VERDICT Difficult to split the features, abilities and value of these two. It comes down to what you want — comfort (Benz) over sportiness (BMW). Comfort wins.
No prize for picking there’s a price/feature war between Merc and BMW. The winner is you. New C-Class is a gem and counters the well-equipped 328i. Similar equipment — satnav, high-end audio, leather and so on — make the contest difficult, as does the same servicing position and three-year resale value. You could also buy the C200 and save $8K.
Looks a tad like the previous model until you put them alongside each other. New model is an absolute ripper, pinching style lines from the bigger E and S-Class range to boost its prestige. Cabin is far simpler than before though right-side gear shifter needs familiarisation. Boot is 480 litres.
As with BMW, Merc finds economy and performance in a turbo petrol four. The 2.0’s outputs are decent (155kW/350Nm), its 0-100km/h sprint takes 6.6secs and it averages 6.0L/100km. The seven-speed automatic sends power to the rear wheels. All physical dimensions are within a whisker of the BMW. Wheels are odd-sized (narrower tyres at the front).
Top-shelf standards here with all the sophisticated stuff to match the BMW but adding LED headlights and daytime running lights, three more airbags (totalling nine) and blind-spot sensor. No spare wheel but there is a tyre-pressure monitor. Park sensors and rear camera make light work of parking.
I felt more cramped behind the wheel of this compared with the BMW. But the Merc is still comfortable, with a more compliant ride than its rival. The engine is also a bit harsher than one would expect, though under way it’s willing and smooth. Having one fewer cog in the gearbox makes no difference to performance, though the less-stressed engine isn’t as perky.