Skip advert
Advertisement
In-depth reviews

Mercedes C-Class plug-in hybrid review

The plug-in hybrid Mercedes C 300 e comes with an impressive infotainment system and 68-mile electric driving range

Mercedes C 300 e
Overall rating

4.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Great infotainment
  • Refined and comfortable
  • Class-leading electric driving range

Cons

  • No 55kW rapid charging for UK buyers
  • BMW 330e better to drive
  • High starting price
Car typeElectric rangeFuel economyCO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid66-70 miles471-565mpg13g/km

The Mercedes C-Class is one of the UK’s most popular company cars, and a chief rival to the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Like the 3 Series, the C-Class is available with plug-in hybrid power, which promises the performance of a petrol engine with the fuel economy of a diesel.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Compared to the previous generation C-Class plug-in hybrid, the official electric driving range has increased from 35 to 66 miles in the saloon and 70 miles in the Estate, while the average miles-per-gallon figure has jumped from 235 to 471-565mpg. Of course, to achieve this, you’ll need to be charging the battery on a regular basis, so get used to plugging in whenever you’re at home. If you do, you can look forward to an all-electric range that’s likely to be enough for a typical daily commute.

Official CO2 emissions have been slashed in half, too, from an already-low 31g/km to just 13g/km. As a result, company-car drivers can expect big savings, from both a reduction in the C 300 e’s Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating and from how often you’re likely to need to fill up at the pump.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Under the bonnet is a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that’s combined with a 128bhp electric motor drawing power from a 25.4kWh battery, which for context is larger than the one in the entry-level, fully electric Fiat 500. In our hands the C 300 e delivered a remarkable zero-emissions driving range of 60 miles, which is about double the real-world range of the plug-in 3 Series.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Unfortunately, C 300 e models sold in the UK only come with a Type 2 charging port and a maximum charging speed of 11kW. That means it takes around three-and-a-half hours to top up the battery from a standard home wallbox – not a vast amount of time, but longer than in other European markets. That’s because the plug-in C-Class is available with 55kW rapid charging capabilities in other countries, and at that rate, recharging from 0-100% takes just half an hour – ideal for longer journeys.

Thankfully, the C-Class’s classy interior more than makes up for the lack of rapid charging. The cabin features styling cues and technology from both the S-Class and EQS executive limousines. Swing open the driver’s door and you’re greeted with what can only be described as a typical Mercedes interior, featuring materials that feel just as good as those in the S-Class flagship. Impressive, especially when you consider that S-Class prices start from around £100,000.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The dashboard is dominated by an 11.9-inch portrait-orientated central touchscreen that’s brilliantly responsive and displays Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bigger and better than any of the C-Class's rivals can. It’s also standard on all models, and paired with a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display. Both screens are flanked by five oval metallic air vents that add an industrial-chic feel to the cabin.

Standard equipment specific to the plug-in hybrid model includes pre-entry climate control, a five-metre Mode 3 charging cable for wallbox and public charging stations and the ability to locate and control certain functions remotely.

The C 300 e also features ‘acoustic ambient protection’, which makes it easier for pedestrians to be aware of the car’s presence at speeds of up to 19mph.

You also get the German marque’s familiar ‘Hey Mercedes’ virtual assistant to control most of the car’s functions, which now includes integrated Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music, too. It’s one of the better voice-command systems, and means you won’t need to take your eyes off the road, even to adjust the temperature. It’ll improve over time thanks to over-the-air (OTA) software updates, as well.

The new plug-in C-Class's 60-odd-mile range means you’re likely to spend lots of time being propelled by the electric motor alone. Even when you first start the car up, if there’s juice in the battery, you move away in silence. That pure-electric grunt means the C 300 e is quick off the line, too, and offers more than enough speed to keep up with motorway traffic.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

If you're unable to top up the battery before it runs out, then, like most plug-in hybrids, the C-Class runs as a full hybrid, with the brakes recovering as much energy as they can to recharge the battery. There’s a set of paddles on the steering wheel to adjust the strength, or you can just switch it off altogether. But, left to its own devices, the intelligent system can tell the car to decelerate more when approaching junctions or if traffic slows down ahead. Some will think it’s very clever, but others will find it a little hard to predict. 

Worse than that though is the feel of the brake pedal itself. Like most EVs and PHEVs, the first part of the pedal travel works with the motor regen, while heavier stops are aided by the mechanical brake discs. That initial regen portion of the pedal is very long and very soft, which at first makes it feel as though the brakes simply don’t work. Press harder and the brakes still aren’t particularly reassuring, even though they do bring the car to a halt quickly enough. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

If you're on a longer journey and run the battery down, the engine will awake from its slumber. Yet you may struggle to notice its presence, as it only produces a faint hum that's easily concealed if you're playing music or listening to the radio. The steering didn’t provide as much feedback as its BMW rival, and the car is not as sharp overall. But it is very stable at higher speeds, and its ride is ever so slightly softer than the 3 Series – especially on the fairly modest 18-inch alloy wheels of our AMG Line test car.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

There are few driving modes you can select: the default one is Hybrid, which we expect most people are likely to leave the car in. There’s a pure-electric mode, and another that maintains battery charge for when you need it most. Unsurprisingly, you also get a Sport mode, which tweaks the steering and throttle response – and instantly fires up the petrol engine. Nonetheless, acceleration in Sport is impressive thanks to assistance from the electric motor, with the car capable of covering the 0-62mph sprint in a little over six seconds and a top speed of 152mph. For context, the non-hybrid C 300 can do 6.0 seconds and 155mph respectively.

Typically, you’d expect a battery as big as the C 300 e's to eat away at cabin space, especially in the rear. However, that’s not the case, and in fact there’s more head, leg and elbowroom than in the old model, with the C-Class remaining the benchmark for comfort in this class.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Boot space is reduced by 140 litres in the standard car to just 315 litres, but that's still a slight improvement over the previous generation and likely to be big enough for most people, with a flat floor, too.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

However, if you’re after more space, an Estate version of the plug-in hybrid C-Class is also available. Figures of 360 litres with the rear seats up and 1,375 litres with them folded down are good, but some way short of the 490 litres and 1,510 litres of space you enjoy in non-hybrid versions.

The plug-in C 300 e saloon is available in AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus trims, while the Estate version is currently only offered in the range-topping AMG Line Premium Plus specification. Each gets slightly sportier exterior styling than the base cars available elsewhere in the range, as well as a decent amount of equipment to go along with the impressive central touchscreen and digital driver’s display. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

However, that means the C 300 e saloon in AMG Line spec is priced at close to £52,000, which is a few thousand pounds more than the facelifted BMW 330e in M Sport trim. Meanwhile, the C-Class PHEV Estate starts from £60,500 – significantly more than its plug-in 3 Series equivalent.

Mercedes has gone all-out with this version of its plug-in hybrid compact exec, adding a realistic 60 miles of electric range, a flagship-worthy infotainment system and comfortable interior to an already appealing package. It’s therefore hard to imagine that any company-car driver who isn’t ready to make the switch to electric will choose one of the C-Class's rivals over this latest iteration. In fact, for that reason the C 300 e has been named Best Plug-In Hybrid Company Car Award for two consecutive years. But we expect private buyers will fall for it just as easily, so long as they can stomach the high starting price.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Welcome one and all, I’m Ellis the news reporter on Auto Express, the brand’s former online reviews editor and contributor to DrivingElectric. I’m proud to say I cut my teeth reporting and reviewing all things EV as the content editor on DrivingElectric. I joined the team while completing my master’s degree in automotive journalism at Coventry University and since then I’ve driven just about every electric car and hybrid I could get my hands on.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Tesla Supercharger Membership fee cut with 42 charging sites open to all EVs
Tesla recall
News

Tesla Supercharger Membership fee cut with 42 charging sites open to all EVs

Tesla has lowered its Supercharger Membership costs for non-Tesla owners by £2 per month
19 Apr 2024
New Citroen e-C3 Aircross: move over Mercedes EQB, a new 7-seat EV is here
New Citroen e-C3 Aircross - front
News

New Citroen e-C3 Aircross: move over Mercedes EQB, a new 7-seat EV is here

Citroen has revealed the e-C3 Aircross and it could become the cheapest electric seven-seat SUV.
18 Apr 2024
Where can I buy hydrogen and where is my nearest hydrogen filling station?
hydrogen filling station
Your questions answered

Where can I buy hydrogen and where is my nearest hydrogen filling station?

A guide to where you can find hydrogen fuel stations for filling up a hydrogen fuel-cell car in the UK
11 Apr 2024

More on C-Class

Top 10 best plug-in hybrid cars 2023
Best PHEVs 2023
Best cars

Top 10 best plug-in hybrid cars 2023

Here are our top picks of the best plug-in hybrid motoring options you can buy in the UK right now
30 May 2023
Top 10 best hybrid company cars 2023
Best hybrid company cars 2023
Best cars

Top 10 best hybrid company cars 2023

Looking to bust your Benefit-in-Kind bills? We showcase the best hybrid company cars on sale today
25 May 2023
Top 10 best hybrid estate cars 2023
Best hybrid estate cars
Best cars

Top 10 best hybrid estate cars 2023

The best hybrid estate cars you can buy right now in the UK save you money on fuel, but still have plenty of space inside. Here are our top picks
30 Mar 2023
Skip advert
Advertisement
Mercedes C-Class hybrid estate (2014-2021) review
Mercedes C-Class hybrid estate
In-depth reviews

Mercedes C-Class hybrid estate (2014-2021) review

The Mercedes C-Class is unique among plug-in hybrid estates in offering buyers a choice of petrol-electric or diesel-electric power
29 Jun 2022
New 2021 Mercedes C-Class hybrids: specs, prices and details
New 2021 Mercedes C-Class
News

New 2021 Mercedes C-Class hybrids: specs, prices and details

Mild-hybrid versions of the new C-Class saloon and estate are on sale now, starting from £38,785; C 300 e plug-in hybrid to follow
12 Aug 2021
Mercedes C-Class hybrid saloon (2019-2021) review
Mercedes C-Class hybrid
In-depth reviews

Mercedes C-Class hybrid saloon (2019-2021) review

The Mercedes C 300 hybrid is the only model in its sector with the option of diesel-electric power – and it's a great combination
22 Apr 2021