Like the saloon version, the CLA wagon is intended to offer buyers an extra-powerful hit of the design flair that originally made the larger CLS so popular. A similar trick seems to have worked for the CLA, with its maker rating the model’s launch as one of the best in recent years, particularly in the United States, where small ‘sedans’ are generally preferred over hatchbacks.
The UK doesn’t share the same predilection, but it does tend to look favourably on small estates, and as a niche oversubscribed with mainstream workhorses, the implied luxury of a dashing Merc could be the ideal fix for those with slightly deeper pockets and two pedigree dogs to walk.
Increased practicality, of course, is the pith beneath the shiny body, so the manufacturer singles out the Shooting Brake’s increased spaciousness in comparison to the standard CLA as the substance on which to build a rational buying case.
It is this car’s mixture of space, style and affordability that Mercedes is selling as new and, while Audi would disagree, it might have a point. The CLA was no ordinary compact premium player in the first place.
The car is actually longer than the previous-generation C-Class, as well as significantly longer than many of its hatch-based rivals – and that advantage in visual presence may help to convince buyers who pause to consider what else the model’s £26k starting price could buy them. 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.
At that entry level, the estate comes with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a manual gearbox. Mercedes’ Sport and AMG Line trims will bulk out the majority of sales, with its 2.1-litre diesel engine (in 200 and 220 d forms) taking the spoils. Four-wheel drive is available too, most prominently in the CLA 45, a 375bhp super-wagon, but also its available in the range-topping 250 AMG and 220 d. That’s for another day, though. Here, we drive the 200 d in its most affordable guise.