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Mercedes-Benz C-Class vs. BMW 3 Series: which is better?

Is the BMW 3 Series better than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class? Find out in our comparison review

The world of compact executive saloons can be a bit daunting if you’re not clued up.

Everyone seems to be pushing them, but which ones are worth paying attention to? 

Well, if you’re really serious about one then it’s probably only worth focusing on the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series. 

Plus, you can find plenty of impressive used BMW and used Mercedes models at great prices.


on the left is the left rear of a c-class and on the right is the headlight from a 3 series

Like many luxury executive cars, the Mercedes C-Class is available as a saloon, estate, coupé and convertible. This makes it suitable for all purposes and uses, and what’s even better is that it looks good in all four variants.  

With its sleek lines and aggressive headlights, you’d be hard-pressed to find something as elegant and classy for the price before stepping up to Rolls-Royce and Bentley money. 

But there's one car that might make you think twice about pulling the trigger on a used C-Class.  

The BMW 3 Series is its closest rival, and a good-looking one at that.

It’s available in three different variants: saloon, estate and the rarer GT (estate).

It looks somehow sportier than its rival thanks to its four bonnet creases and kidney grille. 

What are they like to drive?

on the left is a grey mercedes c-class driving away and on the right is a 3 series driving down a countryside road

Both of these executive cars are great at what a car does – driving. They were made to sit on the motorway for hours on end, which is why they’re so popular as company cars. But aside from that, they also make for great family cars for the school run and to pootle about town in. 

Whether you opt for a Mercedes or BMW, you’ll get a similar choice of engines, comprising of a petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid.  

But if you’re someone who likes the thrill of driving fast then perhaps something like the sportier C63 AMG or M3 Competition would be more up your street. 

Interior and technology

on the left is a c-class's interior and on the right is a 3 series' interior with read leather

Step inside the Mercedes and you’ll instantly feel a special sense of luxury. Mercedes has always been good at making great interiors, and the C-Class is no exception.  

With the SE entry-level trim, you get heated front seats covered with man-made leather, parking assistance, cruise control, a 10-inch infotainment screen controlled via a dial, a reversing camera, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and plenty of leather and gloss black trim – and that’s just in the most basic form. 

But it’s easy to say the same thing about the BMW, because it too is very plush inside.

All models get sat-nav as standard, along with climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and a DAB radio.

It should also be noted that both cars support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you don’t need to worry about getting to grips with a new infotainment system.

Bootspace and practicality

an image showing two boots; one from a c-class saloon and the other from a 3 series saloon

No matter the model variant, you'll have plenty of space in the boot with both cars. The C-Class offers 455 litres in its saloon form and 490 litres as an estate. 

On the other side, the 3 Series offers 480 litres as a saloon and 500 litres as an estate.

Whichever you opt for, you won’t be disappointed with the available bootspace. 

Rear seat room is excellent too. Because these two cars compete against each other, rear seats are more or less the same – offering enough space for three child seats or for three adults.  

There’s also plenty of storage space and cubbies for all those family road-trip snacks. 

Read our in-depth car reviews:

Safety and reliability

Being modern cars, you shouldn’t need to worry about reliability – especially with these, thanks to their robust German heritage.

The same goes for safety, because thanks to their great onboard safety features, these two cars scored a full five stars following their most recent Euro NCAP crash tests.  


Mercedes C-Class Saloon

Length: 4751mm 

Width: 1820mm 

Height: 1438 

Boot space: 455 litres  

BMW 3 Series Saloon

Length: 4709mm 

Width: 1827mm 

Height: 1435mm 

Boot space: 480 litres  

Verdict: Mercedes C-Class vs BMW 3 Series: which should you buy?

We’re sure you’ve decided which executive car is best suited to you after reading our comparison review, but in case you haven’t, here’s our quick verdict. 

It’s really hard to pick the better car because they’re both equally as good, so it comes down to preference at the end of the day.

If you want something that’s a little bit more fun to drive and appeals to the more youthful among us, then the 3 Series is worth checking out. 

However, if you feel as though you’ve grown-up and want something comfortable and smooth, then the C-Class is the car for you.  

Read more about buying a used car: