Mercedes CLA review
The Mercedes CLA is the best-looking, best-driving version of the A-Class family – but outright practicality is sacrificed
The Mercedes CLA is a hugely desirable small car with the aspirations of something much bigger. It’s not the sharpest car to drive, but it handles neatly and predictably, and is perfectly suited pounding up and down the motorway, where it proves a refined and comfortable commuter no matter which spec you go for. The beautifully built, tech-laden interior is a real selling point; little this side of an E-Class feels quite so special inside. If you’re after a small saloon – or estate – with a bit more style, class or panache, the CLA could be just the ticket.
The Mercedes CLA first carved out a niche for itself in 2013, arriving as a swoopy four-door based on the second-generation A-Class that brought mini-CLS styling to an otherwise conservative corner of the market. The latest model, introduced in 2019 along with its Shooting Brake estate counterpart, follows a similar recipe, eschewing outright practicality in the name of sheer desirability.
Elsewhere in the current Mercedes A-Class line-up there’s a hatchback – still the best choice for flexibility – and the saloon, a more traditional take on the four-door layout that’s geared more towards interior space. Buyers of the CLA in either of its forms aren’t expected to care too much, however – it’s billed as the sportiest A-Class derivative and boasts a few mechanical tweaks to make it more exciting from a driver’s perspective.
The engine lineup is much the same as the A-Class hatchback, with a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid units mated exclusively to automatic gearboxes. Trim levels are familiar but start in what is the mid-range for the standard car: AMG Line, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus and the two sporty AMG-developed offerings – CLA 35 and 45 – comprise both Coupe and Shooting Brake lineups.
Beside the obvious visual differences, the biggest change over the standard A-Class is the increased track – the width between the car’s wheels – while ‘Lowered Comfort Suspension’ is standard. The result is a more planted, sharper car to drive that resists roll through corners and gives its driver a little more to smile about.
The CLA is a direct rival to the latest BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, as well as more conventional offerings like the Audi A3 Saloon. It’s a luxurious, refined cruiser that’s also good to drive – but practicality is a little lacking over the more flexible hatchback model.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Mercedes CLA is the best-looking, best-driving version of the A-Class family – but outright practicality is sacrificed
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe Mercedes CLA uses a wider track than the A-Class, but the differences to the car’s handling are marginal
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsA wide range of engines means there’s a balance of performance and economy to suit most buyers
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe latest Mercedes CLA sets a high benchmark for interior tech, fit and finish
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe CLA Coupe is a little more compromised than its hatchback and Saloon siblings; choose the Shooting Brake if you need space
- 6Reliability and SafetyReliability and safety are largely untested, but the CLA is packed with clever safety kit