pretty swift, too, with 0-100km/h coming in 5.4 seconds.

The trip computer said energy consumption for the round trip was 39.0kWh/100km. According to the energy gauge I'd used 'half-a-tank' of charge with an electric range of 16km left.

I did another fuel test and that was 112.5km of urban driving over seven days in mainly Hybrid Mode, but only charging the car to full for just two nights of that week. After that time the trip computer displayed my average use as 7.9L/100km. I verified that by measuring 9.06L needed to fill the tank back up to full, which comes to 8.0L/100km.

The drive goes to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. (image: Richard Berry) The drive goes to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. (image: Richard Berry)

There's no official urban consumption figure for the C 300e, but as a comparison the urban fuel economy for the C 300 is 9.6L/100km. The tank capacity of the C 300 is 66 litres, while the volume of the one in the C 300e is 50 litres.

There's the lesson: if you're going to own the C 300e and get the best mileage out of it, then you'll need to charge it almost every day, like you would a phone. Otherwise, the fuel economy will be getting close to the regular C 300's.

Charging can be done through a regular 240V power point using the cable provided and if you plug it in empty at night, it'll be full by the morning (eight hours). Alternatively, Mercedes-Benz have a fast-charging Wallbox for $1250, which will add 15km of range every 30 minutes and fully charge the 13.5kWh battery in under two hours.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The C 300e was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2014. Coming standard is AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection along with a cross traffic function; there's also evasive steering, active blind spot assistance and lane keeping assistance. All great safety systems for urban environments.

The reversing camera is excellent and Mercedes-Benz's auto parking system is standard on the 300e, too.

For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX points across the second row.

There are also nine air bags and in the boot you'll find two high-vis vests, although no spare wheel – just a puncture repair kit.

What's it like to drive around town?

Quiet. That's what it's like to drive around town. See, because the C 300e is a plug-in hybrid, if you charge it every night and, like me, live close to the city where speeds don't get much higher than 50km/h and journeys tend to be less than 10km then you'll spend most of the time driving in E Mode, just powered by the electric motor. Combine this with a well-insulated cabin and it's almost an isolation-tank feeling when driving through a busy city with the sounds of traffic and even road noise from the C 300e blocked out.

Dab the accelerator and the shove from the electric motor is pleasing, but if you really need to accelerate hard and plant your foot, then the petrol engine will come to the party.

  • This cabin still feels and looks beautifully crafted and stylish. (image: Richard Berry) This cabin still feels and looks beautifully crafted and stylish. (image: Richard Berry)
  • Cabin storage is good with a large split-opening centre console bin, large door pockets and four cup-holders (two up front and two in the rear). (image: Richard Berry) Cabin storage is good with a large split-opening centre console bin, large door pockets and four cup-holders (two up front and two in the rear). (image: Richard Berry)

Drive like that over a couple of days without charging and you'll drain the battery. If you let that happen then suddenly the tranquil experience becomes much noisy as that petrol engine lugs you, an electric motor and stacks of batteries around.

Also, not ideal is the ride, I found. The C 300e comes with air suspension and while the ride was comfortable on good roads with a smooth surface, such as a motorway, on urban runs, which were potholed and speed-bumped streets with roundabouts and patchy surfaces, the body control could have been better and resulted in a 'wobbly' ride and too much head sway – and that's what can cause motion sickness.

It's a shame because everything else – from the light, accurate steering and responsive, smooth hybrid powertrain to the quiet cabin and good visibility – all add up to a car that's easy and comfortable to drive. But diminishing that comfort is a ride that isn't as composed as it should be.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Mercedes-Benz C 300e is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12 month/25,000km intervals. A three-year service plan will cost $2000, a four-year plan is $2800, and a five-year program is $4300.

A six-year warranty applies to the battery system.

The C 300e feels more like a purely electric car to drive than a hybrid, but to get the full fuel-saving benefits you'll need to be disciplined and charge it every day.

As a daily driver I found the ride in the C 300e to be overly 'bouncy' and body control could be better.

That said, the C 300e is a great urban vehicle for its excellent fuel economy, easiness to drive and advanced safety technology.

$82,300

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Urban score

4/5