Bruce Lee once said “Emotional content… not anger”.
In that scene, he was speaking to some young chap, egging on to give him a(n emotional) kick, and I could not help but think that this is what the new CLA is.
That said, it is no surprise that Mercedes-Benz had a successful run with the previous car, proving that aping the larger CLS would deliver dividends. So the larger car, successful in its own right, was essentially a sedan with a low roof, marketed as a coupe with 4-doors.
Like its larger sibling, the CLA proved to be popular. In this case however, the (much) lower price point meant that the baby Mercedes Coupe was also seen as an entry-level sedan by many. Kind-of a poor man’s C-Class if you may...
Embodying the same design principles of the first duo, Mercedes-Benz emulated this formula, styling the CLA after its new larger CLS sibling. An addition of 30mm between the wheels, and slightly longer overhangs, reveals a car that is visually lower. Frontal sculpting sits low for an aggressive stance, while angular headlamps, which ape the ones on the CLS, are equipped with LED daytime running lights.
In keeping with its coupe-ish styling, the forward-sloping rear-end receives flush tail light assemblies; while a kink in the boot lid offers a visual break.
Nestled above the jet turbine-inspired air conditioning vents, is a free-standing display which features two 10.25” screens; one which fronts the new MBUX-equipped voice-capable infotainment system, and the other which functions as the instrument cluster. Gauges are customisable to one’s taste, and while there is no Head-Up Display (HUD) available, the instrument cluster is sorted well enough to easily catch the additional speed display between the two dials.
Ergonomics has also been improved upon, with a flat touchpad which feature home and back buttons, and makes navigating the infotainment unit easy; while the voice activated MBUX system (which functions like SIRI or Google Home), helps to keep your hands on the wheel. Roller and rocker style switches, buttons, inclusive of two tiny touchpads on either side of the wheel adds to user convenience. Perhaps the system may not be as good as the one offered by BMW, or even Audi, but compared to the previous car, the difference in the user experience is night and day. One of my gripes though, is that Mercedes decided to omit USB Type A ports from their ‘A’ series of class, which includes the B Class mini MPV.
In increasing its wheelbase, interior legroom however has not significantly changed… Negligible in-fact, although precious elbow room has been improved upon. Those sitting at the rear may find that the lack of toe wriggle room under the front seats a slight annoyance. In-door compartments for bottles, and a pair of cup holders within the rear armrest adds to a little more practicality to the compact Merc. Nifty features, like in the instance when reaching over to the vacant front passenger seat in the dark, activates the corresponding lamp, allowing you to easily find items; with the light turning off, once you move your hand away…. Great when you are alone.
There is however a little less cargo space, at 460 litres (10 litres less than before); however the boot floor is flat, making the loading area a practical one. Opening the boot floor also reveals a few gaps, ideal for packing those emergency cleaning essentials. The rear seats also fold flat in 40:20:40 fashion for greater flexibility.
The same M 282 series 1,332cc engine, which powers both the A200 and B200 drives the CLA, delivering 163hp and 250Nm, the latter which is available from 1,620rpm, is delivered rapidly. However, the engine does come across as buzzy around min-range.
Efficiency-wise, the new 1.3 litre returns a respectable 17.5km/l in combined cycle, a vast improvement over the previous car’s 13.3km/l. Meeting these fuel efficiency figures, is through a combination of innovative technologies, like a 0.2mm thick inner bore mirror coat which helps to reduce piston drag.
Opening up the throttle reveals brisk acceleration, with the compact Merc hitting 100km/h in 8.2 seconds; gear changes are decently smooth, being taken care-of by a 7G-DCT 7-speed automatic transmission. One gripe I have, is that while the CLA is well screwed together, there seems to be insufficient insulation, resulting in quite a bit of rumble intruding into the cabin when travelling on rougher surfaces. Noticabally too, the suspension has a lean to comfort, meaning that there is a little bit of play if you are driving it in a spirited fashion; however handling is impressive, with that light front end cooperating with you, wherever you point the car to.
The previous CLA was successful for a few good reasons; one of them being that there was no “A-series” sedan back then.
The new CLA is rather pricey, at around $180k. You do however get beautifully penned bodywork, coupled with good handling… and entertainingly, car which is reasonably quick, but not angry fast.
If you do like how the CLA is, but are unwilling to part with that amount of coin, the A200 Saloon is also available, going for about $20k less, and does a similar job.