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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Mercedes’ 221bhp, 258lb ft 2.0-litre turbo engine and its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox combine to business-like effect when you want to get the CLA 250 moving in a hurry.

In needing less than seven seconds to hit 60mph from rest, and little more than six to get from 30mph to 70mph through the gears, it is very nearly as quick as the last Skoda Octavia vRS we performance tested (a 242bhp estate in 2017). If anything, it could use more front-driven traction than the 18in wheels and 225-section Hankook Ventus tyres make – and if it had some, it might even have got down near the 6.5sec 0-60mph mark.

CLA lives up to its sports-flavoured billing only so far, so it’s competent enough at middling speeds but fails to reward an enthusiastic driver, especially over typical B-roads

Quite disappointingly, though, given the sporting billing that Mercedes has applied to the CLA, there are a few reasons why you might not feel inclined to extract an enthusiastic pace from this car or particularly enjoy it when you do.

The first and most obvious one is a telling shortage of both high-range mechanical refinement and audible richness from that four-cylinder engine, the former coming as a bit of a surprise since we haven’t encountered it in other applications of this engine in compact models on the same platform. The motor is quiet and smooth enough a lot of the time, when cruising and operating at lowish revs, but it sounds quite coarse on start-up and takes on a distinctly strained harshness when pulling hard above 4000rpm.

The hastiness of the CLA’s dual-clutch gearbox to actuate those clutches during upshifts, blended with the motor’s responsiveness and its very healthy provision of accessible torque, means you needn’t work the engine to high revs to whisk the car along briskly, which is good news. Unfortunately, we can’t report that the transmission is otherwise entirely blameless in its operation.

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When driving our test car in ‘D’, testers reported a hesitancy to disengage its clutches when slowing to a crawl in heavy traffic, and when coming to a stop, making the car seem to struggle and shunt against the influence of the brakes slightly in the former respect, and also to allow some of the energy from the stopping crankshaft to fight its way through to the drive wheels during engine start/ stop phases.

Drivability gremlins of that sort haven’t been unknown in two-pedal examples of the current A-Class and B-Class we’ve tested but certainly haven’t been as pronounced or intrusive as this; and they’re the opposite of what you expect in what ought to feel like a carefully finished, premium-branded driving experience.