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a dark blue mercedes-amg CLA 35 driving on a country road

Mercedes-Benz AMG CLA 35 review

The Mercedes-Benz CLA is often overlooked and overshadowed by its more popular C-Class relative, but who’s to say it can’t be a fun car to drive?  

We’ve tested the newly updated Mercedes CLA in full 35 AMG form with a slightly new look, a very updated interior and an electrified powertrain that should make it faster and more efficient.  

But how much better is it than the pre-facelift model, and is it a worthy option over the full-fat CLA 45 S AMG? 

Reasons to buy:

  • Now with 48V mild hybrid power 

  • Overhauled interior to match the rest of Mercedes’ range 

  • Solid driving dynamics for a baby AMG 


a 2023 mercedes-amg cla 35's interiorThe largest change you’ll notice with the facelifted CLA 35 is the interior, which now feels very familiar inside.

You're confronted with recognisable Mercedes kit, from the large central infotainment screen to the soft-touch materials and sturdy steering wheel. 

Its interior has changed just as much as its powertrain has, and that’s because we now have the latest MBUX infotainment system sitting proudly in the centre of the dashboard.

Aside from the large 10.3-inch central screen, there’s also a well-sized digital dashboard in front of the driver to replace the standard analogue dials.  

It’s the same stuff you’ll find in Mercedes’ top cars, such as the G-Class and SL, yet here it is in one of its smaller models.

Other features thrown in range from a large panoramic sunroof to a whole array of AMG trinkets, which – in a quick Mercedes – feel rather special. 

Despite the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto tech you’d expect to find in a modern Mercedes, you do also get the brand’s magical augmented reality sat-nav that uses cameras to add helpful navigation tips to your view.

Plus, there’s a (mostly) effective voice control for when you’re on the move. 

a mercedes-amg cla 35's steering wheel controlsOne of the best features in this facelift model is the new steering wheel dials, which have the same rotary controls as in the pre-update model.

This means you can shortcut your drive mode adjustments to switch between Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race.  

Two buttons on the left side of the wheel tweak other systems, such as suspension, for quick on-the-go adjustments.  

However, the one bugbear we had was the lack of the central rotary control that we’d come to love across Mercedes models.

This usually sits in between the driver and passenger and would act as a simple control for all things infotainment system-related.  

It was handy for the sat-nav and to avoid getting a smudged screen from greasy fingers. Instead, it’s been replaced by a rather pointless storage area barely large enough to fit a phone – but that’s where the car’s voice assistant steps in to help.


a blue mercedes-amg cla 35 driving away from the camera on a windy country road in the UKThe bit you’ve all been waiting for – ‘how does it drive?’ Well, we can say with confidence that it’s certainly an improvement over the previous model.

The main reason for this is the added 48V mild hybrid (MHEV) system it inherits from the basic CLA 200 model.

While making its turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine more efficient, it also helps in the performance department. 

The 2023 model still has the identical performance figures to the pre-facelift, with 306hp and 400Nm of torque.

This added electrical torque from the hybrid system helps it to remain close to its all-wheel-drive rivals such as the Audi S3 Saloon and BMW M235i Gran Coupe

With its onboard MHEV tech, it’s far more responsive than the previous car, making accelerations punchier.

So, as if it were nothing, AMG has made a fast car even more responsive – and we like that.  

But it's also made it 10% more efficient, with an increase in fuel efficiency resulting in a claimed fuel consumption of around 34mpg.

This means – somehow – the boffins at the factory have done a convincing job of making you think you’re in a regular CLA when, in fact, you’re behind the wheel of a baby AMG. 

Other perks with added hybridisation include the driver being able to be more relaxed with the gear shifts, thanks to its mid-range torque.

Although it’s turbocharged, it feels much more like a naturally aspirated engine when you put your foot down because it instantly pulls and reacts better at the top end of the revs – all aided by electricity.  

The performance difference between the 35 and 45 S models has always felt pretty large, but this MHEV motor has tightened the gap.

Despite this engine not being a true AMG motor like in the top model, it’s unlocked that bit more performance that helps it compete with the more expensive and more powerful AMG 45 S

a blue mercedes-amg cla 35's engine bay showing its turbocharged 2.0-litre engineThe 45 S is certainly the more playful car, and you can definitely use the rear-end power more, but if you’re after something more sensible then the 35 remains the more hunkered-down and grippier car. 

Admittedly, it doesn’t have the same V8 burble that’s synonymous with AMGs of old and definitely has some fake exhaust trickery piped through the cabin speakers, but that’s just something we need to live with as regulations tighten.  

At the end of the day, who cares? It still sounds decent and makes you feel like you’re in a proper German sports car when looking over the muscular bonnet. 

Other aspects of driving are very enjoyable too, from the suspension that handles the UK’s rough roads well to the very strong brakes.

While they don’t offer the best pedal feel, the modulation is very good and not grabby at all like some cars can be. 

The performance difference between the 35 and 45 S models has always felt pretty large, but this MHEV motor has tightened the gap


a blue mercedes-amg cla 35 rear seatsThe CLA isn’t meant to be a practical car in the same way a trench coat can technically be run in, but it’s a bit awkward.  

Saying that, you do get a roomy 460 litres of boot space, which – for a sports saloon – is decent. To put that into perspective, its Audi A3 Saloon and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe get 425 and 430 litres respectively, so the Merc pips them in this aspect. 

As for other storage options, the CLA has plenty of nifty cubbies throughout its cabin including a decent-sized glovebox, deep door bins and a large centre console to store road trip snacks and phone charging cables. 

The rear seat space is somewhat compromised due to the car’s sloped roofline, but the large panoramic sunroof helps to make it feel a bit airer back there.

There’s also ample head and legroom for most passengers, though taller folk may struggle on longer journeys. 

Running costs

a close up of a mercedes-amg CLA 35's front left wheelPrices for a brand-new Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 start at just under £50,000, which – when you consider it’s not a ‘proper AMG’ – is quite scary.  

Thankfully, used car prices are a little sweeter at around £10k-£20k less, which is a huge saving. Finance deals make both more attainable for most of us. 

However, this is still a far better option than the all-out CLA 45 S AMG if you’re on a budget, with an eye-watering starting price of nearly £70,000. 

Other costs to consider with your used CLA purchase include insurance, fuel and general maintenance costs.

The last two shouldn’t be much to worry about, with great factory warranties on offer and increased fuel efficiency thanks to that hybrid power unit.  

The one that may sting – particularly for younger drivers – is car insurance costs. Sitting towards the highest insurance group, it may not be feasible for less experienced motorists, but this will depend on many different variables. 

All in all, the CLA 35 AMG won’t cost as much to run as some of the more expensive AMG models, but it’ll certainly be a financial step up from a Fiesta ST or Golf GTI. 

Written by Ben Welham

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With its performance-boosting mild hybrid tech and spruced-up cabin, you won’t be surprised to hear we’re fans of the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35.  

While it’s still not as thrilling as more driver-focused alternatives such as the Hyundai i30N Fastback or Honda Civic Type R, it’s still rapid. And when put up against comparable premium performance cars, this lukewarm version of the CLA still feels at the top of the pile.  

It's a car that has a beautiful breadth of ability to carry out everyday tasks and then – with the twist of a button – turn into a car that’ll set your head on fire. 

It’s pretty, classy, and effortlessly quick. 

This review was