In 1993 buyers would have forked out R415 000 for a Mercedes-Benz S500. Imagine if you knew then that you would pay about the same for an entry-level C-Class in the year 2014. Dwelling on the concept of inflation is depressing indeed. So we’ll focus on the good parts of the new 3-Series competitor instead.

On looks alone the newcomer ingratiates itself. And this might have something to do with its close resemblance to the new iteration of the flagship S-Class. You’ll pay R415 900 to get into the C180 (115kW). The C200 (135kW) costs R436 600 while the C220 (125kW) goes for R459 000. For now the top-tier offering is the C250 (155kW) and that will set you back R502 600.

Compared to the outgoing model, this new C-Class is 100 kilograms lighter. It’s also longer, wider and promises to swallow more luggage than the model it replaces. Buyers can specify sportier exterior bits or opt for the Exclusive styling package. This keeps the traditional Benz radiator grille with the three-pointed star on the bonnet.

Inside is where Mercedes creates serious anticipation. They say it offers the same level of luxury buyers might get in higher vehicle segments. The air-conditioning for example automatically closes the recirculation flap when you enter a tunnel. There’s a touch pad too, allowing easier control of the Comand digital interface.

Mercedes can also lay claim to being the first to offer air suspension in this segment. If equipped, drivers can choose between various characteristics: Comfort, Eco, Sport and Sport Plus. Lots of toys will be available, including active parking assist (which basically parks for you) and Distronic Plus with Steering Assist. This is a “semi-automatic” traffic jam assistant which is able to follow the vehicle ahead at speeds under 60km/h.

The order books have opened across Mercedes-Benz dealerships in South Africa. Included in the price is a six-year/100 000-kilometre maintenance plan.