In-depth reviews

Mercedes CLA review

The Mercedes CLA is arguably the best-looking A-Class model you can buy, with a beautifully finished interior and plenty of kerb appeal

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

  • Good to drive
  • Excellent refinement
  • Frugal diesel engine
  • Some rivals sportier to drive
  • A-Class hatch more flexible
  • Expensive options
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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, stylish saloon (or estate) that offers something a bit different to the norm, the CLA might be worth a look.

About the Mercedes CLA

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 have been tweaked over time to now include Sport Executive Edition, AMG Line Executive, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus Night Edition. Two sporty AMG-developed offerings are also available - the CLA 35 and 45 in either Coupe or Shooting Brake estate form.

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.

Used and nearly new

In a quest to fill every niche, Mercedes launched the CLA in 2013. In basic terms, it’s an A-Class saloon, but the improved styling comes at the expense of practicality. On the plus side, you get a beautifully finished and tech-laden interior, while used prices mean the CLA is now more affordable than ever.

Mercedes CLA history

Mercedes CLA Coupe

Mercedes CLA Mk2: 2019-

The CLA is the most stylish member of the Mercedes A-Class family. It’s also the best to drive and shares the same beautifully built and tech-laded interior. We’d even say it feels like a mini Mercedes E-Class, which is high praise. The downsides are limited practicality and high prices once you’ve added a few must-have options. 

Mercedes CLA Mk1 - front

Mercedes CLA Mk1: 2013-2019

In many ways, the original CLA felt like a cut-price Mercedes CLS, with the same coupe-like styling, quality interior and driving characteristics. So far, so good, but the CLA was less practical than the A-Class hatchback and could get rather expensive with a few option packs added to the mix. This didn’t prevent the Mk1 CLA from selling in big numbers, so there are plenty to choose from on the used market. Read our full Mk1 Mercedes CLA buyer’s guide here...

For an alternative review of the Mercedes CLA, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    CLA 180 AMG Line 4dr Tip Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £31,330

Most Economical

  • Name
    CLA 250e AMG Line Premium Plus 4dr Tip Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £40,755

Fastest

  • Name
    CLA 250 AMG Line 4dr Tip Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £34,380
Executive editor

Paul was employed across automotive agency and manufacturer-side sectors before joining Auto Express in 2020 as our online reviews editor. After a brief sojourn at a national UK newspaper, Paul returned as executive editor where he now works closely with our commercial partners.

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