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
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.
Avoid the cheapest engines and you'll have a good looking car with a decent turn of speed
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.