I’ve always been a fan of the Mercedes-Benz C-class. It’s that perfect mid-range saloon that’s big enough to not be a compact but not too grand either. There is however a sportier option that eschews the sensibilities of the C-class in favour of something sportier.
The CLA is still a four-door car, but its coupe design gives it more of a performance feel that makes it a more appealing choice for a younger driver. This is a car that’s designed for more than the weekday commute but it can still fit the family in too.
The brand new CLA Coupe has had a range of updates both to its looks and features that make it even more appealing. I spent a day behind the wheel of a few different versions of the latest Mercedes CLA model to see how they perform.
It sits wider on the road than a regular C-Class, and the diamond grill design leans forward slightly, giving the nose a sportier edge. Those athletic lines continue along the car to the rear, finishing with a sharp line on the boot. As with other Mercedes Coupes, the doors are frameless too, so with the windows down, they look sleek.
When it comes to the spec, there is a choice of 4-cylinder petrol mild hybrid (in 180 and 200 models) as well as a 4-cylinder diesel (220d). There’s also a plug-in hybrid that features a new 80kWh battery in addition to the 4-cylinder petrol engine (250e).
If you want something sportier, there’s also the CLA 35, which is also a mild hybrid, and the CLA 45; a straight 4-cylinder petrol that delivers 421hp and a 0-60mph of 4 seconds. All of these models come in Coupe and Shooting Brake body styles.
The Shooting Brake is basically the estate form of the CLA, though has a more aerodynamic rear than your standard estate. It still has four doors, just gains some extra room in the boot – up to 505 litres on the CLA 45 and 445 litres on the plug-in hybrid, due to the extra room needed for the battery.
The first model I drove was the Mercedes-Benz CLA 220d Shooting Brake. I love the shape of this model and there really is loads of space in the boot – though access to it isn’t quite as easy as a regular estate car, as it drops down slightly. Still a great option for those with younger families. The diesel performs really well, giving lots of torque and gets even more fun when you switch it into Sports mode.
Next, I tried the 250e Coupe Plug-in Hybrid. This will give you up to 46 miles of range with electric-only power or can use hybrid power to give up to 210hp and 7.6-second (0-62mph) acceleration. While the Shooting Brake still felt compact for such a spacious car, the Coupe here felt even tidier on the road, giving plenty of vision out the rear view mirror.
Finally, I tried out the CLA 35 4Matic. This AMG model really takes the car up a notch, with the sports steering wheel, rear spoiler and AMG red details, like the seat belts. Even in comfort mode the car feels like its raring to go, and once you drop it into Sports or Sports+ modes it really takes off. There’s a deep growl from the exhaust and it runs quickly through its eight gears to provide the acceleration.
All of the CLA models have a similar interior, with two 10.25-inch screens placed next to each other, extending from behind the wheel out towards the centre console. The effect doesn’t quite mimic a single screen but looks far neater and more purposeful than the old single screen in the centre.
There is one line of physical buttons under the central air vents, but otherwise, the driver area is very clean. With the gear selector on a stick to the right of the steering, the centre contains only a couple of buttons – namely the Dynamic drive mode and the volume control.
Overall the CLA is a great car, whichever model you choose it in. While the electric CLA concept we saw in Germany is still a few years away, I know this will be a popular choice for those looking to take a step closer to an all-electric model.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA starts from £35,535, the CLA 35 starts from £51,085. Models as tested: Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 d AMG Line Premium Plus Shooting Brake £49,830; Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 e AMG Line Premium Plus Coupé £51,755; Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 4MATIC Premium Plus £54,770.