I have owned many vehicles from the major car manufacturers over the years, both European and Japanese. I have experienced the good and bad that they have to offer. But a Mercedes? I had never really thought about one seriously.
As a young bloke I had always thought that a Merc was a pensioner car, or only for "the toffs" to own. I was in the market and spotted a one-owner "Black" example - not the best for Australian conditions I know, but it was a low kilometre UK import C180 Avantgarde wagon with the AMG Sport pack and a full service history for sale.
As it was a little different, it piqued my interest. I had the car inspected and negotiated a price, buying it from the original female owner.
It was a replacement vehicle for my wife (she likes brand names) although through experience I tend not to believe marketing hype. But it fit the bill and seemed like a sensible choice, solid and safe, a medium-sized practical wagon with quality build materials and with pretty reasonable performance when called upon. Yet it also has the frugality of a 1.8-litre turbo - all positives in my book.
The electronics of 7-speed gearbox tends to let the engine labour a little around the suburbs, but that's the price being paid for economy.
The turbo suffers a little lag at low revs, so you adjust your driving style to suit the engine/gearbox dynamics. But given a few revs it rewards on the open road, which is where cars of this design do shine. While it's no "V8 fire breather", driven sensibly using the engine's torque curve (for its capacity) it gets along just fine.
On the open road with the low-profile 18-inch wheels and the AMG Sports pack suspension the ride quality is slightly harsh when compared to my friend's standard C200 setup, but all is forgiven under brakes into corners, tight or sweeping (or occasionally "no brakes", in my case).
If you can pick a line, it's solid and dependable. The cabin is pretty quiet, and it's well-appointed with sports type heated seats, flappy paddles, flat bottomed wheel, a nice dash and all the usual Mercedes appointments.
Maintenance is nothing extraordinary and is nothing a good local mechanic can't do. Just stick to the service schedule and don't skimp. Use quality parts, the correct grade of synthetic oils and filters for engine, gearbox and don't forget the diff.
My only "real gripe" I have is a minor one - the transmission tunnel takes up a little too much leg room in the cabin. I only really notice it during long drives, but by then it's usually time to get out and stretch the legs.
Other than that, it has been reliable and comfortable, and on a short or long drive it's generally a really nice place to be.