Who said you can’t compare a Mercedes-Benz C-Class with a Toyota Camry?

Hans · Jun 14, 2020 06:08 PM

The problem with Facebook’s newsfeed’s algorithms is that it feeds you what other like-minded people are seeing, rightly or wrongly. Worse, many see the comments section as a source of information.

Very quickly, our society has become one that is fragmented into groups that speak only within each other’s echo chambers – each seeing what they want to see and hearing what they want to hear, with Facebook serving as a massive amplifier of confirmation biases.

This is why fringe beliefs are becoming mainstream - anti-vaxxers attempting to correct doctors, flat earthers indignant about their version of science, extreme views on racial stereotypes spiraling out of control.

Closer to our cherished field of automotive, the amount of nonsense that’s propagated on Facebook groups is scary.

AutoZeitung.de's D-segment comparison - VW Passat, Hyundai i40, Opel Insignia, Skoda Superb, Peugeot 508, 3 Series, C-Class, A4,

There is one myth that is propagated even by seemingly intelligent users that needs to be corrected – the myth that you can’t compare a D-segment sedan like a Toyota Camry with a premium sedan like a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, because according to them the C-Class is a premium C-segment car.

If a C-Class sits in the C-segment then where does that put the A-Class?

The C in C-Class means Compact, not C-segment

We don’t know which group first started propagating this wrong belief but in the last few years, there have been an increase in users insisting that it is wrong to compare a D-segment sedan with a C-Class or a 3 Series.

You will find users being very vocal about the C-Class/3 Series being a C-segment premium car, and that by virtue of its premium badge, is beyond comparison with a mainstream sedan, like a flat-earther insisting that the world is shaped like a disk.

Perhaps there's a bit of ego issues at play here. Imagine telling a traditional minded person who has been brought up to believe that the Mercedes-Benz C200/BMW 320i are such great cars, that their cherished rides are actually in the same class as a Toyota Camry and a Honda Accord. 

To set the record straight, both the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) and UK Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) classify the C-Class and 3 Series as a D-segment car, lumping them together with a Volkswagen Passat and a Ford Mondeo – Europe’s equivalent to our Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Vehicle classification guidelines by SMMT

There are no specific definitions on what defines what vehicle segment, because Europe’s ABC-format vehicle segmentation is just a guideline for consumers, created by the European Commission.

Specific definitions are not necessary because vehicle homologations and regulations are done using a different UNECE segmentation – which defines any passenger carrying vehicles weighing no more than 3.5 tonnes, with no more than 8 seats (basically any vehicle a private individual can buy) under the M1 category.

Can you compare a Toyota Camry with a Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

Before car websites became popular, I grew up reading AutoCar UK magazine. The Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia were often pitted against the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

We will get roasted by local users if we do such comparisons

The logic is simple – these cars are from the same segment and although the brand positioning is different, the models are priced quite close together and are aimed at more or less the same crowd. Plus, these are the default company cars in the UK.

The editorial direction often frames such comparisons between mainstream sedans and entry-level compact premium sedans as a comparison of ‘business cars.’

BMW 3 Series vs Ford Mondeo, AutoCar UK

I also remembered that when the 3 Series overtook the Ford Mondeo as UK’s best-seller in the segment, it was a big news. For decades, such news have been reported as a matter of fact.

It’s also why I find the regression in understanding this topic even more peculiar. Perhaps people were smarter when they had to pay for their content, so they took it more seriously?

Germany's AutoBild's D-segment comparison review

Today, the Ford Mondeo is no longer as popular in the UK but over in Germany, the Volkswagen Passat remains just as popular and German publications still pit the Passat against the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport's D-segment comparison

Outside of Europe, such comparisons are less common because of the way these premium cars are marketed overseas.

For example, over in the US the cheapest BMW 3 Series is a 330i, likewise Mercedes-Benz, which starts with the C300. The made-in-USA Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are also a lot cheaper so American publications don’t pit these cars side by side.

In Europe however, these ‘premium’ sedans are commonly sold with steel wheels and plastic wheel caps, halogen headlamps and users are totally fine with it.

The situation in Malaysia is somewhere between that of USA and Europe. Our D-segment sedans are very expensive.

The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are very close to breaking RM 200k mark while the Mazda 6 has since blown past it. Meanwhile, an entry Mercedes-Benz C200 here is quite basic, with less features than the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Actual transaction prices of a C-Class and 3 Series are also a lot lower than their listed price so it’s common for buyers to cross-shop. As such, it's necessary to change the way we frame our buying guides. 

10 years ago, the gap between a Toyota Camry/Honda Accord and a Mercedes-Benz C200/BMW 320i is easily over RM 100,000. Today, that figure is less than RM 50,000 and once you’ve factored in dealer discounts that’s common in the premium segment, the gap is no more than RM 30,000, not a big sum for anyone that’s already prepared to pay over RM 200,000.

AutoBild's C-segment comparison

To clear the air, cars like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and Mercedes-Benz A-Class sit in the C-segment, alongside the Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Corolla. Premium models are parked under the sub-group sub-compact executive car.

The Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class are grouped under the compact executive segment, itself a sub-group within D-segment, where the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Volkswagen Passat, and Mazda 6 sits.

The Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class sit in the E-segment, together with the Toyota Crown and US-centric models like the Toyota Avalon, Kia Cadenza, and Nissan Maxima. Premium models are grouped under the sub-group Executive cars.

Both the front-wheel drive Lexus ES and rear-wheel drive Lexus GS (now discontinued) also sit in this segment.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series are F-segment (Luxury) cars.