The C-Class is about as good as a mid-sized saloon can get
Fifteen years later, this saloon is still a great all-rounder
This Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the W204, if you’re keeping tabs on the model designations.
The design is solidly serious and, despite some depressing complications, the third generation is arguably the best buy of all.
It’s possible to be bewildered by the number of Cs to choose from. You can refine it down to the C220 CDI, which is all the compact business Mercedes-Benz that anyone really needs. It delivers up to 68mpg on a lucky day. However, the petrols are properly economical too: the C180 will do 40mpg all day long, and they’re all pretty future-proof.
There’s also the completely mad V8-engined C63 AMG, which ended up with 500bhp, if you want to show off. Then again, just fi nding a small diesel or petrol with an AMG bodykit and a set of black alloys would fool most onlookers.
There were a couple of revamps that explain today’s price spikes. In 2011, the car was restyled a bit inside and out, but mostly it was about turbochargers replacing superchargers on the petrols, plus the addition of engine stop-start technology. And in 2013, new trims were introduced, such as AMG Sport and AMG Sport Plus.
Rather worryingly, the instruments can go expensively blank and the Comand system can play up, so make sure the dashboard still does its stuff.
Although it’s not as corrosion-friendly as previous C-Classes, it’s still important to check around the edge of the bootlid and handle. Also check for bubbles around the wheel arches and look for flaking alloys while you’re down there.
As with most modern cars, the door mirrors cost a lot to replace, but the repeater units can act up, which is a few-hundred-quid’s chip against the seller.
Otherwise, failing fuel injectors in diesels and broken transmission valves in automatics are the big-ticket repairs.
Ones we found
2008 Mercedes-Benz C180K Sport, 96,000 miles, £5170: Here’s a showroom-buffed car with a service history. It has half leather, climate control and auto wipers and is all set up for hands-free comms. It gets a nationwide warranty, too.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, 123,000 miles, £18,995: A four-door supercar has never been so affordable. It comes with a full service history and has rather nice 18in AMG alloys and Parktronic for after you’ve chipped away at its limited 155mph.
Or try this
2013 Lexus IS 2.5 Luxury e-CVT, 107,000 miles, £11,850: This top-spec, mid-size Lexus has an easy-to-live-with CVT, vented leather seats, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and, most importantly, a full service history. Two previous owners.
Audi TT, 2006-2014
If you want a sports car that’s unlikely to ever go out of style and has a good record of racking up big mileages, it has to be the Audi TT.
In many ways, the original was perfect, making the 2006 update seem pointless, except that it became even better to drive and even more fun-focused. It was still a Volkswagen Golf underneath and like that car came in a 2.0 TDI diesel flavour too, delivering 50mpg with the standard Quattro undercarriage.
There’s a TT for every buyer, from the basic 1.8T and 2.0 FSI to the high-performance TT S and TT RS.
Those can lead very hard lives and often turn up looking quite scruffy on the used market. However, there’s also a lot to love about the 3.2 V6, which slips under the hardcore performance radar.
There was a mild facelift in 2011, plus the arrival of the 2.0 TFSI, which could be the pick of the engines. The fabric hood on the convertible model is nifty and should take just 12 seconds to work.
Electric window regulator and air-con failure is quite common. Otherwise, it’s wishbones, clutches and coil packs. Any rot means accident damage.
Toyota Urban Cruiser, 2009-2012
What was it? No one knew, which explains why the Toyota Urban Cruiser didn’t last long and possibly makes right now a very good time to buy one.
You will get reliability, because it’s a Toyota, and maybe just a bit more. Compact but roomy, this is a boxy MPV with 60/40-split rear seats that also fold and recline (although not in the four-wheel-drive model). It isn’t even a pretend off-roader, just an urban utility vehicle. It has climate control, alloy wheels and keyless entry, among other goodies.
It might seem like just a pretentious hatchback with a 1.3-litre petrol or 1.4-litre diesel engine from a Toyota Yaris, but it’s worth finding because it’s different.
Lightly used diesels will get clogged recirculating filters, and mind the clutch. Otherwise, just check the wear-and-tear items, like the suspension and brakes.
One we found
2009 Toyota Urban Cruiser 1.3 VVT 57,000 miles, £3995: What are the chances? This is the actual Urban Cruiser that we road tested back in the day, so it must be good. Certainly its mileage is very reasonable indeed, and apparently it has a decent service history and a set of new tyres. The selling dealer seems like fun, too, with an honest review of what the car is like to drive.
Teeny-weeny yellow supermini: Matthew was considering something rather expensive as his second car. Something brand new and boring is going to cost five figures, of course, so I steered him towards a 2012 Fiat 500 with Twinair power, Plus trim and 90,000 miles. It cost £3295 and was yellow with black alloy wheels, which ticked his “must be interesting” box.
The bracket holding the silencer on my Land Rover Series 3 has rotted through, so what to do? Some galvanised fence wire has done the job. I think this will get it through its MOT test at the end of the year. That’s the beauty of having a basic old bus. Anyone, even me, can fix it.