What is it?
The Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is something of an oddity. Despite being the closest thing to an A-Class estate, it eschews the square back of a regular wagon for a far more curvaceous posterior.
It’s a recipe that’s only been copied in the compact class by Kia with the Proceed, making the pricier CLA Shooting Brake a unique proposition at the premium end of the class.
We’ve already sampled the second-generation Shooting Brake in hot AMG 35 guise, but here we’re focussing on the regular 220d. At the moment at least, this 2.0-litre 187bhp turbodiesel is only available with front-wheel drive. Should you want the traction advantages of four-wheel drive, you’ll need one of the AMGs.
What's it like?
In 2.0-litre diesel guise, the CLA 220d is impressively refined and a far cry from the clattery old 2.1-litre of the first generation car. Instead, the new car hides its thirst for the black pump well, with the engine proving impressively hushed when trundling and avoids sounding industrial when revved out.
Mercedes claims a 7.2sec 0-62mph time for the 220d, but it’s the engine’s low-rev flexibility that really impresses, making this an effortless mile-muncher. Not only is it brisk, we saw over 50mpg on a long route while driving sensibly. That’s thanks in part to the standard eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that shifts smoothly and swiftly between gears and drops engine revs nice and low at a cruise.
Like the Coupe the Shooting Brake handles tidily enough, with reasonable grip levels and a decent amount of agility. It is however fine rather than fun; the steering is numb, body control loose at times and at no point would you call it entertaining. Although it might not have a handy hatchback, a BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is more enjoyable to drive.
The ride is at least comfortable for the most part, with a relaxed gait on the motorway. Churned up country roads do reveal a slightly bouncy, under-damped nature that introduces a surprising amount of head toss for such a low car. An M Sport equipped 2 Series Gran Coupe is undoubtedly firmer, but controls its body movements far more adroitly, especially over longer stretches of patchy tarmac.
Front space is unchanged over the regular CLA so there’s plenty of head and leg room on offer. Even base AMG Line Shooting Brakes get a big 10.3in touchscreen for infotainment that can also be controlled via touchpads on the steering wheel and between the seats. These can be fiddly at first, but you can control a surprising amount from the steering wheel once you get used to it. BMW’s iDrive is easier to get to grips with and navigate, though. The interior looks flashy and has some nice materials, but it’s a bit flimsy in places, unlike the higher quality 2 Series Gran Coupe.