Snapshot: The CLA is big on style and personality but should that be enough to sway buyers away from the Audi A3?
If you like the looks of the Mercedes A-class but want something posher and more practical then the CLA is for you. This car is based on the A-class and has a much bigger boot as well. However, that big boot advantage is lost a bit thanks to the spare wheel which is housed in the boot but more on that later.
Most buyers will simply buy this car because of the way it looks. If that big grille up front and those swept back headlamps are something that suits your taste then you will simply not be able to resist the charms of that swooping roofline. The compact dimensions and rising belt line give it plenty of personality. To say that it is a head turning design would be an understatement. This car is gorgeous from any angle that you look at it.
The sloping roofline does create a causality though. Headroom at the rear is a bit tight, especially if you are taller than 5 feet 9 inches. Shorter passengers will not have too many issues though. Legroom is definitely better than the Audi A3, but only marginally.
The cabin is as stylish as the exterior, with the triple AC vents in the centre being the main talking point. The floating display in the centre of the dashboard though can split opinion though. Though quality is good, it can simply not match the one of the Audi A3. It also doesn’t have the same ‘wow’ appeal of the Audi interior, which simply leave you gobsmacked. The boot is larger than the Audi too, but it's shallow and the spare wheel housed there doesn’t help matters either. That along with the small aperture makes it tricky to load.
Engine, performance and gearbox
The CLA will come with two engine options. A petrol 2-litre with 181bhp and a 2.1-litre diesel with 134bhp of power. Power is transferred via a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. Performance from the petrol engine is exceptional. Power delivery is strong and very linear. The engine remains relaxed when you push it to it’s redline as well.
The diesel is a noisy motor when compared to the Audi A3’s. It has typical diesel clatter when started from cold and when you rev it hard it tends to become very loud inside the cabin. The seven-speed gearbox works well on the petrol but feels jerky on the diesel. You do get paddle shifters behind the steering wheel which add to the sense of driver engagement.
Ride and handling
Mercedes has made changes to the suspension set-up of their compact cars here in India (including the A-class and GLA-class) and has removed the harsh edge that was present in the earlier models. Though the suspension isn’t softened up completely and there is still a stiff edge to the ride of the car, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable or doesn’t thump when it goes over bad road surfaces like road crevices or patch worked roads.
Handling is adroit with the steering delivering precise feedback. Though it’s not very feel some it does weight up nicely as speeds rise.
Safety and equipment
You get seven airbags as standard along with ABS and Electronic brake distribution(EBD) and traction control system. You also get Bluetooth for the stereo, steering mounted stereo control as well as flappy peddles behind the steering wheel for shifting gears.
The CLA is ideal for those who love to turn heads when they arrive at a party. Though it isn’t dynamically as brilliant as its looks and not as well rounded as its chief rival, Audi A3, the CLA is a car that promises to make every drive memorable.