Mercedes AMG CLA 45 Review

The AMG CLA 45 is seriously good fun to drive and looks cool inside and out. It might be a bit too subtle for some – there are no lairy spoilers – and the back seats are cramped at best.

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9/10
wowscore
This score is awarded by our team of
expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Powerful and responsive four-cylinder engine
  • A hoot to drive thanks to its tech
  • Lovely infotainment system

What's not so good

  • AMG A45 has more rear headroom
  • The boot opening is a bit awkward
  • You could spend thousands on upgrades

Mercedes AMG CLA 45: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 is a hot-hatch for grown-ups. If you want the fun and performance but not the boy-racer image, this amped-up CLA is basically the same as the AMG A45 hatch, but in a more sophisticated four-door coupe bodystyle.

So think of it as a steak sandwich compared with the towering burger that is the AMG A45.

You can spot it’s the full-fat CLA 45 and not just a dolled-up AMG Line diesel CLA thanks to those vertical slats on the imposing grille and bigger front air intakes.

The CLA 45 sits lower to the ground than the standard car which, along with 19-inch alloy wheels, gives the car a rather menacing look.

At the back there are deeper, more aggressive-looking bumpers than the standard car and there’s an air diffuser too. Although how much diffusing this does is up for debate… The quad tailpipes are another giveaway that this is the 45 and not the lesser-powered 35, though if you look closely you’ll see they are fake.

Inside you get a sports steering wheel covered in leather and alcantara. There’s also a handy dial which you use to change driving modes and switches for the suspension settings.

You also get really comfortable, body-hugging sports seats, but overall it’s quite similar to the standard CLA, which is to say it’s well-made and looks cool – especially the turbine-style air vents and that lovely dual-screen infotainment system.

The infotainment system comes as standard with the largest screens you can get in any Mercedes CLA as well as the augmented reality sat-nav which beams a live feed of the road ahead onto the screen. It then adds direction instructions which are really useful at confusing junctions and roundabouts.

There are AMG-specific graphics on the digital driver’s display and you can change the layout and style of the displays, just as you do on the standard car.

There are some cheaper bits though, such as the air conditioning controls that wobble if you grab them.

There’s a bit more to gripe about in the back, too. Sure, knee room is pretty good but the sloping roofline does affect headroom. The 460-litre boot is pretty massive for such a high-performance car, but the opening is a bit awkward. A BMW M235i Gran Coupe is a bit easier to pack if this is important to you.

OK, so it has four fewer cylinders than an AMG C63 but the CLA 45 is still really quick and a lot cheaper. It's brilliant.

Mat Watson
carwow expert

You’re probably more interested in what’s under the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45’s bonnet than its boot, though, aren’t you? Well, its 2.0-litre, four cylinder petrol engine is the most powerful engine of its size on sale today. It has 421hp and 500Nm of torque and an absolutely huge turbocharger, which helps give it all that power. Four-wheel drive comes as standard, as does an eight-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

The CLA 45 gets extra body bracing over the standard car to make it stiffer, and a pair of uprated anti-roll bars to make the car lean less in the corners. The suspension is lower and stiffer than the standard CLA’s and you also get adaptive dampers that can firm up things even further. Although you don’t want to go too crazy – the UK’s roads aren’t the smoothest, after all…

When you head into a corner, the inside wheels brake slightly to help the car turn more quickly, which helps it feel more responsive. Meanwhile, the four-wheel drive system mainly powers the front wheels, but when you need some extra traction at the back, it can send up to 50% of its power to the wheels under the CLA 45’s shapely rear haunches.

You can upgrade to have a limited slip differential on the rear axle. This can send up to 100% of that 50% power – you still with us? – to either rear wheel. This makes the outer wheel spin faster than the inner wheel, which makes it easier to do fun skids (in a safe place, of course).

So yes, you can drift in a front-wheel biased, four-wheel drive car. Clever stuff.

All that tech makes the CLA 45 huge fun on a twisty road. It does take a bit of getting used to but once you do, driving the CLA 45 will put a huge smile on your face.

If you’re just cruising along it’s fairly quiet and the seats make it supremely comfortable too.

So overall, the CLA 45 takes all the brilliant bits from the A45 and wraps it up in a cooler-looking saloon body style. If this sounds like your next new car, check out the latest Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 deals.

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