Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupe review

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The second generation version of Mercedes' four-door CLA Coupe has been usefully revised and continues to inject an extra dose of style into Mercedes' compact model line-up. Jonathan Crouch reports

Ten Second Review

The CLA Coupe has always been a rather different kind of Mercedes. This second generation version, like the model that inspired it, is compact and coupe-like, yet has four doors and a decent boot. And it's been carefully improved here with mild hybrid tech and smarter trimming. As before, it'll set the neighbours talking far more than if you simply bought yet another mid-sized German-badged executive saloon. And it remains a model to challenge your preconceptions.

Background

Never underestimate the power of emotional appeal. It's brought us cars like this one, this second generation Mercedes CLA Coupe. We first saw the original version of this four-door coupe in 2013, that design followed by an equally trendy 'Shooting Brake' estate version a couple of years later. The replacement second generation model launched in 2019 continued in much the same vein: so it was A-Class-based, which meant that it was front-driven - unlike the kind of Mercedes C-Class saloon you could buy for very similar money.

A C-Class would give you much more rear seat room and boot space, but a CLA will make a much more overt car park statement - which for its intended audience will be all that really matters. This revised version of that MK2 model is a little more sophisticated than the original. And, as before, it comes in the four-door Coupe form we're going to look at here - or in 'Shooting Brake' estate guise.

Driving Experience

Mercedes markets this car as a 'sporty' alternative to its more conventional C-Class saloon. The CLA Coupe's sporty styling leads you to expect that. Though this car shares its chassis, steering and braking architecture with A and B-Class models, it does get its own suspension set-up, with various changes made to improve comfort and make it a bit less crashy over poorer surfaces. There's torque vectoring to help with the handling and 'Direct Steering' to sharpen things up at the helm.

Probably the most significant change with this updated version of the MK2 CLA is that all the mainstream petrol engines now come with the brand's 48V mild hybrid system including the usual MHEV belt-driven starter-generator: that'll give you a 13hp boost when moving off. There are five mainstream engines, all of them four cylinder units mated to 7-speed auto transmission. As before, the petrol powerplant portfolio kicks off with a 1.4-litre unit, only available with front wheel drive and offered with either 136hp (in the CLA 180) or 163hp (in the CLA 200). Mercedes also offers a couple of 2.0-litre mainstream petrol variants that must be had with 4MATIC 4WD; the 190hp CLA 220 and the 224hp CLA 250, which makes 62mph in just 6.4s en route to 155mph.

If efficiency is key, you'll be interested to know that there are still diesel alternatives, all using the same 2.0-litre four cylinder engine mated to 8-speed auto transmission; the CLA 180 d with 114hp, the CLA 200 d with 148hp and the CLA 220 d with 188hp. If you need efficiency but don't want to fuel from the black pump, you'll be interested to know that, as before, the CLA range also provides a Plug-in Hybrid option, in the form of the CLA 250 e. As previously, this uses a 1.33-litre engine mated to a revised 15.6kWh battery. The powertrain has a system output of 218hp and an improved all-electric driving range of up to 51 miles (an 8 mile improvement on before).

As in the pre-facelift line-up, there are also two high performance Mercedes-AMG 2.0-litre turbo petrol models, the CLA 35 4MATIC (with 306hp which gains the 48V mild hybrid system); and the top CLA 45 S 4MATIC+ (with 421hp, which doesn't).

Design and Build

The update exterior changes here are subtle: a reshaping for the front bumper and radiator grille, a revised rear diffuser and 'modernised graphics' within the LED headlamp clusters. Wheel sizes range from 17 to 19-inches. By any measure, this is still a handsome car, purposeful, with sporting proportions and a potent long stretched bonnet. Hi-tech too, with jewel-like LED daytime running lamps fashioned to create a flare effect around the diamond-shaped grille. It's not just about aesthetics either. The combination of the long, stretched entry line above the windows and frameless doors give the CLA Coupe a sporty and elegant character. And the super-sleek drag factor makes this one of the most aerodynamic production cars you can buy.

The cabin's very similar to that of an A-Class - and in this updated form features most of the changes lately made to that more mundane model. Which means that the 10.25-inch instrument screen has new display styles - 'Classic', 'Sporty' and 'Discreet'. The USB ports are now illuminated, there's now a nappa leather-trimmed steering wheel, ARTICO-trimmed 'comfort' seats and on most models, you now get wireless connectivity for the 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring system. This works with a 10.25-inch touchscreen media centre display.

Otherwise, the cabin is as before. The designers have completely dispensed with the usual instrument binnacle cowl, so as a result, the wing-shaped main body of the dashboard extends from one front door to the other with no visual discontinuity. The widescreen display is completely free-standing. And the lower section of the fascia is visually separated from the main body of the instrument cluster by what the designers call a 'trench', and it appears to float in front of the instrument cluster. The standard ambient lighting enhances this effect and the air vents, finished in a sporty 'turbine-look' are another highlight.

Despite the coupe styling, a couple of adults can fit into the back, but it'll be snug and can be a bit claustrophobic. Out back, there's a 460-litre boot, but if that's not enough, talk to your dealer about the CLA-Class Shooting Brake estate variant. Here, there's a 505-litre boot.

Market and Model

CLA Coupe prices start at just over £35,000 and rise to around £45,000 in the mainstream range: for the Mercedes-AMG models, you'll need to pay in the £45,000-£65,000 bracket. All of which leaves this car right in Mercedes C-Class saloon territory. Think in terms of a premium of around £1,000 to get yourself the Shooting Brake estate version. Across the range, there's a choice of three trim levels - 'AMG Line Executive', 'AMG Line Premium' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus Night Edition'. Even base 'AMG Line Executive' models come decently equipped, standard kit including the MBUX multimedia system that includes 'Hey Mercedes' voice recognition and is accessed through a 10.25-inch centre-dash touchscreen. This incorporates navigation, a DAB radio and smartphone integration, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There's also a 10.25-inch digital cockpit display, LED high performance headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, Thermotronic luxury two-zone automatic climate control, a Parking package and heated front seats with leather upholstery. Standard safety features include Active Lane Keeping Assist and Speed Limit Assist. 'AMG Line Premium' trim adds keyless entry and an upgraded sound system. Finally 'AMG Line Premium Plus Night Edition' spec adds a panoramic sliding sunroof, Multibeam LED headlights, memory seats for the driver and front passenger and dark-themed body kit.

Cost of Ownership

You'd expect such an aerodynamic production car to deliver an ultra-competitive set of running costs, so let's get to the WLTP figures. The CLA 180 and CLA 200 Coupe variants can deliver up to 46.3mpg on the combined cycle. The CLA 180 and CLA 200 models emits up to 133g/km of CO2. And the CLA 220 4MATIC and 250 4MATIC models can deliver up to 41.5mpg and emit 156g/km of CO2. The CLA 180 d diesel manages up to 57.7mpg and 133g/km. The CLA 250 e Plug-in Hybrid petrol model now puts out just 18g/km of CO2 in Coupe form - and charges quicker too, its previous 7.4kW charging limit now upped to 11kW. This means that it now takes only around 25 minutes to charge the battery up to 80% (improved from an hour and three-quarters).

What else? Well it's worth knowing that your maintenance outlay can be kept a little in check by going for the optional 'Service Care' package that takes care of routine maintenance, spreading the cost of regular servicing, guaranteeing the price of parts and labour for up to four services and covering the cost of all recommended service items such as brake fluid, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters and screen wash. There's also an ASSYST dashboard service indicator that monitors engine use and tells you exactly when a garage visit is due. It's also worth mentioning that the included 'Mercedes me' connect services package includes remote self-diagnostic capability, enabling your CLA to monitor wear and tear items and alert your local dealer to let you know if something needs seeing to.

Summary

If you're in the market for a compact, prestigiously-badged stylised saloon and like the look of this one, then nothing we're going to say here is likely to dissuade you away from CLA Coupe motoring. Unlike Mercedes, we think this car does have some direct rivals, but we'd agree that there is quite a lot that's unique about the way it looks, especially in this updated form. This design really is a breath of fresh air in what can otherwise be rather a staid market sector.

Which is why it's sold so well - generally to people who never intended to drive a Mercedes. Younger folk who don't care about the abandonment of the rear wheel drive layout that was once considered conditional for a car of this type. They'll probably care just as little about the rear seat packaging compromises and the rather firm ride. They might not even mind the premium pricing. It's all about emotional appeal you see, as we said at the beginning.

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