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First Drive

First Drive: Mercedes-Benz CLA

The story:
The sleeker, style conscious take on the Mercedes A-Class
Key rival:Audi A3 Saloon
Mercedes CLA 200 AMG Line Premium Plus
MPG:42.8 -47.9mpg
On sale:Now


The CLA is aimed at those buyers for whom the heart desires a coupe, but the head, or fleet policy, refuses to consider anything with less than five doors.

This second-generation model marks a notable change from the first, being wider both front and rear and now only available from AMG Line trim as a bare minimum. The range then carries on through AMG Line Premium and up to the AMG Line Premium Plus of this car.

First Drive-27th September 2019-Mercedes-Benz CLA-Image 1The high level of trims – the SE and Sport trims seen on the A-Class hatch are absent – means that the CLA comes with a high starting price but a fantastic amount of kit, the like of which is normally seen on larger and more luxurious Mercs. The huge 10.25-inch touchscreen that dominates the dash is the element that is impossible to miss when you get into the plush and cocoon-like cabin. It might look fantastic, but there are elements that will take a little adapting to – the clever augmented-reality element of the sat-nav, which uses a forward-facing camera, being the main one. The rest of the settings are easily learned with a few minutes playing with the different menus.

Even with a sunroof in place there is ample room for tall passengers in the front, with large range of adjustment on wheel and seat, and there is a surprisingly decent amount of legroom in the rear, too. It would be wishful thinking to expect hatchback levels of headroom, though, and it isn’t a wide rear cabin so you won’t want to be one of three passenger in the back. And those needing to lean in to get small passengers in and out won’t thank the CLA for its stylish lines either.First Drive-27th September 2019-Mercedes-Benz CLA-Image 6

On paper the boot offers a large amount of space – at 460 litres it is positively hefty. It’s shaped and accessed like that of an old-school saloon, though, with a postbox-style opening, meaning it will never be as practical as a hatchback equivalent. Most buyers won’t care about that, though, and the CLA offers enough in the way of entertainment on the road to mean they are amply compensated in other areas. The taut cornering ability, controlled if slightly firm ride and peppy 190hp 1.3-litre engine of our test car mean the Mercedes offers an enjoyable, if not necessarily out-and-out thrilling, driving experience.

Tom Webster

The verdict

Style will win the CLA favour over more sensible rivals, but it comes at a financial and practical price.