For those that want something a bit more special than a Mercedes A Class, but not as workaday as a C Class, the CLA offers a classy yet efficient alternative.
Borrowing much from the A-Class – on which it is based – this sleek four-door-coupe and estate is longer and wider, promising a more dynamic driving experience.
Prices start at £31,055 (P11D), for the entry-level CLA 180. Only AMG Line trim is available, with the option of Premium or Premium Plus equipment lines.
The entry-level CLA 180 uses a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol, delivering 136PS with CO2 emissions of 138g/km and the promise of 46mpg average fuel economy. A more potent version, badged CLA 200 pumps out 163PS and emits just 1g/km more CO2.
There's also a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 190PS, but its 154g/km CO2 figure is likely to deter fleet customers.
One diesel is offered, priced from £35,260. The CLA 220 d promises 56mpg, has 190PS and CO2 emissions of 132g/km.
For £2,000 more than the diesel, a new plug-in hybrid version offers company car drivers even more power and significantly lower tax bills.
The CLA 250 e uses the same 1.3-litre petrol engine and electric motor as the A-Class plug-in hybrid. It’s one of the most efficient plug-in hybrids on sale, emitting just 23g/km of CO2 and promising an electric range of more than 40 miles. That means it attracts just 6% BIK, while overall running costs are around 5p per mile lower than the 220 d.
One of the CLA’s strengths is refinement and, for a car that is priced to compete with the likes of BMW’s 3 Series, it can’t fail to impress. Added to the 250 e’s strong performance, silent electric running and sharp handling, this makes it a worthy contender.
The hybrid car is eager to run on electric as much as possible and there is some clever tech at play to maximise charge, such as predictive regenerative braking. The petrol engine complements the motor well, but it makes a fair bit of noise when you call for maximum performance.
Fully charged, drivers should be able to squeeze around 40 miles from the 15.6kWh battery and achieve a combined real-world economy in excess of 55mpg.
With any engine, we were especially impressed by how quiet the CLA is on the move. Wind noise is minimal, even at high speeds.
Front seat passengers may find the A-Class-derived seats are less comfortable than those offered in a C-Class. It’s due to the headrest being part of the seat, rather than a separate item with height adjustment.
With its dashboard lifted from the A-Class, the CLA enjoys the same classy interior as the hatchback.
Premium models and above get a pair of 10.25-inch screens providing digital instruments and infotainment. It’s a setup originally derived from the S-Class.
The use of high quality materials, ambient lighting and a minimalist approach to switchgear lifts the interior’s premium feel.
In the rear, leg and head room is limited despite the car being larger than its predecessor. The boot is spacious, offering 460 litres, although the opening is quite small. The Shooting Brake helps to mitigate any impracticality by providing a load space of up to 505 litres with a larger opening.
There is no shortage of gadgets available on the CLA. It benefits from Mercedes’ latest driver assistance package (£1,495), which provides adaptive cruise control that can automatically adjust to changing speed limits, lane keep assist that can change lanes automatically once you activate the indicator and blind spot monitoring.
Drivers can control a range of car functions using the voice-activated “Hey Mercedes” concierge system. The car can also link to a phone app for enhanced connectivity.
The CLA sets itself apart from the A-Class range with subtle styling tweaks, a more driver-focussed chassis and a high level of equipment across the range. It provides fleet customers with a more exclusive package, sportier styling and still works out cheaper than a C-Class – although outright practicality is at a disadvantage.
Running costs shown for Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 e AMG Line Premium