Primarily manufactured in Mercedes-Benz factories located Sindelfingen, Germany and Bremen, Germany, the C-Class models were brought into the public eye by Daimier AG in 1993. Technically considered a replacement for the 190, they were the smallest cars in the Mercedes lineup until the A-Class was introduced in 1997.
Considered to be compact executive cars, C-Class released its first generation in June of 1993, a sedan, and then a station wagon version in 1996, but later the coupe, and cabriolet versions were added. The second generation came in July of 2000, including the addition of the 4Matic (a four-wheel-drive equipment option) in 2002. Generation three was released in 2007, while the fourth came out in 2014.
In 2000 Mercedes released the C-Class line’s fastback Coupe (aka SportCoupe), which they basically redesigned in 2000. This model was eventually renamed the Mercedes-Benz CLC-Class (which went out of production in 2011).
It was, in turn, replaced with the new C-Class Coupe in 2012. But of all the models in the C-Class line produced by Mercedes, there some that were and are, just better than others. Maybe you haven’t just sat around, wondering what the best C-Class models are, but the question has been on our minds, so we decided to figure it out.
Here are the results, compiled in a list from least greatest to greatest, numbered 20 to 1. So, grab a beverage, maybe a snack, as well, and sit back. Below is our take on this very topic:
20. 2003 C230 Kompressor Hatchback Sport Coupe
First off, I should admit that I chose this model for the number twenty position strictly out of prejudice. At one time we owned this exact model car, and it simply wasn’t anything to brag about other than it looked a little cool, and it had a Mercedes emblem on it.
During my research on this topic I found that it was not only on list of the best C-Classes, but it was higher than I was willing to put it. So, at number twenty is the 2003 C230 Kompressor Hatchback Sport Coupe.
I’ll begin my critique by saying this little car IS a zippy one, but it’s certainly not sporty. As a matter of fact, it’s altogether too ‘bubble-like’, for lack of a better term. The whole aesthetic is wrong.
Now, to speak of the mechanics of the car, it had a super-charged 2.3 liter 4-cylinder and a six-speed manual transmission. To me, it was sluggish to drive and the gears were jerky and awkward.
All I can say is that Mercedes-Benz has seen better days. The reason it made our list at all is because it seemed to sell quite well, but only for a short period of time. Someone out there liked it, but it just wasn’t so at our home. Man, it’s hard to be rude to a Mercedes.
19. 1998 C-Class C43 AMG Sedan
The first AMG-tuned Mercedes on our list is the C43 sedan, which was referred to as an entry-level luxury sedan. This car type was actually a fairly new styling concept in 1998, and BMW had pretty much cornered the market on them, according to TopSpeed.
Those who fell in love with it seemed to prefer the C63 M3 model because they were not only drivable, but they had a luxurious feel to them as well. As their popularity rose, the factory upgrades and new, similar models came out to mimic them, like the S-Class and the CLK.
Soon, what started out as a compact luxury sedan soon earned the privilege of getting a new, larger engine that offered much more comparable power than its ancestor before it. The C43 AMG model was the result. The 5-speed automatic offered 302 hp and had 302 lb.-ft of torque, making it quite the surprise indeed.
18. 1996 C-Class 5-Door Station Wagon (aka The T-Model)
Interestingly, the ‘T’ in T-model stood for ‘tourenwagen’, and that is what it was referred to inside the wall of the company, but it caught on a bit during off hours as well. While it shared the same trim-type as the sedan, but the AMG-tuned version was a bit different.
This car was not available in the United States, which explains why it is so difficult to drudge up information on it, but basically it was the same as the sedan, but featured five doors (counting the one in back).
It came in both gasoline and diesel-fueled versions, though it was a bit less powerful than its sedan predecessors. The vehicle, while somewhat popular, had never really taken off, but it was economical and luxurious at the same time, making it a great choice for Mercedes-lovers that could only afford a less expensive model.
17. 1997 C-Class C230 Sedan
This smaller car had a 2.3 liter 4-cylinder engine, so it was good on gas, getting 20mpg and 28mpg on city/highway streets, respectively.. And because of its smaller size (in comparison to other cars out at the time) it handled fairly well.
The car had a five-speed automatic engine that seemed to be the perfect partner for the rear-wheel-drive. It was sold as a Special Edition, however, there was nothing too special about the gas mileage it got 17.1 mpg in the city and 20.1 mpg on the highway, according to Auto123 .
It has a 4-cylinder, so we were hoping it would have gotten a bit more, but the price really wasn’t bad, considering the Mercedes-Benz brand. The MSRP on the car was $36,950 in 1997.
16. 1999 C-Class C230 Sedan
This is just a different model year, but still considered one of the best, and research into the best C-Class Mercedes automobiles shows me that both were a popular choice for ‘best of’ comparisons.
The good news is that this car actually got 19 mpg in the city, and it got 26 on the highway. Another four cylinder,just like its predecessor, it likely gets just a bit better mileage due to upgrades in other parts of the fueling system.
It’s highly likely that both this car and the 1997 made the ‘Best in C-Class list due to the fact that they were simply good, easy to handle Mercedes products.
15. 2007 C-Class
With approximately 225hp making the wheels move, this C-Class model wasn’t doing to poorly. Couple that with the fact that it got 22mph in the city and 28mph on the highway and you likely have yourself a winner.
When we consider the fact that this particular model is equipped with a V6 engine, we have to wonder what was going on with the two C230s that we just covered, but the explanation could simply be in the improvements.
Anyway, it came with the option of manual or automatic transmissions, which we are sure plays into the result. This one seemed to have it all going on, both inside and out, with an interior that made the people inside definitely FEEL like they were in a Mercedes, and for $30, 425 one just couldn’t go wrong.
14. 2010 C-Class
Rated #1 in 2010 Small Luxury Cars, according to US News, 2010’s model C-class is our second one on the list. This one had an original MSRP that fell between $33,600 and $39,750, so it was a tad more expensive that the 2007 model, but not so much that it doesn’t seem reasonable…this was an affordable car at the time, considering the year.
While it wasn’t the most luxurious of the C-Class offerings, it was more so than most run of the mill smaller cars. And it certainly wasn’t the sportiest; it was a four-door sedan, after all.
Not to mention that the gas mileage was a bit lower than expected, at 17mpg city and 20mpg highway. But it was also a top safety pick for the year, and it boasted between 224 and 286 horses…pretty darn good.
13. 1993 C-Class 4-Door Sedan (W202)
This entry-level (or compact executive, whichever you prefer) is from C-Class’s first year out, so the model was just breaking its gums on the consumer market. While they also made the station wagon model the same year, the four-door sedan was the more popular one by a long shot.
Everything pretty much stayed consistent with this particular car for the next several years, when it underwent a facelift (big change) in 1997. This model offered a wide range of engines to choose from which gave different levels of power to the driver, depending on what he or she chose.
Gas mileage wasn’t that great at 10.7/16.5 mpg city/highway, respectively, but what can we expect from 1993? The truth is that the basic C-Class sedan, in any year, was a popular model, simply for the wonderful value, and at a great price at that.
12. 2000 C-Class C280 Sedan
The 2000 C280 sedan was a sedan with a 2.8 liter V6 engine that had a 16.4 gallon tank and got a combined 24mpg. It was made as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, was easy to handle, offered 194 horses, and put out 195 lb.-ft. of torque.
This gas-powered car was available pretty well loaded, with a great sound system and comfortable interior, and all was good with passenger safety equipment and ratings. The MSRP was $35,950 that year, and with that price tag we can understand why the car was so popular.
11. 1993 C-Class 5-Door Wagon (W202)
The ’93 5-door wagon was the first one made by Mercedes. It came out in June, and while it remained in the line for some time, it was never one of the most popular of the C-Class vehicles. However, it was safe, dependable, and of course, it had the ever-coveted emblem on it.
Because of the longer, heavier body the wagon didn’t get the gas mileage that its forerunner, the sedan, got (which wasn’t great, so you can imagine), but it ran very well, handled wonderfully, and was the perfect family vehicle, right alongside minivans. Whether the model was standard or fully –loaded, the consumer got what they paid for (in the mid-to-upper $30k range).
10. 1999 C-Class C43 AMG
Like the ’98, which is listed above, the ’99 C43 was tuned by AMG, which is a division of Mercedes that has a main focus of making supercharged (turbocharged) autos. While they mostly focused on race cars and sports cars, if a car was tuned by AMG, it could be expected to have a little oomph under the hood.
So, while this sedan may not have been a car one would take and enter at the track, it could get up and go. The C43 AMG was not mass produced, unlike most cars. Rather, they were made in few, compared to the normal numbers anyway.
With 195hp they weren’t the fastest either, but they held their own. And in their time they were some of the coolest looking cars around on top of being a Mercedes. With all that being said, they ran about $30k .
9. 1994 C-Class
Another early model, this year’s C-Class would put out between 148 and 194 hp with a 2.2 liter, 4-cylinder engine or a 2.8 liter, 6-cylinder. It had a fuel capacity of 16.4 gallons and got approximately 22/28 mpg in the city and highway, respectively.
According to many reviews, this is the car that actually made owning an entry-level Mercedes something that could actually be done, and something people really began to want to do.
Each year, according to Auto Trader, the C-Class would undergo some type of upgrade or add-on. This, however, was one year that the model remained pretty much the same as it had been, and with it being such a new model release, that was likely a good idea.
It was just getting to be popular, and to change it would be to jeopardize the future of the model. Fortunately, the thought was a good one. It ended up being a very good seller for Mercedes.
8. 1999 C-Class C280 Sedan
This 2.8 liter V6 was really seemed to catch attention the year it was released. Likely it was due to its good gas mileage (21mpg/city, 27mpg/highway), or maybe its modest 194 horses, which kept it a bit humble and safe.
Whatever it was, it worked. It came with a 5-speed automatic transmission for easier driving, and it handled well. Much like the rest of the C-Class sedans in appearance, there were small differences that made it all its own, and that seemed to attract customers.
Its subtly different body style and its wider range of interior choices likely helped. Whatever it was, this was a popular model among the masses.
7. 1995 C-Class C220 Sedan
While the C220 was something of a low-powered car (only putting about 148 hp out of its 2.2, 4-cylinder engine), it was efficient, and very affordable for the new-coming Mercedes lover. The 4-speed automatic got great gas mileage (23mph/city and 28mph/highway), sat five, and handled well; and all of that for a price that could be handled the same way the car was: Right around $30k.
6. 1995 C-Class C280 Sedan
This year’s model C280 sedan came with a 2.8 liter, 6-cylinder engine, so it had a little bit more power. A five speed transmission told it what to do, and it handled great.
This four-door sedan was another attractively priced offering that seemed to do well with families and couples, and women particular loved it, since it was affordable and easy to drive.
A couple of years had passed for the C-Class model line at this point, so things were moving onward and upward, and continuing to increase in popularity.
5. 1995 C-Class C36 AMG Sedan
This particular AMG-tuned model is the C36 sedan. Though many fans of AMG’s work don’t recognize it, this car is just as worthy of recognition as their other works, even though production on it stopped in 1998.
It was much like its ancestors, with the exception of new side skirts and a new rear apron, but that was about it appearance wise. The handling was improved due to lower lift, and a bit of new trim was added as well, but those were hard to spot with the naked eye.
The interior was fulfilling, yet basic, as it was a simple luxury car, not overdone at all.
It came with an inline six, and things under the hood were tweaked just a bit to give it 276 hp, rather than the recent numbers we see about, as well as 284 lb.-ft. of torque. This was basically a C-Class jacked up on caffeine, and it was well worth it, even though it did get discontinued.
4. 1998 C-Class C280 Sedan
This set of C-Class wheels came with a five-speed transmission and a 2.8 liter V6 engine. It ‘s a sedan, but there were other body styles available. This body did endure a body restyling this particular year.
As far as gas mileage, it gave you 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. How did it hit the pocketbook? Well, the C280 sedan was like most all of the other vehicles in the C-Class line…costing all of $35,400 brand new. The C-Class model was certainly the go-to Mercedes-Benz when it comes to getting what it’s worth at the time.
3. 1996 C-Class C220 Sedan
Now for a bit of a downgrade power-wise. The C220 sedan for 1998 was only priced at $27,900, so some cuts had to happen somewhere. It got a around 23 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, so that makes up for the lack of power…almost.
With a standard inline four engine, this little girl was only able to put out about 147 hp, making a good driver for the city in particular, and a four-speed transmission added another set of benefits that contribute to this model making it to the list.
Yes, it’s one of many sedans on our list, but since the C-Class line was primarily a line of sedans, we won’t hold it against the car. The bottom line is that twenty-one years ago, the C220 easily fell in line to be on the list of the top twenty of all-time for obvious reasons.
2. 1998 C-Class C230 Sedan
Introducing the C230, a brother model to the 220, and released in the same year. The only real difference between this model and the last is in the gas mileage and the body styling, which is only slightly varying on both accounts,
The body on the C230 has just a touch more of a sporty look to it, a few extras for the outside, and a few for the inside. Extras that the C220 didn’t offer, I should say. Price-wise it was higher; it fell in the $30,450 to $52,750 range, due to the available extras.
As for the mileage? 23 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway are very tempting indeed, but it, too, runs on an inline four…a 2.3 liter. Basically, this was just a tiny step up on the totem pole for someone when it came to entry-level Mercedes.
1. The 2011 C-Class
Last, but not least, is our number one Mercedes-Benz C-Class model of all time. Introducing the 2011 C-Class, one of many on our list; last in line, but in no way the least.
The 2011 C-Class When we talked about moving up on the totem pole in the C-Class line, well, this model is a hop, skip, and jump up from most of the others here. Equipped with a 3.0 liter V6, a 3.5 liter V6, or a 6.2 liter V8, there were a lot of option, none of them too weak.
Horsepower ranged from 228 to 481, and it STILL got 18 city miles and 26 on the highway. Definitely not too shabby for the price.
This is a car that many, many Mercedes fans drove and loved, and they still drive and love them, making the 2011 C-Class a shoe-in for the number one spot on our list. It is definitely the best C-Class made.
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Written by Benjamin Smith
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