Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake estate review
“The Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake favours style over practicality but it’s still more versatile than the saloon”
- Beautiful interior
- Stylish looks
- Not that practical
- AMG models expensive
- Some rivals are better to drive
The Mercedes CLA is now in its second generation, and comes in a choice of saloon or estate body styles. These two cars squeeze into the space between the Mercedes A-Class and Mercedes C-Class, and the CLA Shooting Brake is the car you’d buy if you needed slightly more space than an A-Class hatchback but not enough to warrant a more traditional-looking C-Class Estate.
While that seems like quite a niche, the Shooting Brake tag means the bigger-booted CLA is more about style than total carrying capacity. With its sweeping roofline and low front end, the CLA Shooting Brake certainly delivers on the style front; we think it looks even better than the CLA saloon. Its looks will be a driving factor for a large number of buyers who might also be considering any of the other A-Class derivatives.
The hatchback tailgate is useful if you anticipate carrying bulky sports gear or a large pram. Perhaps crucially for many buyers, it also starts at a much lower price than the Mercedes C-Class Estate.
The CLA is available in three different AMG Line trims, each with increasing amounts of equipment, plus there are two high-performance AMG 35 and AMG 45 S versions - and these have their own individual kit lists. All cars get a reversing camera, LED headlights, heated front seats and a powered tailgate, so we’d recommend plumping for the cheapest model.
AMG Line Premium adds keyless entry, a larger digital instrument cluster and 64-colour ambient lighting, and AMG Line Premium Plus also includes a panoramic sunroof, adaptive headlights and traffic sign recognition.
Whichever version takes your fancy, the CLA has a stunning interior dominated by two big screens sitting on top of the dashboard. It may be one of Mercedes’ less expensive models but it feels utterly luxurious and is a fantastic place to oversee many miles of driving.
The driving experience may not be the best part of the package, if our drive in the fast CLA AMG 35 model was anything to go by. It’s very well suited to long motorway journeys but show it a set of sweeping bends and you’ll find it’s not so great as an out-and-out sports car, even if body roll is suppressed and it’s quick in a straight line.
Besides the two AMG range-toppers, there are three petrol engines, a plug-in hybrid and one diesel to choose from. The latter will be favoured by higher-mileage drivers, but it offers a great blend of fuel economy and speedy acceleration. Even the petrol engines are reasonably economical, and most offer the performance you’d expect from a Mercedes. The plug-in hybrid will suit both business users and private drivers keen to get lower running costs, especially as it’s not much more expensive than the diesel or the CLA 250 petrol.
The Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake isn’t trying to be the most practical Mercedes in this price bracket - for the best people or luggage carrier you’d be better off in the Mercedes C-Class Estate or the seven-seat Mercedes GLB SUV. But the boot is slightly bigger and more usable than the CLA saloon, while there’s much more headroom in the rear seats too.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The CLA comes with a choice of three petrol engines, a plug-in hybrid and a diesel (plus two high-performance AMG versions). Buyers who are looking to keep an eye on their running costs will like the 220d 2.0-litre diesel engine, which returns an impressive 55.4mpg and CO2 emissions of up to 136g/km and doesn’t skimp on performance, either. The two 1.3-litre petrol models, badged 180 and 200, both manage 45.6mpg and emit up to 142g/km of CO2, but fuel economy falls away as you move up the range. The CLA 250 petrol will return up to 40.9mpg and emits 159g/km, while the high-performance AMG models are thirstier still with economy figures of between 31-36 mpg.
The plug-in hybrid CLA 250 e is the most economical of the range by some margin. According to Mercedes, it’s capable of up to 256mpg while emitting only 24g/km of CO2, and is capable of around 42 miles of pure-electric running with a fully topped up battery. Charging from 10% to 100% takes just over three hours when connected to a home wallbox, with a three-pin plug socket taking around five and a half hours.
After the first year’s VED (road tax) (included in the price of the car) most versions of the CLA Shooting Brake cost the standard rate per year, falling to the slightly discounted rate for the plug-in hybrid CLA 250 e. Those that cost more than £40,000 (including options and before offers) will be subject to a further surcharge for the first five times you renew, taking your yearly tax bill to nearly £500. The plug-in hybrid version offers the lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate for company-car drivers; business users will pay roughly a third in BiK tax for the hybrid than for other versions.
Mercedes offers a ServiceCare service plan, which can cover you for up to three services at a cost of around £30 per month. There’s a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, which is similar to Mercedes’ closest rivals.
Engines, drive & performance
Like many German cars, the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is quiet and unruffled at motorway speeds. It’s mostly good news on twistier roads too, with very little body lean through corners. This is helped by the CLA’s track (the distance between the left and right wheels) being much wider than before, and it’s better to drive than the A-Class on which it’s based, as well as the Audi A3. However, the steering is overly light and the seven-speed automatic gearbox in our AMG A35 test car felt a little clumsy. This gearbox is standard across the range, apart from in the CLA 250 e plug-in hybrid, AMG A45 and the diesel - these get an eight-speed auto.
We’ve tried the sole 2.0-litre diesel in the CLA Shooting Brake, and its 187bhp means it feels pretty punchy; 0-62mph takes just 7.2 seconds. If you’re not keen on diesel, there are three regular petrol models to choose from: a 1.3-litre engine with either 134bhp or 161bhp, and a 2.0-litre with 221bhp. The entry-level CLA 180 feels a little underpowered, so we’d recommend side-stepping it for the 200 - which drops the 0-62mph time from 9.2 to 8.4 seconds. Above that is the CLA 250, with a 6.4-second 0-62mph time, and the two AMG models. These both have 4MATIC four-wheel drive and accelerate to 62mph in under five seconds.
The CLA 250 e plug-in hybrid combines a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol engine with an electric motor producing 215bhp. It offers swift performance, managing 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 149mph, placing it between the diesel and the most powerful petrol engine for overall acceleration.
Interior & comfort
The interior in the CLA Shooting Brake is almost entirely carried over from the A-Class, but that’s no bad thing. With the twin screens and detailed air vents, the dashboard is instantly eye-catching. All the materials feel upmarket, and it’s easy to imagine that you could be in a much more expensive car. In the CLA, the 10.25-inch infotainment screen is standard (it’s an upgrade in the A-Class), and all but the cheapest trim come with an upgraded digital instrument cluster too.
There’s so much standard equipment in the entry-level model that you don’t really need to move up the range; the three AMG Line models and regular AMG 35 cars get wireless phone charging, heated seats, a powered tailgate, two-zone air con and LED headlights, plus much more. Premium adds keyless entry, 64-colour ambient lighting and augmented reality sat nav, while top-spec Premium Plus offers upgraded headlights, a panoramic sunroof and memory front seats.
Even if you choose the CLA AMG 45 S, there are still two different equipment levels to choose from. Meanwhile, you can choose from a range of paint colours, wheels and interior finishes, plus extra safety features and a wide range of accessories.
Practicality & boot space
It might look like an estate but the heavily sloping rear end means the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake might not be as practical as you’d expect. It’s unashamedly style-led, but the 505-litre boot is still decent and is 45 litres more than the saloon. Fold the seats down and you get 1,370 litres, which is less than a Skoda Scala hatchback (AMG cars get just 960 litres). However, the tailgate makes it so much easier to haul bulky items than the saloon, with its tight boot opening.
If you regularly carry adults in the back seats, they’ll thank you for buying the Shooting Brake instead of the saloon; there’s almost 50mm more headroom in the rear of the estate version. Legroom is good, too, and you have plenty of storage cubbies to stow away all your odds and ends.
Reliability & safety
Independent safety testers were impressed with the Mercedes CLA; on the way to getting a full five-star rating, it scored 96% for adult occupant safety, 91% for child and passenger safety, and 75% for safety tech. As standard, Mercedes throws in auto emergency braking and forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, speed limit recognition and a driver fatigue monitor. You can also choose a Driving Assistance pack on top-spec cars for additional cost, which includes a whole host of features including blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, evasive steering assist and route-based speed adjustment.
The Mercedes CLA didn’t feature in our 2021 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but the A-Class impressed owners and came 23rd in our list of the top 75 cars. Mercedes has improved its standing in our manufacturer list. It finished in 13th, which is a huge improvement on 2020’s 28th place result. A slightly above-average 19% of owners reported a fault within the first year of ownership, but many of these will have been minor gripes rather than major mechanical issues.