The CLA 250’s handling delivers on Mercedes’ dynamic selling pitch up to a point – more convincingly, just, than its performance does, at least. The car isn’t blessed with a particularly adhesive outright grip level but uses what it’s got fairly well.
The suspension resists pitch and lateral body roll effectively, the chassis changes direction with a keenness that’s just above the ordinary, and it grips with decent balance on a middling throttle, although you can easily disrupt that grip by trying to deploy too much torque too soon through the driven front axle.
Mercedes offers only one wheel size and one passive damper specification on the car, with bigger rims and adaptive shocks being reserved for AMG versions and with Mercedes’ UK distributor choosing to offer only ‘cooking’ versions of the car in AMG Line trim. This means that although the car’s driving mode selector allows you to adjust power steering weight and powertrain calibration to suit your preference, there’s no potential to tailor the way the CLA handles, or to rebalance ride comfort and body control either on the move or in the showroom.
Unfortunately for Mercedes, this is a car that could really do with a set of good, well-tuned adaptive dampers in order to work well at pace on more challenging surfaces of the sort that British B-roads so often supply. Stuttgart’s decision to switch to firmed-up settings costs the CLA some basic composure here, making its vertical body control seem reactive and excitable. Body control can seem brittle and lacking in fluency, too, at motorway speeds.