BERLIN: The C-Class, once Benz’s “small” car, has grown with each model, allowing room for an A-Class and B-Class to slip under it. The all-new W205 series C-Class sedan is 4.67 metres long, about one USB stick shorter than an E-Class of the early 1990s. It is roomier than that car too, thanks to ever-improving packaging efficiency and increased width. It’s also packed with equipment that wasn’t even dreamed about on the flagship S-Class of that era. Everyone else is moving forward too, of course, but the C-Class is a mighty capable vehicle, again raising the bar in this class. Rumour suggests this car is the reason Audi postponed the launch of its next A4 from late 2014 to mid-2015. The things that might irk people about the C-Class and there shouldn’t be too many are probably matters of taste, plus the usual gripe about Australians paying more. But even the “Australian gouge” is less pronounced with the lower priced Benzes. The diesel and petrol-powered C200 derivatives start in the low $60k bracket (plus on-road costs) with far higher levels of specification than in many markets. ENGINE VARIANTS Three engine variants were available at launch the C220 turbo diesel (2.1 litres), the C180 turbo petrol (1.6 litres) and the C200 turbo petrol (2 litres). The 250 as driven here is a more recent addition, though there’s plenty more to come, including a full-house AMG performance machine in the New Year. Wagon variants are available too, with coupes and convertibles to come. ‘STRIKING AND VIBRANT’ DESIGN Benz calls it “a striking, vibrant design that exudes sensuous clarity while arousing emotions at the same time”, proving that it can talk styling twaddle as well as anyone. The first thought on jumping into the cabin, is that the doors feel very light. The old-fashioned, weighty Benz panels have been sacrificed on the altar of efficiency; Benz happily claims the 48 per cent aluminium body is the lightest in the segment. Inside, with everything closed, the car feels rock solid. The interior ours having beautiful two-tone red and black leather feels like a complete update, yet is also thoroughly Mercedes and thoroughly modern. The lines are clean and the surfaces uncluttered, though perhaps not everyone will love the large and almost stand-alone screen in the centre of the dash. It is easy to see and easy to use. SAFETY FEATURES TO BOOT The new version is thoroughly practical too. There’s even a bigger boot. The C250 is $68,900, but it didn’t take much to push our car price to nearly $83k. All the electronic systems are exemplary in operation and ease of use. The C250’s performance is excellent. It is quite an achievement to make a four-cylinder engine this quiet and refined, yet also capable of delivering considerable sting when necessary. Rest to 100km/h takes six seconds flat. That’s 1.3 seconds quicker than the C200. Curiously, exactly the same engine is found in the latest entry level Infiniti, the Q50 2.0T at closer to $50,000. This is due to a sharing arrangement between Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) and the Renault-Nissan Alliance (Infiniti). The C-Class steering too is first rate. The earlier Mercedes electric steering systems had what felt like a dead spot in the straight ahead position because the assistance cut out (to save fuel) and took a tiny but noticeable moment to cut back in when turning. No such issues here.