► First drive of Merc CLA
► Deliveries start summer 2019
► Priced from £30,550
When it arrived out of nowhere in early 2013, the Mercedes CLA was an instant hit in the US where it sold for just under $30,000 dollars. Simultaneously, it became the marque´s number one conquest model in Europe, and a global best-seller at a rate of 750,000 units over life cycle.
Although its banana-shaped profile polarized like the original CLS, even the more extreme shooting brake derived from it was, and still is, a solid commercial success.
Enter the MkII CLA, then…
CLA v2.0 is a couple of inches longer and wider, significantly better looking but not significantly roomier inside. The key functional advantage is the bootlid cutout which has been extended by 262mm at loading lip level.
The coupé may be a more prestigious piece of kit than the A-class saloon, and its cargo deck holds a useful 50litres more than the lighter notchback, but the price difference works out at £3,500 more (going on a like-for-like 250 AMG Line model).
Give me some handling and engines knowledge
We drove the torquey and economical 187bhp 220d, as well as the sporty and rorty 221bhp 250 (0-62mph in 6.3sec, 156mph, 38.7mpg). The difference in vehicle dynamics between the CLA and its three-box sister model is negligible.
The available adaptive dampers feel taut and curt even when set in Comfort, the optional 18 and 19in wheels and tyres (one size up compared to the previous CLA) are not exactly cushy either at low speed and over edgy obstacles. Not yet available for testing was the lowered comfort suspension, a contradiction in terms which is claimed to improve ride, handling and roadholding for a small fee.
Both engines are vocal when pushed in Sport mode but even then, the so-called dynamic steering - light and quick as it is - could do with more feedback. All models bar the CLA180 and 200 come with the seven-speed DCT which is quick-shifting and well geared for high-speed autobahn driving, but tip-in and tip-out can be a bit jerky when you catch the cogs off-guard. Waiting in the wings are the 306bhp CLA35 AMG and the 400bhp-plus CLA45 AMG hotshoe complete with drift mode and eight-speed DCT.
That’s a familiar interior…
Despite the sleek looks, the butch stance and the best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.23, it is the interior of the new A-class coupé that makes all the difference. The MBUX interface benefits from regular over-the-air updates, the choice of assistance systems almost matches the S-class, the driver environment looks and feels expensive.
Extra money buys satnav with augmented reality which activates a front camera on the approach to turn-offs, roundabouts and crossroads. If your pockets are deep enough, don´t forget to also specify multibeam LED headlamps, the dual-monitor widescreen display and the premium navigation package.
We were less convinced by the pricey energizing pack plus (2975 Euro) which fuses three different training programmes labelled relaxation, activation and balance with three wellness modes called warmth, joy and comfort. Additional stimulation is provided by matching soundtracks, special massage sequences and selective ambient lighting. On top of it all, the so-called energizing coach taps compatible wearables to check on the driver´s well-being. We’ve tested it separately, here.
Much more so than its predecessor, the new CLA wants to be perceived as a clever personal mobility device, not as a high-end but otherwise unambitious point-to-point hopper. Rather than relying exclusively on traditional brand values like comfort and safety, the third-generation A-class goes digital big time to address younger customers who fancy a laptop on wheels complete with fast connectivity and all the let-me-do-this-for-you mod cons.
Mercedes CLA: verdict
The four-door coupé delivers these goodies in style but at a price, it can be kitted out to satisfy luxury-seekers or the AMG fraternity, it takes voice control to a new level and throws in a feelgood cabin for good measure. True, the rear seats are still all but useless, the packaging prioritises form over function, and the actual driving experience doesn´t make an enthusiast´s heart beat any faster. But in this segment, there is no nicer car to be in, and no cooler four-door coupé to be seen in.
Check out our Mercedes reviews