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The CLS sold on its exclusivity. Can the Mercedes CLA pull the same trick - or do its A-Class underpinnings hold it back?

The Mercedes-Benz CLS showed the world that four doors could offer supercar levels of driveway appeal, and the Mercedes-Benz CLA has been developed to replicate that success. 

Mercedes-Benz has been extending its range for well over a decade, but the CLA represents another shift-step again. This time, it is to a range that has logically grown to include 4x4s and sports cars, and then downsized into front-wheel-drive hatchbacks.

CLA's closest rivals include the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, but neither have the coupe-like styling of the Merc

The CLA is a curious thing: a front-wheel-drive saloon based on the platform used by the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, itself a newly conventional hatchback rather than the mini-MPV that originally used the name.

If you’re looking for yet another reason why the Mercedes-Benz A-Class became a straightforward small premium hatch rather than a revolutionary twin-floor packaging marvel, look no further than here.

The point, here, is to give a small, affordable (to a point) Mercedes-Benz the same kind of panache that you’d see higher up the Mercedes range, where conventional points in the line-up diverge with the addition of new model lines such as this. In spring 2016, Mercedes gave the CLA coupé and shooting brake a facelift, which was dominated by a diamond effect grille, revised interiors and tweaked powerplants. It was finally replaced by a new generation model in 2019.

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Petrol engine options consist of the 1.6-litre CLA 180 and a 2.0-litre unit used in the CLA 250 and CLA 45. Diesel options include two tunes of the same 2.1-litre turbodiesel - powering the CLA 200d and the CLA 220d.

The question is, though, can the CLA do for the A-Class what the CLS achieved for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class? Or will this new model merely manage what the Vauxhall Belmont did for the Vauxhall Astra? Let's find out.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 2013-2019 First drives