Used Mercedes CLA (Mk1, 2013-2019) review - What's it like to drive?

Diesels are efficient but gruff, while the smoother petrol engines serve up performance ranging from lively to sensational

Out on the road, the CLA delivers good grip in corners and the steering is progressive and well weighted. Factor in positive turn-in and taut body control, and the Mercedes feels sportier and sharper than its main rival, the Audi A3 Saloon, although it lacks the nimble, rear-wheel-drive feel of a BMW.


The Mk1 Mercedes CLA is available with three petrol engines: a 1.6-litre turbo in the CLA 180, a 2.0-litre turbo in the CLA 250 AMG, or a 351bhp 2.0-litre turbo in the flagship Mercedes-AMG CLA 45.

The entry-level version has 122bhp and delivers lively performance, reaching 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds. The 2.0-litre petrol makes 218bhp in the CLA 250 AMG and feels a lot faster, completing the benchmark sprint in a very respectable 6.5 seconds.

Meanwhile, the flagship AMG version will beat some serious sports cars with its 4.2-second 0-62mph time. The AMG CLA 45 was updated in 2016 to bring it in line with the A45 AMG with an impressive 376bhp and 475Nm of torque from its turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

Diesel buyers get the choice of Mercedes’ tried and trusted 2.1-litre engine with 136bhp in the CLA 200 d or 177bhp in the CLA 220 d. Unfortunately, while both diesels are efficient, they sound pretty gruff compared to those in rivals from Audi or BMW. Still, performance is decent, especially from the 220 d version, which covers the 0-62mph sprint in 7.7 seconds. The 200 d takes 9.5 seconds.

There’s also the entry-level 1.5-litre diesel engine in the CLA 180 d. It offers reasonable performance, but a 0-62mph time of 11.6 seconds means it needs working hard to get the best from it, which will put a dent in the fuel economy.

On the road

There is a downside to the CLA’s sharp handling, though, and that’s pretty poor ride quality. Thanks to its stiff suspension settings, the way the car thumps over broken surfaces becomes tiring. This is a shame, given that the cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise.

Other gripes concern the seven-speed automatic transmission, which can sometimes take a frustratingly long time to respond and change ratios.

If you opt for a 4MATIC drivetrain with the CLA 250 AMG or CLA 45 AMG, expect to find eye-opening traction but little in the way of added driver engagement. AMG Line models also come with firmer suspension, which passengers might find uncomfortable.

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