Mercedes CLA saloon - Engines, drive & performance
A widened stance gives the Mercedes CLA more engaging handling than before
While the first CLA was very much an A-Class with a coupe-influence, Mercedes has aimed to give its second-generation CLA a more distinct personality, especially since there’s now also a Mercedes A-Class Saloon. In keeping with its sporting design, this has largely focused on making the CLA better to drive than the more mainstream, and less expensive, hatchback and saloon versions.
For a start, the front and rear axles are 63mm and 55mm wider respectively. Not only does this give the CLA a wider, more assertive stance, it also has an effect on its handling. Broader shoulders help the CLA feel more responsive and reduce body lean through corners, giving it a clear advantage over the A-Class for driving enthusiasts. It also corners more enthusiastically than the Audi A3 and resists body roll better, giving it a more athletic feel.
Mercedes CLA petrol engines
Badged CLA 180 and 200, the entry-level petrol engine is a 1.3-litre turbo that's found in the latest Mercedes models. With front-wheel drive and 134bhp or 161bhp, the 0-62mph time is dispatched in 9.0 and 8.2 seconds respectively, with smooth shifts from a seven-speed automatic gearbox. As in the A-Class, the CLA 200 engine felt powerful enough to convincingly deal with urban and motorway driving.
With a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol, power in the CLA 250 model jumps to 221bhp, cutting the 0-62mph run to 6.3 seconds. This gives the 250 model hot-hatch levels of performance on paper but it doesn't quite translate to the driving experience. The automatic gearbox is the main issue, because it's slow to kick down and has a tendency to surge on upshifts, while the engine's soundtrack also fails to impress. There's a diesel-like clatter at idle, followed by a harsh, industrial sound at higher revs that feels out of place in a Mercedes.
At the top of the range are two fast AMG models, but these are almost separate models as they offer so much power and performance. The CLA 35 has 302bhp and a 4.9 second 0-62mph time, while the CLA 45 S is the top rung of the ladder, with an astonishing 415bhp and a 0-62mph time of just four seconds.
We’ve sampled the CLA 220 d on European roads. With 187bhp and 400Nm of torque, there's a strong surge of acceleration from low revs. This engine is also paired with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox that was both smooth and quick to change gears. Despite being very frugal, the diesel will hit 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds.
Launched in mid-2020, the CLA 250 e adds electrical assistance to the 1.3-litre petrol engine. The result is 215bhp and a 6.8-second 0-62mph time. We’ve sampled the same powertrain in the Mercedes A 250 e hatchback and found that the extra weight of the battery doesn’t make itself known unless you’re on a really windy road.