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First drive: Mercedes-Benz CLA. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz CLA
CLA signals Mercedes-Benz's expansion of the A-Class line into new territories.

 



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| First Drive | St Tropez, France | Mercedes-Benz CLA |

Overall rating: 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Mercedes-Benz's quest for ever increasing volume sees the A-Class range grow to include the CLA - Benz describing this new niche model as the CLS's smaller sibling.

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz CLA 200
Pricing: from £24,355
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: four-door coupé
Rivals: Audi TT, BMW 3 Series Coupé, Range Rover Evoque
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Combined economy: 51.4mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Power: 156hp at 5,300rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,250- to 4,000rpm

In the Metal: 5 5 5 5 5

Mercedes-Benz's niche filling continues apace, as it launches a sub-CLS four-door coupé based on the A-Class underpinnings. Creating a lithe, crisply detailed four-door model from the same wheelbase and track, Mercedes-Benz's design team has done a fantastic job. It's a looker the CLA, more so in AMG Sport trim, which features deeper front air intakes, lower side skirts, 18-inch alloys and a drop in ride height. Add the pin-chromed grille and some black details and the CLA looks sensational for a car that - in AMG Sport guise - starts at £26,555.

Inside its A-Class roots are obvious, the CLA's interior shared in its entirety with its hatchback relation. That's no bad thing, either, as the A-Class arguably offers the finest and most cohesively designed interior in the current Mercedes-Benz line-up. It's a bit tight in the back seats, as you might expect, though the boot is capacious, with its capacity only five litres less than a C-Class saloon's.

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

Anything that looks this good is going to have to be pretty special to live up to the promise of its styling. Sadly the CLA doesn't; it's neither engaging nor exciting, being largely competent rather than exceptional. The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine pulls smoothly enough, and the six-speed manual gearbox has a decent shift quality and precision, but the entire package is let down by steering that offers little feel and inconsistent weighting. If there's a real weak link in the CLA's driving make-up though it's the ride quality, Mercedes-Benz offering it with two suspension set ups - Comfort and Sport. Comfort is at the firmer end of the scale of what you might imagine it to be; it's firm, if not entirely unyielding, though larger bumps and lumps in the road do upset the car's composure and wheel control.

The Sport option only exacerbates this, arguably making the car slower than its Comfort suspended relation. Add larger alloy wheels to the set-up - as many customers inevitably will do for their enhanced looks - and that's only likely to create greater problems. That's a shame, as grip levels are high, the CLA showing potential as a driver's car, though ultimately it'll be unable to deliver it - at least on anything resembling the pockmarked tarmac that makes up the majority of UK roads.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

Along with a radar-based collision prevention system, a high airbag count and stability and traction control the CLA comes with Mercedes-Benz's driver drowsiness monitoring Attention Assist. Outside the usual lengthy list of safety aids there's a fairly comprehensive specification. Two trims are offered, Sport and AMG Sport, the former rather confusingly fitted with Comfort suspension. In addition to that Sport models come with sports seats, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and a 5.8-inch colour central display with USB connectivity. AMG Sport adds some desirable styling add-ons inside and out, though is sadly only offered with the chassis-lowering Sport suspension set-up.

Worth Noting

The CLA is the world's most slippery production car, with a Cd (Coefficient of drag) figure of just 0.23 on the standard cars - and 0.22 on the forthcoming BlueEfficiency model. That wind-cheating shape not only helps the CLA produce highly competitive economy and emissions figures, but extensive wind-tunnel honing has also seen Mercedes-Benz try to eliminate 'soiling' from road grime on mirrors, glass and lights.

Summary

The new Mercedes-Benz CLA is a stunning new niche model that doesn't quite live up to its promise on the road. That's unlikely to upset too many buyers, but avoid Sports suspension if you don't want a jarring ride in the UK. More models are due to arrive this year, including an AMG flagship and 4Matic four-wheel drive choices, so the CLA is likely to become a familiar, yet always head-turning sight on our roads.


Kyle Fortune - 13 Mar 2013









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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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