Mercedes CLA saloon (2013-2019)
“The Mercedes CLA is a compact four-door saloon that prioritises style over hatchback practicality”
- Loads of safety equipment
- Good boot space
- Stylish looks
- Firm ride
- Limited rear headroom
- Could be more fun to drive
The Mercedes CLA is a stylish saloon that borrows its coupe lines from the bigger Mercedes CLS. While the design won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it will appeal to many , and the Mercedes badge on the nose has proven desirability. While the CLA is based on the A-Class hatchback, its relatively low roofline makes it less practical; if you like the styling but need more space, take a look at the CLA Shooting Brake estate, which we’ve review here.
Browse the price list and it can look like the CLA is around £4,000 more than an A-Class but the price hike is partly down to a more opulent entry-level trim for the CLA. There’s a somewhat smaller price gap when you compare the two on a like-for-like basis.
The rapid, range-topping Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 is the most eye-catching model but the standard range offers four engines, split equally between the petrol and diesel camp. The petrol models are badged CLA 180 and CLA 250, with a big gap in power from 120 to 215bhp respectively. The diesel models use the same 2.1-litre engine, with the CLA 200d getting 134bhp and the CLA 220d offering 175bhp. Fuel economy for the diesel engine goes up to 70.6mpg, with emissions of 105g/km of CO2 for a business-friendly 23% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band.
A low seating position instantly gives the CLA a sporty feel, but it’s also as refined as you’d expect a small Mercedes to be. A firm suspension setup provides plenty of grip on a twisting road, but the flip-side is a bumpy ride, especially if large alloy wheels are fitted. While these can certainly look great, we’d recommend a test drive in your chosen specification before going ahead.
There isn’t a particularly slow version in the range, with even the entry-level diesel getting from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds (or half a second faster with an automatic gearbox). The CLA 250 petrol can rival hot hatchbacks, covering the benchmark in 6.5 seconds, while the CLA 45 is sports-car-quick, but very expensive. Four-wheel drive (called 4MATIC) is an optional extra, but we don’t think it’s really necessary and increases running costs, so we’d recommend a front-wheel-drive diesel allied to an automatic gearbox.
Lifted almost wholesale from the A-Class, the CLA’s interior might not quite live up to the striking exterior, with a seven-inch display that sits above the dashboard and won’t be to everyone’s tastes. While most of the materials you come into contact with are very pleasant and high-quality, there are also some cheaper plastics where you’re less likely to look. There’s plenty of space in the front seats and the 470-litre boot is impressively practical, but the curved roof does limit headroom in the rear seats.
Every trim level gets essentials like alloy wheels, parking sensors and lots of connectivity options for your smartphone. 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.
While the CLA didn’t appear in our 2017 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the A-Class it’s based on finished 69th out of 75 models.
Thanks to a five-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP, safety shouldn’t be a concern, especially given the CLA’s impressive 91% score for adult occupant protection.