It's probably not shocking to learn that I fell in love with the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but what may be surprising is it worked for my family.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 combined everything I love in one package, too: a coveted driving experience, good looks and enough room for my favorite people.
I can't see Mercedes-Benz marketing its sexy sedan as a mom-mobile, but this car felt like it was designed with a woman in mind. During my weeklong test drive, I marveled over the ergonomics, the ease of operation and even the dimensions inside and outside the vehicle; once I saddled into the C250 things felt just right. It wasn't so small that I felt unsafe in it, but it wasn't too big for me to handle with complete control and confidence, which made it the perfect size.
As to be expected, the C250 offers a firm ride with acute responsiveness and tight handling. With my test car's Sport trim, things got very, ahem, fun on the road. It was such a dynamic driving experience that it's almost strange to think of the C-Class as a sedan. With its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the C250 has just enough power to make you feel bold behind the wheel, but not so much that you'll feel like a reckless teenager with kids in the backseat.
Despite its luxury sedan status, I was also surprised to see how competitively it was priced. A 2012 C250 Sport sedan starts at $34,800. However, my test car, a C250 Sport model with both the Premium and Multimedia packages, cost significantly more at $44,860.
Right off the bat, the C250's looks won me over. From the outside, the C-Class looks petite without coming across as small; it's sporty but sophisticated, and even with four doors, it's anything but boring. With its Mars Red exterior paint color, my test car just looked too glam for words. It was practically my favorite tube of Chanel lipstick on wheels.
Thanks to the sedan's low-step-in height, the kids should be able to enter and exit the car independently without problems. For kiddos who need to be strapped into child-safety seats, the door openings are wide open enough to get them into the backseat and situated with ease. Taller parents, watch your head! It's easy to hit your head on the door openings when helping little ones, but if you love the looks of the C250 as much as I did, it's something you'll learn to live with.
For a compact sedan, the C250's cargo area is quite large. It swallowed my stroller and yoga mat with room to spare, but a double-stroller would probably be pushing it. The 60/40-split folding backseat creates more cargo room should you need it.
The 2012 C250 has a 201-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that's paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The C250 gets an EPA-estimated 21/31 mpg city/highway. I averaged 22 mpg for the week, with primarily city driving. I found it to be reasonable considering the turbo engine, but it still hurt to have to fill up with premium gasoline.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): More than Fair, less than Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
I expected the C-Class' interior to be snug and too small a fit for my family, but after my husband strapped into the front passenger seat with the baby's rear-facing child-safety seat behind him in the backseat and didn't find his knees in the dash, things were off to a great start.
I can't say the inside of a C250 is roomy, but it's far more comfortable than you might think for such a sporty little sedan. You may not want to put your basketball-playing teenager in the backseat for too long, but there is a fair amount of legroom for most passengers.
The seats in the C-Class are some of the most comfortable I've sat in. There's just something about the way the seat bolsters hug you, and with the eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, you're guaranteed to find your own sweet spot. The C250 is a five-seater, but realistically, I can't imagine more than two passengers fitting comfortably in the backseat.
As for cupholders, there's your standard two in the front row and two in the backseat. There is also a small storage bin under the front-row armrest that can easily hold a wallet or sunglasses, and there are pockets on the seatbacks of both the driver and front passenger seats. I was disappointed when I couldn't stash a water bottle in the cutout in the door, but you don't want a car like the C250 getting too cluttered with junk.
I loved the optional panoramic moonroof in my test car and the luxurious trim finishes in the interior, but what I did find disappointing were the ancient-looking displays found on the optional Comand system's 7-inch high-resolution color screen. The system's knob controller is easy to use, but with as expensive as everything else appears inside the C-Class, the displays look old and out of place.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests to earn this safety nod. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has only conducted a rollover crash test on the C-Class. It received a score of four stars out of five.
The C250 comes standard with rear-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, and frontal-, side-impact and side curtain airbags. It also has a standard driver's knee airbag and a drowsiness monitor, Attention Assist, which flashes a coffee cup icon when the car senses you're too tired to drive.
Optional safety features include a backup camera, mbrace emergency communication system, and blind spot warning and lane departure assist systems, which alert the driver when the car drifts out of its lane. How's that for looking out for you?
Although my rear-facing child-safety seat fit just fine in the backseat, I wish the C250's lower Latch anchors were a little easier to access. The hardware matched the Mars Red exterior paint color, making them easy to identify, but they were buried under the stiff seat cushions. Once I was able to access them, the car-seat installation went smoothly, but I wish the C250 featured Latch anchors that sit out in the open with rubber flip-up covers like I've seen in its more luxurious sibling, the CLS-Class.
Get more safety information on the 2012 C-Class sedan here.