Used Mercedes CLA (Mk1, 2013-2019) review - How practical is it?

The swooping looks impact on the CLA’s practicality, with limited rear headroom and only a moderately sized boot.

Get behind the wheel of the Mercedes CLA, and it's clear that the low-slung driving position has been created to help with the sporty feel inside the car. Happily, though, anyone should be able to get comfortable because there's a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment.

Up front, there's plenty of storage space dotted around; the electric parking brake frees up room on the centre console for some decent-sized cubbyholes.

Plus, buyers can pick from a long list of options to make the CLA more practical. For around £170, the storage package adds parcel nets in the cabin, a 12v socket in the passenger footwell, storage boxes under the front seats and a sunglasses holder in the overhead panel. For a similar price, an optional rear armrest and ski hatch can be ordered. Privacy glass cost around £230 when new, while run-flat tyres cost around £140.

If you want more space without sacrificing style, the CLA Shooting Brake should appeal. It carried a price premium of around £1,000 over the saloon, plus an increase in boot capacity from 470 to 495 litres. Clearly, it’s not a full-on load lugger, but the extra space and arguably more handsome looks mean it’s worth considering.

For occupants in the rear, however, things aren't so good. The coupe roofline makes space quite tight, and it's easy for taller passengers to bang their head on the low door frame when getting in and out. On paper, the Mercedes CLA is a five-seater, but the seat in the middle of the rear bench is narrow and the wide transmission tunnel means there's not a great deal of foot space.

Dimensions and cabin design

It’s worth taking a moment to consider where the CLA sits in the Mercedes range. At 4,630mm, it’s less than 6cm shorter than a rear-wheel-drive C-Class saloon, but nearly 34cm longer than the front-wheel-drive A-Class five-door with which it shares its platform. An Audi A3 Saloon measures 4,460mm end to end.

Boot space

Despite the slightly claustrophobic rear, the Mercedes CLA provides plenty of luggage space. There is a 470-litre boot with load securing rings, as well as a foam puncture repair kit which hides under the boot floor. Plus, Mercedes provides split-fold rear seats as standard.

Equipment and technology 

As the CLA was marketed as an upmarket saloon, it was originally offered in Sport or AMG Line trims only, while AMG is classed as a separate model; unlike the A-Class, there's no CLA SE version available. As well as these higher-spec trims, Mercedes offers limited-edition versions with special trim packages and extra kit.

Standard equipment is okay but not brilliant. The Sport model has sat-nav, automatic wipers, keyless entry and Artico leather sports seats, along with climate control, while AMG Line adds a styling makeover (including a different grille), a choice of driving modes and LED headlights.

Some of the options were expensive but will add little to the value of a used CLA. Look out for the likes of Garmin enhanced sat-nav, frameless 8-inch media display, electric tailgate (Shooting Brake), memory function for the driver and passenger seats, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, Harman Kardon audio system and keyless entry/start.

The 2016 facelift introduced new bumpers, a new grille, different alloy wheel designs, LED headlights and some interior changes. These included new seat covers, chrome detailing and extended smartphone integration. The highlight was a slimmer-looking 8-inch display screen, which helps with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems in the cars.

Opt for a late AMG Line Edition and you’ll be treated to an enviable level of specification. Highlights include 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, diamond grille with silver pins, a choice of driving modes, lowered Comfort suspension, a reversing camera, a 7-inch media display, sports seats and a leather steering wheel. The AMG Line Night Edition adds cosmetic upgrades and LED headlights, plus more extras if you opt for the CLA 45 4MATIC Night Edition.

If a CLA has the optional Plus pack, it will feature Active Park Assist, memory seats and a panoramic sunroof. Mercedes also offered an Exclusive Package worth around £2,000, which added upmarket features such as heated seats, leather upholstery with contrast stitching and aluminium trim.

Safety

Standard safety kit on the CLA includes seven airbags and Isofix child seat mountings. Plus, when the car senses an impact with a pedestrian, the active bonnet rises 65mm to protect them from the hard components underneath. All versions also feature Attention Assist, which detects signs of the driver becoming drowsy at the wheel and wakes you up with an alarm and a dashboard message.

Optional extras included lane-keeping assistance with blind spot warnings, while rear side airbags could be added for £400. Check to see if a used CLA comes with these options.

All of this safety tech helped the CLA achieve a five-star rating when it underwent its Euro NCAP crash test back in 2013. The car was awarded scores of 91 per cent for adult occupant safety and 75 per cent for child safety. It scored 74 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 81 per cent for its safety assistance systems.

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