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CLA is a class act

PUBLISHED: 15:05 25 June 2013 | UPDATED: 15:05 25 June 2013

Archant

The Mercedes CLS is a great car that comes at quite a high cost, leaving it beyond the reach of many, which is a shame for both the consumer and Mercedes. If only that formula could be replicated in a more affordable package.

Well, it has. Welcome to the Mercedes CLA, a four-door coupe based on the A-series chassis. With prices starting at just under £25,000, it is far more attainable than the CLS while retaining most of its big brother’s style and presence.

The interior is pure Mercedes, looking and feeling every inch a premium car. The front is a lovely place to be with flawless ergonomics and a wonderful driving position, although things are less comfortable in the back. That sloping roofline might look terrific but it does steal some headroom. However, the boot is large and the back seats fold, so it does retain enormous practicality.

A 1.6-litre petrol and a 2.1-litre diesel engine are currently offered with more variants to follow. I drove the CLA 180, fitted with a 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine, enough to propel it to 62mph in under 10 seconds. Refined cruising at motorway speeds shrinks long journeys and there is enough urge to make overtaking swift and easy, yet it is also capable of remarkable economy, with up to 50.4mpg possible with care.

Two suspension options are offered: Comfort and Sport. The Comfort option rides very well yet is still firm enough for the press-on driver while Sport adds a jarring note to the ride that is at odds with the feel of the rest of the car. Both handle very well indeed with keen steering and impressive poise.

The manual gearbox is positive and has well-judged ratios, but the lack of an automatic gearbox with this engine seems like a missed opportunity as it would probably be a better option given the car’s nature.

In summary, the Mercedes CLA is a fine car that doesn’t sacrifice practicality in the name of fashion and it is sure to bring new customers to the marque.

Q&A

Ben Fortenbacher, divisional marketing manager at Jardine Motors, spoke to Carlton about the excitement surrounding the Mercedes CLA.

How is the CLA being received by your customers?

There is a real buzz around the launch of the CLA. It’s got amazing presence in the showroom and is attracting a lot of attention from customers of all ages.

Why do you think that is?

It’s in a league of its own, really. We’re struggling to see what other cars it’s competing against because we think the blend of style and practicality that it brings is unique. Customers love the fact that it is a coupe but with the benefits of having four doors and a good-sized boot.

We’ve reviewed the petrol CLA, but there is, of course, a diesel model too.

Yes, there is. Both are great cars, but for those drivers who want a little more power combined with great economy, the diesel might be the one to go for.

If you could recommend just one optional extra, which one would it be?

Oh, the diamond grille, without a doubt. It suits the car perfectly.

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