2.0L I4 Turbo
208 @ 5500
258 @ 1200
7-Speed DCT (dual clutch)
Crossovers between cars and SUVs are kind of old news now. The new hype seems to be crossing everything over towards a coupe looking shape. Mercedes with the “Coupe Looking A-Class”, or just CLA really, brings the most affordable coupe looking sedan to the market.
The CLA, is essentially the 4-door coupe version of the A-Class which the only thing it doesn’t cross is the Atlantic in contrast to the bigger B-Class. That is too bad really as the current – third generation – A-Class is a very skillful little car.
Prices for the CLA 250 start at $34,400 and that surely makes Civic Si and Golf GTi owners look over their shoulder. Adding the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system bumps up the price to $36,500, while our test vehicle being also equipped with the Driving Assistance Package, the Sport Package, the Premium Package, the Bi-Xenon headlights and the COMMAND navigation system came with a price tag of $44,820.
Even at that price point though, it is still fairly priced as it comes feature-rich with a good balance between convenience and safety gear. On the pampering side, you get leather trimmed heated and power adjustable seats with memory for both driver and passenger. The steering wheel is adjustable for both height and reach and comes with controls for the audio, trip computer and cruise control, while right behind the wheel, sporty looking paddle shifters are available for you to shift your gears on demand. The climate control is dual zone and the sunroof is as big as possible. There are three cup-holders for your coffee, cell phone and hairspray, while the navigation screen is also home to the backup camera. A USB port is also included while the infotainment system also has Bluetooth and voice control. Not to mention a very sweet – audiophile level sound tone. On the safety front, there is of course ESP with ASR and ABS with BAS. In English, that would be “stability control with traction regulation” and “anti-lock brakes” with “braking assistance”. Blind spot monitoring is also part of the driving assistance package and so is the attention assist that will sense and warn the driver if fatigue is becoming an issue. Lane departure warning is also included and pulse vibrations make their way through the steering wheel when you don’t signal your move. Collision prevention assist is the last safety front before you need any of the 9 airbags fitted. Last but not least, the AMG styled sport package with the 18” alloy rims boosts curb appeal significantly.
Mercedes claims that the CLA is the slippiest shape in its category with a drag coefficient of .28. The extremely sloped roofline, frameless doors and low but wide rear end make for a very good-looking body. The front end is less radical, but carries the elegance of the brand as it follows its family standards. Beauty in this occasion didn’t come without a price, as the back seat has very poor headroom. Even with my personal poor built, there was some serious static electricity being produced between my fading hair and roof liner. Legroom thankfully is much better, as the front seats are carved inward to create more space. Being a compact car, the width is also just enough for two plus an awesome armrest. The trunk has a narrow opening but is very large passed that. At 470 L it is a “wow” factor for the class.
The front seats are the best seats in the house since they are very comfortable and supportive, while adjusting them to meet your ideal driving position is super easy thanks to the controls being placed on the door panel. Roominess up front is great and feels like you are in a much bigger car.
High quality soft to the touch materials have been used everywhere except the centre console and lower dash panels, where harder – more durable plastic has been used. Luckily, unless touched and felt, there is no compromise to the interior quality feel. The round air-vents are positioned well and are easy to reach and adjust. Ergonomically designed, the interior is easy to understand, access and get used to. The screen on the top that looks like a “tablet stuck to the dash” is something many dislike, but I am not one of them. I actually think it looks cool and it is also very easy to use via the i-drive style controls. Cleaning around and behind it though, might be a bitch.
Under the hood, the 4-cylinder 2.0L engine with the help from a little turbocharger outputs 208 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque while running on premium, which is required. The result, in conjunction with the excellent and responsive 7-speed DCT auto gearbox is very pleasing as power and flexibility are plenty and spectacular accordingly. 0-100km/h comes in 7.3” while going back to zero again requires only 42m on wet tarmac. There is a tiny bit of turbo lag, but once it gets going it pulls with real determination. In sport mode, the transmission even blips the throttle trying to rev-match. In ECO mode things totally slow down and the drive becomes smooth and efficient. With the help of the standard auto start/stop system, a combined average of 9.5lt /100km is pretty realistic. Taking into consideration that it’s a powerful all-wheel-drive coupe, I’d say its very much on the frugal side of the scale.
The AMG sport package and run flat tires don’t really help much when it comes to ride comfort, but youths tend to like the stiff ride as long as it’s not too upsetting. The advantage on the other hand is a very connected driving experience with crisp inspiring handling and quick responsive steering. The 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system works like a charm, the chassis itself is very capable and the sport suspension on top of everything help the car be very grippy and demonstrate increased side acceleration numbers. Turn-in is crisp while mid-turn it is rather forgiving and easy to control if your approach calculations go wrong. The brakes are strong and resist brake fade well as the ventilated front disks are also drilled to cool down quickly. The brake pedal feels sharp and linear bringing some extra confidence in play. Despite being in disagreement with the gearbox a couple of times, the CLA is fun and would ‘ve been even more fun if wouldn’t stubbornly just understeer.
Styled and priced to go after people who have never owned a Mercedes before, the CLA is definitely a great way into the Benz world. And it is premium enough to deserve the badge. If the rear headroom is not an issue for you and a compact, sporty yet classy vehicle sounds appealing to you, make sure you take one out for a test-drive. After all, it is now more possible than ever.
Most of the cool stuff is optional
Very poor rear headroom