£25,395 - £43,740 Price range
40 - 70 MPG
The Mercedes CLA is the four-door coupe version of the A-Class that is also available as a Shooting Brake. Its main rival are the Audi A3 Saloon along with the cheaper Mazda 3 Fastback and the two-door BMW 2 Series.
There is a good amount of expensive materials inside the CLA, but too many buttons and switches. It looks dated next to the A3 Saloon’s minimalistic dashboard. Passenger space suffers from the stylish looks – rear headroom is especially poor.
Driving is another area where the CLA slightly disappoints. There’s plenty of grip and a better feeling of agility than in an Audi, but the ride is just too firm. Despite an almost complete lack of road and wind noise, the wheels can be heard thumping over bumps.
The engine line-up is good, if not particularly versatile. Stick to the slightly agricultural diesels for the best blend of performance and low running costs. The petrols are quiet, while the bonkers CLA45 AMG is super fast.
As a result of the high asking price every CLA comes with an infotainment system that can display your iPhone’s music library, as well as park assist, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth and USB connectivity plus 18-inch alloys and artificial leather upholstery.
The CLA’s interior will be familiar to anyone who has taken a look at the new A-Class. It’s sporty and snug with a more youthful design than other more square-edged Mercedes cabins.
However, the interior is also where most reviewers criticise the car. One or two have issues with the car’s quality, and there are also a few complaints about the iPad off-centre display, which looks a little incongruous.
Mercedes CLA passenger space
The front seats offer lots of adjustments and the low driving position feels sporty. However, the low roofline means taller drivers will have limited headroom. An Audi A3 Saloon is better for those over six feet high.
Several say the visibility out of the car is very poor indeed, thanks to the sweeping roofline and small glass area. The car’s shape also compromises space for rear passengers – the similarly-sized C-Class is a better bet if you regularly ferry adults about.
Mercedes CLA boot space
The boot is big though, at 470 litres. That is more than the Mazda’s 419 litres as well as Audi’s 425 litres. The BMW is left trailing behind with a modest 390-litre boot. If you want a more practical shaped A-class, then the hatchback and the Shooting brake are good alternatives.
Based on the A-Class, the CLA is the latest in a line of front-wheel-drive Mercedes.
There are two suspension set-ups to choose from for the CLA – comfort and sport, but neither is great. The sport chassis is incredibly firm and bouncy on UK roads and the front-wheel-drive platform does nothing to increase driver engagement.
The Comfort suspension should have been called ‘barely acceptable’ as it softens the car to the point where it’s not unbearable, but still firmer than in a A3 Saloon. Though the car has a sporty edge to it, the handling is more composed and relaxing than it is entertaining. Critics also say the steering doesn’t offer enough communication. It’s fair to say the CLA is a car to cruise in, rather than thrash around.
There’s a good choice of petrol or diesel options. The turbocharged petrol CLA 180 and turbo-diesel CLA 220d were the first to arrive in the UK, followed by a faster CLA 250 and a super-fast CLA 45 AMG. All deliver pretty respectable performance and economy, the latter aided by one of the most aerodynamically efficient road-car shapes ever produced.
Mercedes CLA petrol engines
The basic petrol manages 0-62 mph in 9.2 seconds and fuel consumption of 50.4mpg, while the hotter petrol reduces those to 6.7 seconds and 46mpg. Road tax for the CLA 180 costs £110 a year and £180 for the CLA 250 AMG.
The petrol engines are smooth and refined, but hampered by a slightly slow-witted dual-clutch auto gearbox, where fitted. The same transmission works much better with the diesel.
Mercedes CLA diesel engines
The diesels engines on offer are the same four-cylinder 2.1-litre units in both the 200d and 220d, but the latter delivers 170hp compared to the former’s 136hp. 0-62mph in the 200 d takes a leisurely 9.4 seconds while the 220d accelerates to the same marker in 8.2 seconds and it’s economy jumps to 67.3mpg compared to 64.2mpg for the lesser-powered model. Road tax is cheaper for the diesels with £20 a year for both engines.
What all reviewers seem to agree on is that Mercedes diesels are behind what rivals from BMW and Audi can offer. They’re noisier and a tiny bit more expensive to run. Nevertheless, they still offer a better balance of performance and running costs than the petrols.
Performance is more than respectable too, with 168 horsepower allowing for an 8.2-second 0-62 mph sprint. A 143 mph top speed is aided by fantastic aerodynamics, which also help with fuel economy - a claimed 67.3 mpg is possible.
The 220 CDI comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as standard, which works better here than it does with the petrol models. The engine is generally refined, but does get "clattery" under acceleration.
It's a very smooth and refined engine too, more so than the diesels, even if one reviewer says it doesn't feel as quick as the figures imply. It also lacks the rorty exhaust note you'd expect from something with that much performance. Also troubling some reviewers is Mercedes' new 7-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. It's not as smooth here as it is in the diesel, nor as quick.
The CLA was awarded the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, which is no less than we should expect for such a car.
Every CLA model comes with seven airbags as standard, as well as Attention Assist, which is a system that monitors driver fatigue, and a radar-controlled collision-prevention system.
If you are of a mind to shell-out some more money on optional safety kit, there’s plenty on offer such as: adaptive headlights, blind-spot and lane-keeping assist systems, and even some very clever speed sign recognition technology.
Value for money isn’t a particularly strong point of most Mercedes models and the CLA is no exception to that rule. There are two trim levels to choose from – Sport and AMG Sport.
Mercedes CLA Sport
Standard equipment on the Sport model includes 18-inch alloys on the outside, while inside, you get parking sensors, to help with the bad all-round visibility, fuel-saving start/stop technology, sports seats, ARTICO leather upholstery, automatic lights and wipers plus a seven-inch iPad style screen for the infotainment system that also has USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
Mercedes CLA AMG Sport
The AMG Sport trim is the closest you can get to the CLA45 AMG without the huge fuel bills and expensive road tax. It gets AMG everything – alloy wheels, suspension and bumpers. Inside there’s real leather upholstery along with tinted windows. Helping you light the way are bi-Xenon headlights, while the rear lights use LEDs.
Mercedes CLA facelift
The CLA received a mild facelift in the beginning of 2016. Revised front and rear bumpers with new coloured trim pieces feature as standard – LED headlights and new 18-inch alloy wheels are optional extras. The interior is almost identical to the current model, though.
The CLA’s styling goes down well with virtually everyone, but it does appear that Mercedes has sacrificed some usability at the altar of sleek looks. It’s also not as sporty as those distinctive lines might lead you to believe, and some reviewers aren’t overly enamoured with the engines either.
However, it’s certainly not a bad car and the mini-CLS styling will be more than enough to offset some of its objective failings for many buyers.