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Why Mercedes-Benz is right to hook ‘em young

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Factsheet

Price: £39,405 when new (est £26,000 now)

Engine: 2.1-litre diesel

Performance: 0-62mpH 7.6secs, top speed 142mph

Gearbox: 7sp auto

Fuel efficiency: 64.2mpg

CO2 emissions: 114g/km CO2

Review

Mercedes-Benz has become quite canny. Since 2006, when it opened its flagship brand centre, Mercedes-Benz World in Brooklands, Surrey, 3.6 million people have visited, with many booking one of the driving activities on its 1.5-mile handling circuit and 10-acre off-road course.

It is one of many developments which Mercedes has used to overcome its once rather elitist brand image while maintaining a premium experience. People can immerse themselves for free in the brand and its history in a fun, zero-pressure environment. It’s like popping into a museum and coffee bar with cars.

Which was why, when my teenage stepson asked for an under-17s driving experience for his birthday, we felt it was time to load up our long-term test C-Class and head for Brooklands.

Nervous middle-class parents were clearly reassured by the expert drivers who they have paid to instruct their offspring for an hour. Also clear was the youngsters’ excitement – few will forget the first car they drove was a Mercedes-Benz. As they are scored in various driving skills, many will want to return to record an improvement.

Naturally, the cost of creating and operating Mercedes-Benz World has probably added a few pounds to the price of every Mercedes sold in the UK. But that investment in early brand attachment is canny indeed – my boy now has an unrealistic expectation that his first car could be an A-Class.

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