Mercedes CLA Coupe (2016-2019) Review
The Mercedes CLA is a stylish four-door coupe with high-tech safety features and a big boot. However, alternatives are generally more comfortable
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Smart looks
- Frugal diesel engines
- Big boot
What's not so good
- Poor visibility
- Dated interior
- Bumpy on poor roads
Mercedes CLA Coupe (2016-2019): what would you like to read next?
You can think of the Mercedes CLA as a mini-CLS that’s also available as a more-practical Shooting Brake. Its similar in size to the Audi A3 Saloon, the cheaper Mazda 3 Fastback and the two-door BMW 2 Series.
Inside the Mercedes CLA, there’s a good amount of expensive materials, but the sheer amount of buttons and switches is confusing and can be frustrating. The dashboard design also looks dated next to the A3 Saloon’s minimalistic dashboard. On the upside, all models get a seven-inch screen for the infotainment system.
Space upfront is reasonable, provided you’re not over six feet tall otherwise the Mercedes CLA is tight in all directions, especially for headroom. As befits a Mercedes there’s all sorts of steering and seat adjustments to easily get comfortable behind the wheel – you can get memory seats if you go for the Plus option package. Space in the back is not so good and is only realistically for kids – there’s even less headroom thanks to the plunging roofline.
Driving the Mercedes CLA is slightly disappointing if the sporty looks are anything to go by. There’s no shortage of grip, but the CLA is far from cosseting, especially on poor roads where it’s downright bumpy. There’s little road and wind noise on the move, but 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, especially on long motorway trips. The petrols are quiet and best around town, while the bonkers CLA45 AMG is super fast.
The CLA is a good alternative to the A-Class, trading some practicality for striking looks
The Mercedes CLA has sacrificed some usability at the altar of sleek looks, 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.
For a more detailed look at the CLA, read through the interior, practicality, driving and specifications sections of our review over the following pages. And, if you just want to see the kind of savings you can expect, just click through to our Mercedes CLA deals page.
The Mercedes CLA’s interior is well built but material quality falters in places
Despite its stylish coupe shape, the Mercedes CLA has quite a large boot that’s long enough for a set of golf clubs. The boot opening is fairly narrow, but easy-fold seats makes loading a bit easier
Perfect if you regularly carry lots of small things instead of a couple of really massive things
The Mercedes CLA 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.
The visibility out of the car is poor, 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 have rear-seat passengers.
Cubby spaces are actually pretty impressive in Mercedes CLA once you consider its size. For starters, lidded cubby holes are nicely damped, door pockets are a lot larger than those in an Audi A3 Saloon and you also get plenty of cupholders scattered around the cabin. The only drawback is the comparatively small glovebox.
The boot is big, 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. To put that into perspective, the Mercedes CLA can fit a family’s weekend luggage with room to spare for a couple of extra soft bags. If you want a more practical shaped A-class for loading bulky items, then the hatchback and the Shooting brake are good alternatives.
The Mercedes CLA is easy to drive, but not so easy to see out of and doesn’t to a great job of ironing out bumps
Avoid the cheapest engines and you'll have a good looking car with a decent turn of speed
When it comes to picking an engine for your Mercedes CLA, there’s a good choice of petrol or diesel options – the range starts with a 1.6-litre petrol in the CLA 180 and goes all the way up to the crazily turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol in the AMG CLA 45. In between, there are a couple of fuel-sipping diesels (CLA 200d and CLA220d), the CLA CLA220 which uses a less powerful version of the CLA 45 engine and the CLA 200 – a more powerful version of the engine fitted to the CLA 180.
The petrol engines are smooth and refined – perfect for zipping about town, but are hampered by a slightly slow-witted dual-clutch auto gearbox, where fitted. The diesels are great at settling down for a long motorway stint and reward you with good fuel economy, but on some overtakes, you’d wish they weren’t as loud and grumbly under heavy acceleration. For extra peace of mind during the winter months, the more powerful spectrum of the engine range can be fitted with a four-wheel-system called 4Matic. The same transmission works much better with the diesel.
Driving the Mercedes CLA is a bit of a mixed bag. The sleek, pulled-back styling puts you in mind of something sporty, but in reality, the CLA is neither as sporty to drive as the looks suggest nor as relaxing on the move as you’d expect from a Mercedes. All cars get a lowered suspension as standard and have a hard time ironing out bumps in the road – an Audi A3 Saloon fitted with adaptive dampers is better at comfort or sport.
While the steering and pedals are nice and light, driving the Mercedes CLA around town is a bit unnerving because the cocooned driving position doesn’t give you great confidence when threading through a narrow gap. The visibility issues aren’t so troublesome on the motorway but the visibility through the small rear window can is still poor – there is an optional blind spot alert conveniently available from Mercedes.