What is it?
Perhaps it would be more instructive at first to say what this new Mercedes-Benz CLA is not: an A-Class in drag. Of course, it sits on the same platform as Mercedes' latest hatchback and uses the same engines, gearboxes and many other systems. But while you won't be surprised at all to see that it doesn’t look like an A-Class, it’s less easy to guess that it doesn’t feel like one, either.
Five petrol-powered CLA variants will come to the UK this summer, all available to order now. There are the CLA 180 and CLA 200, both powered by a 1.3-litre turbocharged engines, and the CLA 220, CLA 220 4Matic and CLA 250, all using a 2.0-litre motor. All have a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (although a manual is coming later), and you might or might not care that only the CLA 220s and CLA 250 have Mercedes motors, the smaller engine being sourced from what remains of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. There is a 4Matic version of the CLA 250, but it’s not coming to the UK, because it’s deemed to be too close to the AMG CLA 35 (which was revealed last week).
The subject of this review is the CLA 220d, which will go on sale in the UK shortly after the petrols. And despite the ongoing plight of diesel, it will likely still prove highly popular. There are currently no plans to bring the 1.5-litre CLA 180d diesel to the UK, however.
There are three key chassis differences between the A-Class and the CLA. First, all CLAs, regardless of engine or trim level, come with multi-link rear suspension, not the considerably less sophisticated beam axle used on most of the hatchbacks. Second, the track has been considerably widened (by 63mm at the front and 55mm at the rear) to provide a wider, more planted footprint. Third, all CLAs receive bespoke spring, damper and anti-roll bar settings that are designed to make them feel considerably more sporting than the equivalent A-Class.