What is it?
When it was launched in 2013, the Mercedes-Benz CLA promised refinement and performance in an elegantly swooping saloon package. A world sales total of 750,000 units suggests the cocktail worked, so it’s time for a new generation – including this, the compact CLA 250 four-door coupé.
And compact is the word, even if this new version is both longer and wider than its predecessor. The CLA 250 is based on the underpinnings of the A-Class, and from the inside it will certainly be familiar to those with experience of the popular hatchback.
On the outside, the long, curving bonnet – complete with (in Mercedes parlance) twin ‘power dome’ bulges – and a short boot create a car that is pleasing to the eye, with fine AMG Line design details such as attractive chrome doorhandles and front splitter, plus Merc’s trademark diamond grille, creating a proposition that is aimed squarely at a younger market than is perhaps traditional for the Three-Pointed Star.
Performance with a sporting edge was the intention and on that point, this CLA delivers in a manner that will induce smiles – and in the right circumstances, even a beaming grin. But that compact nature inevitably means compromise when it comes to practicalities. This is not a saloon for everyone – which again is probably the intention.
What's it like?
The attractive CLA 250 has a track 63mm wider at the front than its predecessor and 55mm at the rear, and has also grown 48mm in length. It adds a sporting purpose to its appearance that is matched by its performance out on the road, particularly when it comes to corners.
The 2-litre in line four offers 224bhp and only pulls the car from 0 to 62mph in 6.3sec – but it feels faster than that sounds. A raucous engine note, particularly in Sport mode, certainly helps, although it is muted enough within the cool cabin to avoid being judged too unruly. The seven-speed DCT transmission ensures progress is silken too, whether you’re in full auto or in manual paddle shift mood. At the top end, acceleration plateaus perhaps a little early, but for drivers who like an unblemished licence there’s plenty to savour and enjoy here within the confines of the national speed limit.
But it’s in the twisty bits where there’s real fun to be had. The lack of noticeable roll courtesy of a stabiliser bar, and a firm ride – MacPherson struts and coil springs on the front, de-coupled multi-link at the rear – on five-spoke 18in wheels give the CLA 250 a sharpness akin to at least nicely warmed hatches, if not far off those of the properly hot variety. The well weighted direct-steer system makes apex-hugging direction changes a pleasure, while the instant response from the petrol 2.0-litre repays smooth inputs. It’s a car with obvious driver appeal.