Mercedes CLA Review
The Mercedes CLA Coupe is a sleek four-door alternative to the high-tech A-Class hatchback. It’s every bit a tech-laden, but sacrifices space in the name of style.
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- Stylish looks inside and out
- Lovely, high-quality interior
- Quiet and comfortable to drive
What's not so good
- Quite expensive against alternatives
- Boot can be tricky to load
- Cramped rear seats for adults
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Mercedes CLA: what would you like to read next?
The Mercedes CLA Coupe is a sportier-looking option for those who want something more stylish than the already futuristic Mercedes A-Class. The two cars share plenty of features inside and under the bonnet, though, and from the front, the two are hard to tell apart.
From the side, however, the Mercedes CLA Coupe looks more like a CLS that’s shrunk in the wash. The ground-hugging bumpers, angular brake lights and curved windows all look like they belong on something much bigger, and much more expensive.
On the inside, things look just as dramatic. No matter which one you go for you get a huge dual-screen infotainment system (as seen in the A-Class) and there’s plenty of ambient lighting which helps show off the brushed metal trims and gorgeous turbine-like air vents.
You also get Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment system as standard. Its party trick is its ability to offer augmented reality satellite navigation. It takes a live video feed from the camera on the CLA Coupe’s front bumper and overlays directions to help you take the right turning at confusing junctions.
If you love the Mercedes A-Class’ clever technology but fancy something a little more eye-catching, the CLA Coupe could be the car for you.
The Mercedes CLA Coupe is more than just a load of clever tech – it’s also really comfortable, at least upfront. You get leather seats as standard and they get lots of support in all directions and in the right places. The back seats are a bit different if you are taller than the average, though.
The boot is a pretty good size – it’s got more room than the boxier load bay in the A-Class but getting bulky things in is trickier because of the narrow and awkward opening.
It’s unlikely you’ll buy the CLA Coupe to do weekly tip runs though, and it’s more at home enjoying itself down some back roads. One notable upgrade over the A-Class is the rear suspension. You get a more advanced setup that makes it feel more agile.
There are three quiet and economical petrol engines – a 1.3-litre and a 2.0-litre – and a 2.0-litre diesel engine to choose from in the standard range. For those that want more pace and power, the CLA 35 and CLA 45 promise 306hp and 421hp respectively and all the performance that goes with it.
You can also get the Mercedes CLA Coupe with the same high-tech driver assistance systems as the standard A-Class to help make long stints behind the wheel feel like popping to the shops.
In many respects, then, the CLA Coupe is very similar to the more affordable A-Class. But, if you’re looking for something more fun to drive that prioritises style over spaciousness – the Mercedes CLA is well worth considering.
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There’s loads of space in the CLA Coupe’s front seats and it has a pretty large boot, but the back seats are very cramped and the small boot opening makes loading large items tricky.
Tall adults will have a few choice words about how little headroom there is in the back of the CLA Coupe, but at least there’s plenty of space in the front and the boot’s pretty big
The Mercedes CLA Coupe’s front seats are spacious and come with enough adjustment as standard to help you get comfortable if you’re rather tall. You can adjust the steering wheel for reach and height that ensures you get a good view of the digital driver’s display, too.
The front seats come with plenty of bolstering as standard which helps hold you in place in tight corners, but you’ll have to pay extra for a top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus model if you want electrically adjustable seats with a memory function and adjustable lumbar support. The latter’s especially useful because it helps stave off lower back pain on long drives. One thing you can’t adjust, though, is the headrest which is a fixed part of the seat and is set marginally further forward than you might like.
The high-spec cars also come with a panoramic glass roof which makes the Mercedes CLA Coupe’s interior feel a bit more spacious without cutting into the available headroom.
Unfortunately, spacious isn’t a word you’d use to describe the Mercedes CLA Coupe’s back seats, where headroom is very tight whichever model you go for.
Any six-foot-tall passengers in the outer seats will find their heads brushing against the roof and those in the middle seat will have to slump down just to fit inside. However tall you are you will still find the central seat uncomfortably raised over the outer two.
There isn’t enough knee room for a six-foot-tall passenger to sit behind an equally tall driver either, but at least there’s space for everyone’s feet under the front seats – even in their lowest position.
It is a bit of a fiddle to fit a child seat too. The Isofix anchor points might be easy to access, but the CLA Coupe’s narrow door openings and low, sloping roof make it tricky to reach in to get the seat secured and strap in a child.
Despite having a stylish cabin, the Mercedes CLA Coupe gets a decent number of handy cubby spaces. You get two tall bins in the front doors and a relatively deep storage space under the front armrest between the seats.
The glovebox isn’t particularly big, though, and the two cupholders in the centre console are made for larger cups rather than small ones. The rear door bins are OK, but aren’t as spacious as those in the front, and you don’t get any cupholders or a folding rear armrest.
The Mercedes CLA Coupe has 460 litres of boot space which is 90 litres or around 25% more than you get in the boxier A-Class hatchback. This also makes it bigger than the Audi A3 Saloon or the BMW 2 Series and means it has more than enough space for a few suitcases or a set of golf clubs.
Unfortunately, making the most of that space is tricky. The Mercedes CLA Coupe’s rather narrow boot opening and tall boot lip mean it is difficult to get bulky items in, and its long and low shape means it can’t take taller items like the more upright A-Class.
There’s a small amount of extra storage under the Mercedes CLA Coupe’s boot floor and you get an extra storage bin either side of the boot, but there aren’t many clever touches like shopping hooks or tether points to stop fragile items flying around the boot.
The rear seats can be unlatched to be folded down thanks to some levers in the boot lid, but they won’t go all the way down annoyingly – you have to reach in and push them from their upright position. You also can’t drop the seats all the way down if you have the driver’s seat a long way back. It has to be shunted forward slightly to let the headrests get down past the front seat.
You can, however, drop the middle seat on its own to get longer luggage in between a pair of passengers on either side.
When all the back seats are folded, the Mercedes CLA Coupe’s boot is large, wide and roomy enough to carry a bike – if you can squeeze it through the rather narrow boot opening, that is. There’s no step behind the back seats either, and the boot floor only ramps up slightly behind the front seats so it’s easy to slide in heavy luggage.
The Mercedes CLA Coupe is more fun to drive than the A-Class hatchback and just as relaxing to cruise in.
If you’re looking for a small car that’s comfortable, very quiet at motorway speeds and still quite good fun to drive on a country road, the Mercedes CLA Coupe is a good choice.
Petrol engines are the most common offering for the Mercedes CLA Coupe, with five different options sitting alongside the solitary diesel engine. The most affordable CLA 180 1.3-litre models will be most suitable for gentler driving around town. They only have a modest 136hp so take a fairly sedate 9.0 seconds to reach 62mph.
The same engine comes with 163hp in the C200 version and that completes the same sprint in a little over eight seconds. Mercedes claims both will return around 45mpg, but you should see a figure closer to 40mpg in normal driving conditions.
If you spend more time on motorways, the faster C250 2.0-litre model will be worth considering. It produces 190hp and accelerates from 0-60mph in just 6.3 seconds thanks to its powerful 224hp engine.
It has more than enough poke to breeze past slow-moving traffic and returns claimed economy of just over 40mpg but something in the high thirties in normal driving conditions should be possible.
Every CLA Coupe comes with a seven-speed automatic gearbox which changes gear smoothly and doesn’t jerk at low speeds. It helps make light work of heavy traffic too and responds reasonably quickly to the paddles on the steering wheel if you fancy choosing when to change gear yourself.
Because of the Mercedes CLA Coupe’s narrow windows and low roof, you don’t get quite as good a view out as you do in the standard A-Class hatchback. Despite that, for a low-down four-door coupe, it’s still pretty easy to drive in town. The steering is light at slow speeds and you get parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard across the range, to help reduce any town-based bumps.
Away from low-speed manoeuvres, you’ll find the Mercedes CLA Coupe’s suspension does a good job at ironing out bumps and potholes around town and it gets even more comfortable when you head out onto some faster country roads. Every model gets the advanced suspension that comes on more powerful versions of the A-Class hatchback, which helps make it feel more comfortable and agile on twisty roads.
It’s also impressively quiet at speed. Sure, you’ll hear a little roar from the tyres on motorways but the Mercedes CLA Coupe’s aerodynamic shape means it produces very little wind noise when you’re cruising along – just the thing when you’re faced with an arduous motorway journey.
It also comes with plenty of driver assistance systems to help make long drives very relaxing. Cruise control and automatic emergency braking come as standard, as does a lane-keeping assistance system that’ll steer for you to keep your car within its lane on the motorway – providing you keep your hands on the steering wheel. It can even find a safe path through roadworks with confusing line markings by following the car in front.
The Mercedes CLA Coupe has one of the most eye-catching cabins of any small car and packs plenty of high-tech features as standard but it still feels a little cheap in places.
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