A new take on the CLA arrived in Mercedes-Benz showrooms in 2019, but don’t worry if the prices of used examples of this newcomer haven’t dropped down into your budget range just yet – its predecessor still has lots of style to offer.
There are two versions to choose from: a four-door coupé, and the five-door yet still sporty Shooting Brake model. When it comes to looks, we reckon the coupé has the edge over its more practical sibling, largely due to that gorgeous, curvaceous roofline, which sweeps smoothly over the side profile. In a nutshell, the CLA coupé looks smart, sexy and expensive beyond its price.
In a nutshell, the CLA coupe looks smart, sexy and expensive beyond its price.
What’s it like to drive?
The elite AMG versions provide a poised, sporty drive. That comes at the price of a firm ride that can get on your nerves, especially around town. The less sports-oriented versions are more comfortable to live with and provide perfectly fine handling.
The CLA is offered with both petrol and diesel engines, including an exceptionally powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged AMG engine. It’s great fun to drive, though as you would expect, brace yourself for higher petrol and insurance bills. The entry-level 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine is fine if you spend most of your time driving around town.
If you intend to stretch the CLA’s legs regularly on country roads and motorways, the diesel engines are a better, more economical bet.
It’s great fun to drive
There’s a price to be paid for looking good, and the cost of that beautiful curving roofline in the CLA Coupé is limited headroom in the back seats. If your driving duties involve ferrying tall teenagers hither and thither, you’ll hear a lot less moaning from the back seats if you choose the CLA Shooting Brake, which makes for more spacious accommodation thanks to its higher roofline.
Whichever version you opt for, it’ll come exceptionally well-kitted out – even the entry models left the factory with an impressive amount of equipment. Items such as cruise control and dual-zone climate control – to make long-distance journeys more relaxing – are standard-fit, as is the seven-inch screen infotainment system, which can be hooked up to your smartphone.
Lights and wipers that switch themselves on automatically when required and stylish 18-inch alloy wheels are also fitted to the entry-level model.
We don’t need the brainpower of Professor Brian Cox to tell us that the CLA Shooting Brake is a more practical choice than the CLA Coupé, but even the Shooting Brake doesn’t provide estate car-like practicality.
While the boot is quite long, the load lip is high, and the bumper is quite deep. That means it’s all too easy to get dust and dirt on your clothes while leaning forward to load items into the boot – an important consideration when we’re talking style. It's also worth noting the opening is also fairly narrow. If there’s no one sitting in the back seats, they can quickly be folded forward to provide a lot more space.
The opening in the CLA Coupé’s boot is even narrower than the CLA Shooting Brake’s, and larger items will require the seats folding. There's more space than you get with the boot on a Mercedes-Benz A Class hatchback, with which the CLA shares its mechanical underpinnings.
Running costs and reliability
If you drive carefully, you should get around 40mpg from the entry-level petrol engine, while switching to diesel power will enable to you to drive for another 10-15 miles on each gallon of fuel.
What we love
Mercedes-Benz has dared to be different with the CLA Coupé’s styling, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste, we think it will bring more than a dash of panache to your driveway. Inside, the cabin is sleek, stylish and well constructed, and even the basic models come well equipped.
Still looking for the one?
Use our comparison tool to find the car for you
As the CLA breaks the mould, finding rivals that compare is tricky. While there may not be anything exactly like it, there are still plenty of alternatives if the CLA’s not the one for you:
Use our Help Me Choose tool if you still can't decide.
Town and country drivers
Both the Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé and CLA Shooting Brake are a breath of fresh air with their mould-breaking styling. Neither is the perfect all-rounder, and that curvaceous styling takes its toll on practicality. Life is not all about carrying big boxes from A to B, however – it’s also about enjoying how your car looks and drives. As long as you are aware of the CLA’s limitations, you’ll have a good time owning it.
This review was