BMW 3 SERIES vs MercedesBenz C class Comparison Review

3 SeriesBMW VS C classMercedesBenz

BMW 3 SERIES vs MercedesBenz C class Comparison Review


When you are considering an entry level luxury vehicle, you have an expanding number of choices. Despite the quality entries from Audi, Hyundai, and Kia; there are really only two brands to keep in mind: the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz C-class.

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BMW and Mercedes-Benz have offered the benchmark entry level executive vehicles for a combined six decades and both automakers go to great lengths to hold their positions within the luxury class. The 3-series and the C-class have gone through multiple evolutions since production began. Mercedes-Benz began producing the C-class for the 1993 model year to replace its aging W201 series, immediately jumping into strong sales. The BMW 3-series, on the other hand, has been in constant production since 1975 when it replaced the dated BMW 2002.

Both production series offer room for four or five passengers, more than adequate cargo space, and all of the amenities that a luxury vehicle buyer wants in a car. The greatest advantage that the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz C-class offer is affordability when compared to their up-model cousins such as the 7-series and the G-class. Each series offers a variety of powerful petrol and diesel engines that can be paired to a number of reliable transmission options. Because each series is consistently ranked at, or near, the top in their class for safety, reliability, and owner satisfaction, it can be difficult to choose which is the better vehicle to buy. The only way to fairly compare the two is to narrow our focus to one model year and run down the characteristics of each, side-by-side. For this comparison we are going to concentrate on the 2005 BMW 3-series(E90 chassis) and the 2005 Mercedes-Benz C-class.


Both of these vehicle lines, the 2005 BMW 3-series and the 2005 Mercedes-Benz C-class, are highly regarded by professional reviewers and owners. Each will comfortably seat four or five passengers, deliver power on demand, and offer top-of-the-line technology for the model year. The exterior of each is distinctive. The Mercedes-Benz C-class features a proud stance that conveys a readiness to perform in any conditions, while the BMW 3-series is more predatory and austere (you can read more about the BMW 3-series at our Car Wiki).

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The interior styling of each makes use of luxurious leather and other sumptuous appointments. The 2005 BMW 3-series features the classic BMW driver-oriented interior, making the car's operator feel as if they are the center of the universe while driving. On the other hand, owner's of the 2005 Mercedes-Benz C-class often feel as if the interior is better appointed than that of a comparable BMW 3-series.

Both are available in saloon, convertible, coupe, and estate body styles. Each line is powered by a variety of powerful four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. Additionally, each offers a reliable manual transmission and numerous automatic transmission options. With so many similarities, you may wonder what the differences between the two vehicle series are. The main differences between the two are owner perception and price. Mercedes-Benz offers superior styling, opting for a more intense luxury experience, while BMW offers a lower price point.

Interior Comparison

3 SERIES's Interior

The 2005 3-series is available in two chassis styles; the fourth generation E46 and the fifth generation E90, but this car comparison will concentrate on the E90 chassis.

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The 3-series introduced BMW's driver-centric focus when it entered production for the 1975 model year. The 2005 E90 continues that centrist styling, taking it even further by angling all controls further toward the driver. Many aspects of the interior feature sharp, austere lines. The most notable are the lines that makeup the boxy, cubist dashboard. A stark, wide, rectangular piece of trim runs across the dashboard, ensconcing the air vents. The old-fashioned turn-key ignition has been replaced by a push button /key fob combination. The centre console features a graceful centerpiece of trim that runs from the arm rests to the dash. The passenger side of the front compartment is rather bleak, featuring two cup-holders that are often referred to as ”adequate at best“. The style lines of the interior door panels are a bit asymmetrical, with the trim residing just below the stitched leather arm rests. For the E90, BMW has moved the window/lock mechanisms to the door panels, representing a move from the center console featured in past models. The driver and passengers will notice that the door handles have taken on a more modern look that in previous years.

C CLASS's Interior

Mercedes-Benz introduced the C-class to the world for the 1993 model year. It was the luxury automaker's entry level vehicle until the A-class was introduced in 1997. The 2005 Mercedes-Benz C-class is part of the second generation, which has the chassis designation of W203. 2005 saw a model refresh of the W203. The mild refresh created a stark change in the interior of all three models of the C-class. Mercedes-Benz installed a more modernistic set of analogue gauges and updated the audio system to incorporate a standard CD player with an iPod docking system. Beyond the new gauge cluster and audio system, the C-class continues to excel by offering deep leather seats with comfortable headrests for all passengers. Where the interior of the BMW 3-series seems cubist and stark, the C-class makes a statement for old-fashioned luxurious excess. While the driving controls are not angled toward the driver, every control is within easy reach, with many being positioned on the steering wheel.

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The base models often have simple plastics, but the upper trim levels incorporate elegant wood trim. The passenger cabin is spacious enough to seat four adults, five if necessary.

Exterior Comparison

3 SERIES's Exterior

The exterior of the E90 introduced a new, more linear styling than the previous generation. Many of the rounded edges were eliminated, in keeping with the stark redesign of the interior. When looking at the E90, your eyes will be quickly drawn to the long crease that runs from front to boot. The crease runs through the door handles, blending into the bumpers and side skirts. The distinctive kidney grilles are melded to the bonnet by two flat pieces of chrome. The roof-line has been changed, becoming a tad less symmetrical than that of its predecessor.

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Perhaps the most notable change is in the rear of the car. The 2005 model introduced the ”bangle-butt“ to the world. Designer Christopher Bangle utilized a more compact, utilitarian philosophy that revised the boot, rear bumper, and tail lamps; a move that incensed many 3-series traditionalists. The color of several of the indicator lenses has been changed from clear to amber or red, based on use. Higher trim levels like the 330i feature chrome inserts in the grille, chrome trim along the side windows, and bi-xenon HID headlamps.

C CLASS's Exterior

The distinctive, aerodynamic exterior of the Mercedes-Benz C-class features many well rounded corners and fascinating lines to draw the eyes of every observer. The C-class shares many exterior style components with its larger siblings, giving a feel of consistency across all production lines. The 2005 W203 has an updated the fascia, giving it a sleeker look that many brand aficionados found unsettling. The W203 did grow by several millimeters, exceeding 4,500 mm in all styles except the SportCoupe hatchback that measures 4,343 mm. By 2005, the W203 was nearing the end of its production run, so very few updates were incorporated into the design.

Driving Experience

3 SERIES's Driving Experience

The BMW 3-series offers a wonderful driving experience in all trim levels. The 318Ci and the 320i, Japanese model codes GH-BX20 and ABA-VA20 respectively, share a 1995cc I4 engine that provides up to 168 bhp and as much as 13.6 km/l. The I4 is more than ready to provide the fuel economy and durability that drivers need in congested urban environments. Both models are compact enough for tight parking requirements, yet roomy enough to transport business colleagues and family members in comfort.

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If buyers choose to move up to the larger 325i, Japanese model code ABA-VB25, power is provided by a strong 2496cc I6 that is both sporty and fuel efficient. The featured engine makes 201 bhp available to the driver with the easy push of the pedal, while offering a respectable 9.3 km/l.

The upscale 330i, Japanese code ABA-VB30, offers the best driving experience for the performance minded owner. It features upgraded suspension components as well as better braking. The 330i is powered by a 2996cc I6 that delivers 254 bhp when the need arises. With that much power available, there are no driving conditions that you can not handle!

All of the models within the BMW 3-series feature best-in-class safety features in all areas of the passenger compartment. Each sits comfortably close to the ground to enhance aerodynamics and ride experience. Bowing to owner demands, BMW improved the suspension system of the 2005 3-series. The upgraded suspension uses aluminum MacPherson struts up front and steel 5-link Multi-link suspension in the rear. Run-flat tyres are an additional feature added for 2005; perhaps not adding to the driving experience, but certainly improving on the peace of mind drivers have while behind the wheel of such an outstanding driving machine.

C CLASS's Driving Experience

The Mercedes-Benz C-class offers a tremendous driving experience in all three renditions. The entry level C180 Compressor and the C200 Compressor, Japanese model codes DBA-203046 and DBA-203042 respectively, share a responsive 1795 cc I4 that produces 163 bhp in the C180 and 201 bhp in the C200. In either vehicle, the engine is capable of 11.4 km/l. These are great numbers when compared to other vehicles in its class.

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Should you choose to move up one trim level to the C230 Avant-Garde or the C280 Avant-Garde, Japanese model codes DBA-203052 and DBA-203054 respectively, you will be delighted by the very responsive 2996cc I6 that offers 231 bhp. Fuel efficiency does fall somewhat, dipping to 9.5 km/l in the C280 Avant-Garde.

Sitting at the top of the trim levels is the 2005 C55 AMG, Japanese code number GH-203076. This is a feral animal waiting to be unleashed on the highway. The instant you start the 5438 cc V8 engine, you can feel its desire to make use of all 367 bhp that it is capable of. This car begs to hurtle down the highway at top speed. As you would expect, fuel efficiency drops dramatically, hovering around 7 km/l. Given the sheer driving pleasure the C55 AMG provides, owners never bother to think of its efficiency.


When compared side-by-side, you can see that the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz C-class are both amazing vehicles that offer quality and dependability to their owners. The C-class offers superior styling, where the 3-series offers understated luxury. Both automakers are known for the durability of their vehicles, with many lasting past the 200,000 km mark. While neither vehicle has been plagued by recalls or known common repair issues, owners must be prepared for the high cost of scheduled service and any repairs that arise; however, that is to be expected from any luxury vehicle, no mater the manufacture. Overall, the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes-Benz C-class are very comparable vehicles. There are no glaring reasons to recommend one over the other, but you now have enough information about each to make an educated decision.

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