Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Coupe (2019 - ) review
The CLA Coupe is a compact car that aims to mix the practicality of a saloon with the style of a coupe. Its rivals include cars like the Audi A3 Saloon.
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How good does it look?
The CLA bears a passing resemblance to the A-Class Saloon, but it’s more stylised and slightly larger. The silhouette drops down at the rear to give that coupe look, even though it’s got four doors. Three trim levels are available, all of which are based on the AMG Line model. They all have 18-inch alloys and an AMG bodykit, which makes things look a bit sportier by tweaking the front and rear bumpers and adding some chrome bits. Full LED headlights are included too, and the top-of-the-line AMG Premium Plus model gets multibeam headlights that can stay on full beam while keeping oncoming traffic in shadow. This gives you the best view ahead without dazzling other drivers, and works very well.
What's the interior like?
The CLA’s interior, up front at least, directly mirrors the latest A-Class. That’s a good thing, and means it features a wide, tablet-like infotainment screen and digital instrument panel, excellent materials and build quality, and a general feel of being in much more expensive car. Only some rather plasticky stalks behind the wheel let it down a little.
The infotainment system, called MBUX, is controlled by touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel, or on the centre console, or via the screen itself. It’s a very in-depth and very customisable system that will undoubtedly require some time to get your head around, but once you’re up to speed with it, it’s reasonably intuitive to use.
How practical is it?
There’s a storage box under the centre armrest in the front, as well as two cupholders and a cubbyhole, and door pockets big enough for a bottle and assorted odds and ends. That sloping roofline, while it looks great, impacts quite a lot on rear headroom, and taller adults will find it uncomfortably cramped. Kids, however, should be fine, and the boot is a good size.
What's it like to drive?
The CLA Coupe is positioned as a sportier proposition than the A-Class Saloon, with which it shares a lot of its oily bits. But that’s probably overstating things a bit, as it’s really more focused on comfort. It has a good ride quality that keeps the worst of bumpy roads out of the cabin.
It doesn’t handle badly at all, at least on the optional top-spec suspension that’s been fitted to all the cars we’ve tried so far, feeling composed and stable through the corners. It's a comfortable and very capable machine.
Engineers have deliberately left plenty of space for future sportier versions from Mercedes’ tuning arm, AMG, so those looking for engagement and fun behind the wheel might be a bit underwhelmed.
How powerful is it?
There are five petrol options to choose from in the CLA, which should mean there’s one for pretty much everyone. If not, there’s a diesel following very soon.
So far, we’ve only tried the CLA 220, which uses a 2.0-litre engine to produce 190 horsepower. It’s quiet and strong, providing decent pace. Although it won’t exactly set your world on fire with performance, it’s peppy enough for most everyday driving situations. For more shove and grunt, the same engine is available in CLA 250 guise, with 224 horsepower.
If you don’t need quite as much power – or you want to keep the budget down – there’s the CLA 180 and CLA 200, both of which use a 1.4-litre petrol engine with 136 and 163 horsepower respectively.
The CLA 220 we tried had front-wheel drive, although it’s also available in all-wheel drive. All models use a seven-speed automatic transmission which is quick, smooth and unobtrusive for 99% of the time, although we did find a couple of occasions when it would drop down the gears more than was necessary. A six-speed manual gearbox will follow.
We’ve had a quick go in the CLA 220d diesel, which will arrive later in 2019, and it’s similarly well judged, with a bit more low-down grunt than the equivalent petrol. It’s slightly noisier at lower revs, but may well better suit those that will be doing regular long motorway journeys.
A sporty version – the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 – will arrive in the second half of 2019, with all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine producing 306 horsepower.
How much will it cost me?
The CLA Coupe, as a premium, small, four-door coupe is in a bit of niche when it comes to direct rivals. But something like the Audi A3 Saloon could easily be on a potential customer’s shortlist, as could the CLA’s sister, the Mercedes A-Class saloon. Both of those are a few thousand pounds cheaper to buy than the CLA, but the A-Class’ strong resale value is likely to be mirrored if not bettered by the CLA which will lower the gap in terms of overall running costs.
How reliable is it?
Mercedes has a reasonable, if not spectacular record for reliability of late. The 2018 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study placed Mercedes mid-table in the ranking of manufacturers, with a score above the industry average. It’s also quite some way ahead of its chief premium rivals, Audi and BMW. Should anything go wrong with your CLA, Mercedes offers a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.
How safe is it?
The latest CLA hasn’t yet been crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP. But the A-Class, upon which it’s based, scored the maximum five stars, and we’d be surprised if the CLA didn’t match that success. All models come with two Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats, and seven airbags. There’s also an active lane keeping system to help prevent you wandering out of your lane and Active Brake Assist, which is Mercedes’ automatic emergency braking system.
More advanced systems are available as an option within the Driving Assistance pack, but only on the top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus model, which is a bit of a shame. These include a blind-spot warning system, a more advanced emergency braking system and various autonomous driving features.
How much equipment do I get?
There are three trim levels of CLA in the UK, all variants of the AMG Line spec, and none of them are lacking in features, which means extra options are minimal. The standard AMG Line includes the MBUX infotainment system with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 7.0-inch digital instrument panel. You also get heated front seats and leather upholstery, as well as a choice of four paint colours. If that’s not enough, wireless charging for your phone is also included, as well as a parking package that includes a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and automatic parking.
Upgrade to AMG Line Premium, and you’ll get a bigger 10.25-inch driver display to match the infotainment screen, as well as a dash cam and the augmented navigation system, which overlays directional markers on camera footage on the road ahead of you, to make sure you go the right way. It smacks a bit of a gimmick, but it does work fairly well, based on our limited use of it so far. This trim level also includes an upgraded sound system and keyless entry and start.
The top-spec CLA Coupe is AMG Line Premium Plus, and for that you’ll get a panoramic sunroof, upgraded LED headlights and front seats with more adjustment options.
The CLA Coupe will appeal to those that want a small car but don’t want to skimp on a premium feel, and particularly value a bit of extra style. It’s well made, comfortable and drives well, and it’s packed with features too.