Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Review 2023

Written by Andrew Brady

8/10
heycar ratingCurious but appealing small estate
  • 2019
  • Estate
  • Petrol, Diesel, Hybrid

Quick overview

Pros

  • Distinctive exterior design
  • Smart and attractive interior
  • Good boot space

Cons

  • Rivals are better to drive
  • Expensive to buy
  • Rear seats a little tight for space

Overall verdict on the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake

"Answering a question that seemingly few people have asked, the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake actually makes a good case for itself. You won't find a more desirable estate car for the money and it manages to look this good while still being pretty practical. It has a strong engine range, fancy tech that makes it feel thoroughly modern and is decent to drive."

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake Review 2023: side

Filling every niche and occupying every possible market space is something which the premium German car manufacturers seem to delight in. We take a look at the left-field estate in this 2022 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake review. 


The basis for this unusual car is the Mercedes A-Class hatchback, which was spun-off into the CLA, a four-door coupe with a saloon-like boot for buyers wanting more style (to make this even more confusing, there's also the Mercedes A-Class Saloon). 


Then Mercedes introduced a Shooting Brake version of the CLA, which adds a tailgate similar to that of an estate car but with the same emphasis on style rather than outright practicality.


While the market into which the CLA Shooting Brake fits might not be clear, its size means it sits in the compact class, just as the Mercedes A-Class on which it is based does. Another feature of the CLA’s unusual design is that there are no real direct competitors. Anything premium with an estate-like rear tends to be a little bigger and is a spin-off of a saloon instead, such as the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring and even Mercedes’ own C-Class Estate.


As a style statement car rather than purely practical you would expect the CLA Shooting Brake to stand out from the crowd. And it’s safe to say it does so with gusto. The nose is broadly typical Mercedes-Benz with a prominent grille, but it’s the sweep of the roofline and the flanks that are most distinctive. It makes little sense to call it a coupe, but it has the kind of curves you expect to see on one even though it is strictly speaking an estate.


Inside, the CLA Shooting Brake benefits from being based on the latest generation Mercedes A-Class, which offers some of the latest technology from Mercedes-Benz. If you specify it, you get a pair of 10-inch display screens, one for infotainment and the other for the instruments, which dominate the cabin and give it an ultra-modern feel. This is backed up by the quality of the materials, which is very high indeed and adds weight to the premium billing.


As is typical of Mercedes-Benz models, you get a wide range of engines to suit a variety of needs and budgets. The turbocharged petrol units in the CLA 200 and CLA 250 are quite smooth and quiet, and although the 1.3-litre in the CLA 200 is no fireball, it’s good enough if you aren’t in a massive hurry. The diesel options provide more punch alongside strong fuel economy, and if you want a performance version the four-wheel drive AMG 35 and AMG 45 models are quick and exceptionally rapid respectively.


If you’re looking for a compact estate car but find the idea of a wagon somewhat dull or off-putting, then the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake might be the solution. It’s still practical, arguably more so than the C-Class Estate, it's a decent drive and is packed with technology. There are few rivals, but plenty of conventional premium estates you could spend your money on. However, the Mercedes CLA is arguably the most interesting of the lot.


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In practical terms there’s nothing that the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake can do that a conventional premium estate can’t. It can carry passengers and luggage in reasonable combinations and with a good level of comfort too. 


However, what the CLA can do is a passable impression of a car that isn’t really an estate at all. You could probably convince at least some of your friends that it’s really a coupe, such is the unusual nature of its design.


The CLA Shooting Brake, in the right specification, is also comfortable, quick and capable of good fuel economy if you go for a diesel version. So if you need a car a little more spacious than a saloon for regular long trips or business use then it could certainly fit the bill, and it’s also just about practical enough to be a family car if you refuse to give in and buy an MPV or SUV.

If you want a petrol version, we would recommend choosing the either the CLA 200 or CLA 250 models. Both offer claimed fuel consumption of over 40mpg - so mid to high 30mpg should be perfectly achievable - yet are usefully quick. The 250 model in particular offers pretty sprightly performance for a 'standard' model. 


On the diesel front, the only option is the CLA 220 d, but with 190PS and a claimed fuel consumption of 55.4mpg combined it is quick and economical, although the 2.0-litre unit is not as refined as the petrol alternatives.


In keeping with its more exclusive approach, the CLA Shooting Brake is available in a reduced number of trim levels compared to the A-Class. In fact your choice is limited to AMG Line, or the same with the Premium or Premium Plus packages before you get to the fast and expensive AMG options. We’d recommend AMG Line Premium, which adds the fancy extra display screen, a dash cam, ambient lighting, an upgraded audio system and keyless go.


Up until recently there were few cars that are directly comparable with the CLA in Shooting Brake form aside from perhaps the MINI Clubman. We'd also include the Kia Proceed. Okay, it's not quite as desirable as the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake or a MINI, but it's in the same ballpark style wise.  


However there are more conventional alternatives. Mercedes’ own C-Class Estate is probably the closest rival. BMW’s 3 Series Touring and Audi’s A4 Avant are premium compact wagons, too. And while they can’t match the style statement that the Mercedes CLA makes, they do offer similar levels of space, comfort, luxury and performance. If you want space but don't want a huge car, take a look at small SUV like the Volvo XC40.

Comfort and design: Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior

"If you step into the CLA Shooting Brake and aren’t impressed, you must have stepped from a Mercedes S-Class. Few cars at this price level, and many above it, can offer such a distinctive and attractive cabin, and is a big part of the CLA Shooting Brake’s appeal."

Mercedes CLA review 2023 front interior

Getting comfortable in the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake will be easy for front seat occupants. The seats are instantly comfortable, with a good range of adjustment as well as leather trim and heating as standard. The steering wheel offers a good range of adjustment too, and because the display screens are so large there is less likely to be an issue with the wheel blocking your view.


The layout of the interior is similar to other Mercedes-Benz, but this is arguably the best execution of the design. With so much information and function taken care of by the screens, there are few buttons on the dashboard itself which helps to give the whole cabin a clean and uncluttered look. 


While there are some similarities to the design in other Mercedes models - the air vents in particular are similar to those in the C-Class - the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake puts the display screens at the heart of the layout, and it is all the better for this approach.


Although the infotainment system takes care of most of the vehicle functions, some elements are still controlled by buttons, and this is one area where the CLA Shooting Brake is somewhat disappointing. Like many other Mercedes models, the ventilation controls comprise of a small strip of silvered buttons across the middle of the dashboard, which can be hard to read at first glance.

The CLA Shooting Brake isn’t the only Mercedes-Benz that has an attractive interior, although the reality is that some models flatter to deceive and don’t back up the appeal of the design with decent materials. The good news is that the CLA doesn’t fall into that trap. This is a cabin that (for the most part) feels and looks luxurious and wouldn’t disgrace a car from the class above.


The Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is even better than the Mercedes A-Class on which it is based, partly because the CLA range is slimmed down and only contains the higher grade models. All CLAs come with leather trim as standard which is a big boost to the quality feel, and with some elements of real wood and metal within the interior it stands a fair distance ahead of the competition.


It’s not all perfect of course. There is still a fair amount of plastic within the cabin, and some of it feels a little cheap, but these few bits are well hidden and don’t upset the overall feel. In addition, everything in here feels well constructed and as though it will last - which is reassuring when you’re spending this much money.

All Mercedes CLA models are fitted with the 10-inch infotainment screen and a 7-inch digital display screen for the instruments, but choosing the Premium or Premium Plus models upgrade this so you have twin 10-inch screens. 


The system is packed with features, including DAB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, wireless charging and intelligent voice recognition - a more advanced voice control that can pick up on regular speech and doesn’t require specific phrases to be used. The Premium and Premium Plus models also come with a more powerful audio system as well as the larger instrument display screen and augmented-reality sat-nav that superimposes instructions on the head-up display.


The system itself is very capable and for the most part very easy to use. There is a degree of having to learn its intricacies - there are so many features and customisable functions that exploring the whole thing will take a while, but once mastered it is a pleasure to use. 


The touchpad control is more accurate and responsive than the older system on the C-Class and has the back-up of touchscreen and voice control. The steering wheel controls also allow a great deal of the functions to be operated, although the small touchpads are quite sensitive which makes it easy to make incorrect inputs.

Although the CLA Shooting Brake is more style-conscious than the more conventional estate rivals, it still has to be capable of offering competitive space for both passengers and luggage. The reality is that the heavily-curved body design does mean some compromises in terms of space, but it is still competitive with rivals in spite of it.


Space for those in the front seats is what you would expect for a car of this size. Legroom is sufficient to suit most sizes of adult, while headroom is also plentiful - although headroom is reduced by a significant degree if you opt for the Premium Plus package which adds in a panoramic sunroof, so you may want to avoid this if you are at the taller end of the scale.


In the rear, space is less generous, and less plentiful than in much of the competition. Although legroom is sufficient to accommodate taller adults, the sports seats are quite bulky and eat into the space. The CLA Shooting Brake is narrower than most of its premium estate rivals because it is based on a car from a smaller segment, so putting three adults across the rear is more of a squeeze. If you have younger children or only need to carry two adults or fewer on a regular basis you should find there is enough space, but ultimately there are more practical options to choose from.


Head for the boot, and the news is mixed once again. Look at the bald statistics and it looks highly promising. With the rear seats in place the CLA Shooting Brake offers 505 litres of space, and folded down this increases to 1,370 litres. The former figure is more than the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4, but the usefulness of this space is diminished slightly by the fact that the boot aperture is quite narrow, another issue caused by the car being based on the A-Class. The loading lip is also quite pronounced, unlike the flat floors you find with most of the competition.


In terms of exterior dimensions, the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is 4,688mm long, 1,830mm wide and 1,442mm tall. That makes it slightly longer and wider than the Kia Proceed, and around 26cm longer than a regular A-Class.

Handling and ride quality: What is the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake like to drive?

"The CLA Shooting Brake might not be aimed at traditional estate car buyers with its strong visual appeal, but it isn’t quite the sporty car the AMG badging might suggest."

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake Review 2023: side

All versions of the CLA Shooting Brake are fitted with what Mercedes terms ‘lowered comfort suspension’, which means the ride height has been reduced for visual appeal but the suspension is no stiffer and is not a ‘sports’ setup. That translates to reasonable ride quality, but this is another area where the CLA is a little behind the competition.


Choosing a version with smaller wheels always helps, and on typical urban roads the CLA is firm but not unacceptably so. It deals with most bumps easily to give passengers a reasonable ride and on smoother roads it is settled and controlled. On poorer road surfaces the CLA Shooting Brake is less capable however, fidgeting over sharper bumps rather than comfortably riding them out, which puts it behind larger estates.


Unlike some other models in the Mercedes range, there is no air suspension option, so it is worth trying before you buy to ensure it meets your standard of comfort.


As for handling, the CLA is competent and composed up to a certain point. The steering is light and has a high ratio, so that very small inputs are required to achieve the desired amount of turn. That makes the car feel eager, and is a real bonus in urban driving and during parking. 


Should you start to use the engine performance a little more and push on through a series of bends, the CLA Shooting Brake will play along but it feels like it is tolerating your behaviour, rather than showing any enthusiasm. The steering offers little in the way of feedback and the suspension can get disturbed by frequent bumps, all of which discourages you from driving at speed.

As is becoming the norm in today's largely post-diesel automotive world, the CLA Shooting Brake is offered with considerably more petrol engines that diesels. 


The sole diesel option is a 2.0-litre unit offering 190PS, but it makes a compelling case for itself. Other than a little rumble and vibration at idle speeds it is smooth and refined, and has generous torque from low engine speeds to give easy acceleration and a relaxed feel. It’s also economical, so if you need to travel longer distances and want the best fuel consumption, the CLA 220 d makes a good choice.


The CLA 180 and CLA 200 models use the same 1.3-litre turbocharged engine, which is remarkably small for a car of this size. In truth, the CLA 180 is barely adequate in terms of performance, and given that the more useful CLA 200 offers the same fuel consumption it makes sense to choose the more powerful version with 163PS.


Of the petrol options, the 2.0-litre unit in the CLA 250 is the pick of the bunch. With 224PS available it is a genuinely quick car with enough performance to satisfy most buyers, and makes it an effortless and quiet cruiser. It’s also only a little thirstier than the smaller petrol options, so unless you have to have the most fuel efficient petrol the CLA 250 is the best compromise.


Introduced in early 2021 was the CLA 250 e plug-in hybrid. Mating the 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine to an electric motor for a total of 218PS, the front-wheel drive PHEV completes the 0-62mph sprint in just under seven seconds. It feels pretty punchy, then, but the engine is a little noisy when it does kick in. At least there's a healthy 43 miles of all-electric range on a full charge, however. 


Outside of the normal range sit the CLA 35 and 45 AMG models which are considerably more expensive and a lot faster too, but are for those interested in a performance car primarily as their four-wheel-drive system results in significantly less boot space. 


With a striking exterior and a fancy interior, the CLA Shooting Brake gives off strong luxury car vibes, and thankfully this image is not hurt by a lack of refinement. Even the diesel engine, typically the least refined engine option, is quite refined, and although it is a little vocal at idle it fades into the background once on the move and doesn’t intrude even when exercised.


Arguably the petrol engines are even more impressive. The smaller 1.3-litre units require a few more revs to make decent progress and so make more noise more of the time, but they are relatively quiet even when pressed. The 2.0-litre unit in the CLA 250 is under-stressed in this car and so is the most refined of all the engine options.


The quality of the build and materials is reflected in how quiet the cabin is. Even on the occasions when you can hear the engine working hard, it sounds distant rather than up close, and that makes for a relaxing experience for the cabin occupants. Road noise levels are quite well contained, although versions with bigger wheels tend to create a little more noise. Despite the frameless windows, wind noise is also well controlled, with just a little generated by the door mirrors at higher speed.


Euro NCAP tested the Mercedes CLA in 2019, and although it was the saloon version that completed the test, it was determined that the Shooting Brake was sufficiently similar that the same results could apply.


The CLA scored the full five stars, with some very impressive individual scores. It achieved a 96 per cent rating for adult protection, which is one of the highest scores seen for any car and it received a 91 per cent score for child protection. The CLA also scored a very strong 91 per cent in the vulnerable road user test (formerly pedestrian mitigation) and 75 per cent for safety assist. It’s an indication of how strongly it performed that 75 per cent is the lowest score for the CLA in any category.


As standard, all versions of the CLA are fitted with wide range of safety equipment including front, head and side airbags for the front seat occupants, a driver’s knee airbag, curtain airbags and even the option of side chest airbags for rear passengers, which is something of a rarity. The CLA also ticks all the boxes prescribed by Euro NCAP for safety systems, including an active bonnet, ESC, automatic emergency braking, speed assistance and lane assist.


On Premium Plus models there is also the option of a Driving Assistance package for £1,495. This adds active blind spot assist, active braking assist, active lane change assist and active steering assist amongst many features, and is the one to go for if you have safety as a high priority.

MPG and fuel costs: What does a Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake cost to run?

"The vast majority of the CLA Shooting Brake range offer impressively low fuel consumption, aided by a modern engine range."

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake Review 2023: rear

Both the CLA 180 and C 200 petrol models claim the same combined fuel consumption of 45.6mpg under the more strict WLTP rules, which should mean that 40mpg is possible, although it should be easier to achieve in the CLA 200 thanks to the extra performance.


Inevitably the diesel CLA 220 d offers the best fuel consumption, with a claimed figure of 55.4mpg combined, so real-world consumption into the high 40s and even low 50s should be achievable. 


There's also the CLA Shooting Brake plug-in hybrid which is, of course, the economy champion on paper with a faintly ridiculous claimed 282mpg. Of course, you won't get near that unless you can keep the car in electric mode for the vast majority of driving, but with a decent 43-mile electric range it'll work for plenty of people. 

Mercedes-Benz as a brand has a good reputation for reliability, coming in 13th out of 30 manufacturers in the latest HonestJohn.co.uk Satisfaction Index, with a rating of 87.9%. BMW achieved an 86.9% rating, while Audi scored the same. 


The CLA, along with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class on which its based, is a relatively new car, so it's difficult to paint an accurate picture of its longer-term reliability. We have heard some reports of the trick infotainment screens going black or glitching, however. 

As the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is a premium car with a price tag to match, and so the insurance groupings are at the higher end of the scale. The CLA 180 will be the cheapest model to insure, falling into group 26 for the AMG Line and 27 for the AMG Line Premium. The CLA 200 jumps up to group 29, the CLA 220d is group 33 and the quickest CLA 250 model is up at group 35.


With a gap of almost 10 groups between the highest and lowest specification models, you can expect to pay quite a bit more on your premium.

Because the CLA Shooting Brake range covers a broad scope in terms of vehicle emissions, the VED rate can vary considerably depending on which engine and specification you choose. The two smaller petrols (CLA 180 and CLA 200) and the CLA 220d all qualify for the sub-150g/km rate, so will cost £215 per year. The CLA 250 petrol is over this threshold, and so costs £540 per year. 


Fortunately the highest-spec (non-AMG) model just creeps under £40,000 and so avoids the additional £325 levy for the first five years. That's not the case with the AMG models, of course. 

How much should you be paying for a used Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake?

"The CLA Shooting Brake in its current form was introduced in 2019, so used examples coming out of a three-year lease have started appearing on the market."

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake Review 2023: front

At the time of writing used car prices are really holding firm due to new car supply issues. Deals are hard to come by, but examples of the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake are starting to soften prices as many come onto the market out of their three-year lease periods. 


Around £27,000 is the base price for a 2019 CLA 200 petrol in popular AMG Line Premium trim with 30,000 miles on the clock. Diesels start at £30,000, while the AMG models command a substantial premium.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake AMG Line models come as standard with the 10-inch digital touchscreen infotainment display, seven-inch digital cockpit display, sat-nav, LED high-performance headlights, privacy glass, climate control, keyless go, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, heated front seats, leather upholstery, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Speed Limit Assist. 


Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake AMG Line Premium trim adds a 10-inch digital cockpit display, augmented navigation, dash cam, ambient lighting, 225w Mercedes-Benz sound system, illuminated door sills, rear armrest and keyless go including keyless lock and unlock.


Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake AMG Line Premium Plus adds a panoramic sliding sunroof, multi-beam LED headlights and Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus and memory seats with lumbar support for the driver and front passenger.

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

That's not an easy question to answer. Basically, the CLA is four-door coupe (read stylish saloon) version of the Mercedes A-Class. The CLA Shooting Brake is a svelte estate version of that. It's not as practical as a 'proper' estate, but it is a fair bit more stylish than most of those.
The second generation CLA Shooting Brake is a much better car than the first, which was cramped and harsh-riding with a mediocre cabin. Although the latest one is still on the firmer side, it's got more space and a much nicer interior with great tech.
The 'A' in CLA denotes its relationship to the Mercedes A-Class. Mercedes has used the 'CL' nomenclature for years on its two-door or four-door coupe models. Depending on the model, it stands for the German 'Coupe Leicht' (Coupe Light) or Coupe Luxusklasse (Coupe Luxury).

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