- Innovative infotainment system looks great
- Plush interior
- Comfortable to drive
- Rear headroom is tight
- Access to the boot space isn’t great
- A200 petrol engine lacks refinement
Mercedes has plenty of form in this area. The first Mercedes-Benz CLS - a swoopy version of the Merc E-Class - didn’t invent the phrase but certainly bought it into the modern-day public consciousness. Find out how its smaller counterpart performs in our in depth Mercedes CLA review.
Based on the Mercedes A-Class, the previous Mercedes CLA didn’t have much of a start in life, because the mechanicals that lay underneath weren't class leading. The latest Mercedes A-Class, though, is much more like it, so does that translate into a higher level of dynamic excellence for the Mercedes CLA, too? Happily, yes it does.
Now, before you go assuming that the Mercedes CLA’s slinky lines guarantee it to be some sort of sports car, we’ll scotch that rumour from the get-go. Yes, it handles capably and securely, but this car is more about comfort and refinement than agility and speed.
As a result, it’s a really nice, relaxing car to spend time in as the miles slip by. Granted, the entry-level engines could do with more poke and better noise isolation, but stick with the perkier versions and you’ll lead a very quiet life.
You’ll also be bedazzled by what sits directly in front of you, because the Mercedes CLA, like every other modern Mercedes-Benz, is packed with high-tech infotainment kit. It works well and looks absolutely fabulous, while it also supports all the functionality you could reasonably expect from it. Other luxury kit is in plentiful supply, too. If anything, the huge amount of standard safety kit on board is even more impressive.
The interior is also really impressive for quality, even if it’s not quite so impressive for practicality. Rear headroom is tight, particularly in versions with the panoramic roof, and while the boot is a decent size, the space is a little difficult to get at. That said, if you want ultimate practicality, you buy a saloon or an estate instead, and the Mercedes CLA will be roomy enough to customers who only use their rear seats occasionally, or exclusively for kids.
No, it’s not a cheap option, with prices similar to those of bigger rivals like the Audi A5 Sportback and Volkswagen Arteon. Even so, the Mercedes CLA is a very appealing choice that’s well worthy of your consideration.
Is the Mercedes-Benz CLA right for you?
Have you been seduced by the lure of a prestige badge, but you don’t want to drive the same ubiquitous hatchback choices as everyone else? Are you much more focused on style than you are on practicality, and as such, you don’t want anything too big? If the answer to all those questions is yes, then the Mercedes-Benz CLA could well be the answer for you.
As a four-door coupe, it looks slinkier than its hatchback rivals and unlike other four-door coupes like the Audi A5 Sportback and Volkswagen Arteon, it’s smaller and more compact. Granted, it’s not a lot cheaper, either, but it does come packed with generous luxury and safety equipment, and it’s as good as anything else in the class for interior quality.
What other cars are similar to the Mercedes-Benz CLA?
Picking rivals for the Mercedes CLA is quite a tricky one, because as a compact four-door premium coupe based on the Mercedes A-Class hatchback, it doesn’t really have many direct one aside from the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe.
However, while the CLA might be appreciably smaller than other four-door coupes such as the Audi A5 Sportback and Volkswagen Arteon, it’s not actually that far off on price. You could also out it up against the Audi A3 Saloon.
There’s a huge amount of adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, so drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to get comfy. And if you fork out for the range-topping AMG Line Premium Plus trims, your front seats move electrically.
You get a clear view of the road ahead, although the view behind you is slightly impaired by the bulky pillars that flank the rather shallow rear screen. Happily, all versions come with a reversing camera, font- and rear parking sensors and a system that’ll take care of the steering during parallel parking manoeuvres.
The dashboard is dominated by the two digital screens that we’ll discuss further in the infotainment section, but it’s good that the air conditioning controls are physical buttons that are separate from the infotainment system.
This means you can make minor adjustments without having to scroll through dozens of menus. The buttons themselves are logically placed and easy to use, too. However, the multi-function steering wheel is absolutely covered with small, fiddly controls, and the sheer number of them means it’s tricky to remember what everything does.
Quality and finish
This may be one of the cheaper cars that Mercedes-Benz offers, but in no way does it feel like a poor relation. The quality of the materials is high enough to fool you into thinking that you’re travelling in an executive saloon and importantly, it’s good enough to match any of its rivals.
The twin screens and big, blingy air vents also help give the interior design plenty of theatre, more so than in rivals, and the various injections of stitched leather, brushed aluminium, chrome and glossy black panelling means there’s real variety in the colours and textures on show.
However, while it’s a match for an Audi A5 on swishness, it doesn’t feel quite as solid or substantial: pokes and prods in certain places result in a few more creaks and flexes. It’s really not that far behind for build quality, and you’ll certainly have no reason for complaint.