2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 Review: A Lovely Sedan With Two Notable Flaws
Save for the touch controls and a potentially wonky brake pedal, the new C-Class is a wonderfully lavish entry-luxury runabout.
I wasn’t old enough to be able to confirm or deny this, but one of the more memorable baby-me stories my parents would tell was probably the time I allegedly vomited all over the inside of my uncle’s then-new, black, first-gen Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Almost 30 years later, I find myself inside of another new C-Class. This one is also black. Fortunately, I did not feel the urge to hurl all over the supple leather of this one partly because, well, I am no longer a bumbling infant who cannot hold his milk and partly because the new 2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 is, in fact, quite a nice car.
It’s luxurious-looking, it feels luxurious to drive, and it feels luxurious to be in. But it also possesses a couple of asterisks that hold it back from being a complete home run.
2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic Review Specs
- Base price (as tested): $46,600 ($55,200)
- Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 48-volt mild hybrid | 9-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 255 @ 5,800 rpm (additional 27 hp on overboost)
- Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 2,000 to 3,200 rpm
- Curb weight: 3,957 pounds
- Seating capacity: 5
- Cargo volume: 17.9 cubic feet
- EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg city | 33 highway | 27 combined
- Quick take: A very nice luxury sedan with a plush and appealing interior that is pleasantly light and breezy to drive. It’s just marred by a wonky brake pedal and frustrating touch controls.
- Score: 7.5/10
Serving in the role since the early ‘90s, the C-Class is Mercedes-Benz’s compact sedan. Since subcompact stuff like the A-Class, GLA, and GLB came along, it can no longer be considered the “entry-level” Benz but, nonetheless, it remains what most think of as the de facto MB for the relatively young professional who has yet to move into E-Class middle management. It competes against stuff like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Lexus IS, and for 2022, it was completely redesigned for its fifth generation.
Driving around the new 2022 C-Class, I couldn’t help but feel like a grownup. Bar an AMG Line grille that makes it look like a frowny, wide-mouthed fish, there’s not much here intended to draw attention or furrow any brows. It’s classily incognito. Understated. The sort of car that’ll look good and dignified sitting in a driveway but won’t stop any passersby from going about their days. A breath of fresh air in the literal faces of the bucktoothed 4 Series Bimmer and Lexus’ comparatively baroque designs.
Inside, though, you’ll find what I think is this car’s biggest draw. The design, the materials, the quality, the ambience, it’s all very plush and appealing. Climbing inside this car every day for a week has brought me joy. It feels trinket-y and special and makes the innards of the competing BMW and Lexus feel a couple of tax brackets lower. The screens—a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and an 11.9-inch touchscreen canted slightly towards the driver—are both super sharp and color-accurate, the flat-bottom perforated leather steering wheel looks and feels great in the hand, and I’m a sucker for the abundant and abundantly configurable mood lighting. It’s practical, too, sporting a decent amount of rear seat room for the segment. Just eyeballing it, there’s way more room back there than you get in the equivalent Lexus and, checking the specs, marginally more leg- and headroom than both the rivaling BMW and Audi.
Controversially, the entire C-Class range will now rely on four-cylinder engines. Those electrified, more powerful AMG versions are coming, of course, but for now, the only C available is the C300. A 2.0-liter turbocharged unit with a 48-volt mild hybrid system makes 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. An overboost function adds 27 extra ponies for 30-second intervals. The 4Matic all-wheel drive is optional and was present in this tester, but a rear-drive base model can also be had. Regardless of driven wheels, Mercedes says the C300 will hit 60 mph in a respectable 5.9 seconds and top out at 130 mph.
Driving the Mercedes-Benz C300
On vibes alone, though, the C300 isn’t really the sort of car that’s begging to be launched at every stoplight. It is, primarily, a very smooth and comfortable highway cruiser and urban runabout. Sound insulation is good for the class while its handling is best described as reassuringly responsive and easy to place. Steering weight is adjustable through drive modes but the difference between, say, comfort and sport+ steering isn’t huge, meaning it’s appreciably light—that’s to say, not flimsy—pretty much all of the time. It’s easy-going but with an air of luxurious substance.
It isn’t slow, though. This may be the base C but its torque and ensuing straight-line acceleration knock on the door of the Lexus IS350, i.e. the most powerful IS you could get until pretty recently. It’s a decently peppy engine and, when driven for pleasure, makes the C300 a fairly fun car in a pleasant, light, breezy way. Taken down a backroad, it simply goes where you point it without taking itself too seriously or presenting many complaints.
Comfy, cosseting, and composed, the new C-Class is simply a nice thing to operate. Mostly.
What it isn’t is consistent because the new C also comes with a fairly big drivability flaw: its brake pedal. It’s very weirdly calibrated in that what feels like the first 60% of travel does nothing but then the last 40% does way too much, way too fast. It’s long and jerky, a rare combination that was a new experience for me, and one I do not recommend. It made for unpredictably lunge-y movements and, even after a week of driving, I could not get to grips with it and smooth stops continued to require way too much concentration and finesse.
Although, there’s reason to suspect that the wonky brake pedal may be a bug with this particular tester. A cursory glance at other reviews of the C300 doesn’t necessarily yield evaluations brimming with brake-related praise, but the loudest complaints about it all happened to come from journalists who drove this same Obsidian Black Metallic example out of Merc’s Toronto press fleet. In short, take a test drive if you can because your mileage may or may not vary.
In any case, Mercedes-Benz has been building cars for more than a century. It knows what a good brake pedal feels like, and this ain’t it.
The Highs and Lows
MB traditionalists might like to turn their noses up at the nightclub-lit, tablets-everywhere flash of the company’s modern cabins, but I happen to be a bit of a fan. The design, the quality, the general comfort, it’s all quite commendable and worthy of the badge. Of course, much of this interior is borrowed from the current-gen S-Class and it inherits a few subtle touches from that league of car that makes it stand out. The touch-sensitive seat adjustment switches, for example, are pressure sensitive. Press on these harder and the seats move quicker. Lightly tap for more minute adjustments. Also, the windows are soft close.
Interior build quality is also massively improved over the last-gen C, inside of which a lot of the plastics were prone to creaking. No, it’s still not as granite-like as something you’d get in a Porsche but unwanted noises are scarce especially given this cockpit’s relatively complex construction and its 8 million shutlines.
Where the interior gives, however, the interior also takes away. Ranked right beneath the weird brake pedal is this car’s second biggest flaw: the touch controls. All of the steering wheel controls are touch-sensitive—including the volume which is a 2016 Honda-style touch slider. It didn’t work then, and it ain’t working now, Mercedes. There’s no traditional knob in the center console either, just another semi-touch-sensitive pair of buttons that infuriatingly requires way too much attention to use. All HVAC commands are done through the touchscreen.
One other random usability observation: I couldn’t figure out how to turn the heated steering wheel on and off outside of either verbally telling MBUX to do it via voice command or turning on my heated seat which automatically turned on the heated steering in tandem.
Also, I’m sure this can be fixed by throwing money at it but the base stereo in this tester did indeed sound like a base stereo.
Mercedes-Benz C300 Features, Options, and Competition
On the subject of money, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic starts at $46,600—forego the all-wheel drive and you can save $2,000. The equipment packaging is quite different in Canada and the U.S. but getting as close as possible to this Canadian tester on the U.S. build-a-Merc site meant a total price of $55,200. Per Mercedes-Benz Canada’s price sheet, the C-Class tested had a $2,300 CAD Sport Package, $890 CAD of black paint, and cost $60,365 CAD total.
Its direct competition in the BMW 330i xDrive and Audi A4 45 TFSI start at $46,795 and $43,495, respectively. As of right now, the C-Class is the newest car of the three. As items, it’s a bit hard to determine which is best because even though the Mercedes has what I think is the prettiest interior, it is probably the least user-friendly. As driving machines, I have only driven the S4 from Audi but extrapolating from that experience, I’d assume the C300 to actually be quite similar to a comparable A4. The BMW is likely the most serious but robotic-feeling of the three, for better or worse.
This car’s mild hybrid system won’t let it travel on electricity alone on any meaningful level, but rather, its main purpose is to smooth out the auto start-stop system, which it does admirably. The gas engine shuts off and starts back up again with little intrusion to the driving experience.
The EPA has rated the AWD C300 for 23 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway, and 27 combined, which makes it slightly thirstier in all situations than its BMW and Audi rivals. Turns out, the EPA knows what it’s doing because after about 350 miles of mixed testing, I observed exactly 27 mpg.
Value and Verdict
Priced right in line with similar vehicles, the new C in its current form is a bit frustrating. Save for the stupid touch controls and potentially wonky brake pedal, it’s a wonderfully lavish entry-luxury runabout. It handles well, is punchy enough to make the imminent AMG versions come off as exercises in electrified excess, and balances five-star interior appointments with a tastefully understated exterior design.
If you’re a fan of how this car looks, feels, and drives—and I don’t blame you at all if you are—the controls and left pedal aren’t quite bad enough to be complete dealbreakers in my view. But they’re pushing it. Getting it to a stoplight with grace and changing radio stations without taking my hands off the wheel required care and forethought that other cars simply do not call for.
Fix those two things and the C-Class would be an easy recommendation. And really, they can be fixed. The brake thing feels like it’s simply a calibration issue or a first-production-year kink or, as mentioned, an issue with this particular example. When it comes to the touch controls, it’s a brand-wide problem so I’m not quite as optimistic that much will change on that front. But considering Volkswagen is (after being borderline cyberbullied over it) changing course on its own touch-control fiasco, I’m not giving up hope on Mercedes just yet—the rest of the new C is too good to write off.
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