Road Test: Mercedes-Benz C300 BlueTEC Hybrid Sport
This is an incredibly tough segment, and one which is dominated by diesel engines, which can make a comparatively expensive hybrid a tough sell. But Mercedes-Benz has been clever here, with a modular system that’s compatible with various models, different body styles and both petrol and diesel engines. It means this is the most fuel efficient, and lowest carbon, model in its class.
Plus it’s a masterpiece of packaging. There’s only a menial 120kg increase in weight over the C250 BlueTEC with which this shares an engine and, as there’s no large battery pack behind the rear bench, this folds flat as it would in any other C-Class. There’s a small loss of boot space, and the fuel tank is slightly smaller, but electrification doesn’t get in the way as it does in some hybrids.
Heavy influences from the S-Class means the C-Class feels a cut above the rest of this segment in terms of fit and finish, and part-electric power suits it perfectly. It’ll creep gently and smoothly around town spending a large share of its time running on electricity, and the system is just as effective on the motorway. By decoupling the engine at low loads and using the motor to take the strain off the engine, fuel economy of over 60mpg requires little or no effort.
Those familiar with the often coarse 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine used across most of the range will be glad to hear it’s well insulated in the C-Class, engaging with only the faintest shudder as the car switches out of electric mode and only grumbling under heavy loads, where the combined 229bhp is more noticeable than any NVH issues.
The trouble is, it’s still up against the typical hybrid challenge; whole-life costs compared to the C250 BlueTEC aren’t as different as the brochure figures might imply. There’s a £2,610 price walk between the two, and despite a 100% First Year Capital Allowance, lower Benefit in Kind Liability, SMR costs and National Insurance, there’s no real cost saving over the diesel version.
By comparison, the Lexus IS 300h has gunned for the sector’s best-performing diesel engines and, while it’s less efficient than the C-Class, there’s a cavernous £6,000 between the two cars in roughly equivalent trims, which makes it a very competitive rival to the sector’s defaults. Ironically, while Lexus has chased sales from the German brands, it’s still the leader on hybrid technology.
This is a beautifully engineered and very clever car, packed full of appeal for drivers and fleets wanting to reduce their environmental impact and local harmful emissions, but the financial advantages aren’t as clear-cut as they could be.
A unique proposition in this segment, the C-Class is as technologically interesting as it is aesthetically pleasing. But it’s a car for companies wanting to reduce their environmental impact, rather than making a big dent in overall running costs.
Sector: Compact Executive
Type: Diesel-electric hybrid
CO2 (tailpipe): 95g/km
Charging port: N/A