The side exterior of a red Mercedes-Benz CLA

Mercedes-Benz CLA review

The Mercedes CLA is a four-door saloon with a stylish interior and lots of technology. It's supremely comfortable and will stand out from the usual saloons and hatchbacks.

Pros

  • A 4-door saloon with the stylish looks of a 2-door coupe
  • Very efficient diesel engines
  • Latest generation has fantastic technology

Cons

  • Ride can be a little too firm
  • Less headroom in the back than a regular saloon
  • Infotainment system in original isn't as good as rivals

Summary

“It’s a great Mercedes saloon that looks more like a super stylish coupe.”

With its unique body style, the CLA is different from other saloons you’ll see on the road. It looks like a coupe but it’s also very practical with lots of space in the front and a decent-sized boot. It’s also great to drive with efficient engines and comfortable seats.

Like many Mercedes interiors, the CLA is beautifully laid out. It features a digital speedometer and a tablet-style infotainment screen mounted on top of the dashboard. 

While the CLA is practical and spacious, it’s coupe-like sloping roof isn’t great for tall passengers in the back.

The front exterior of a red Mercedes-Benz CLA

What's the interior like?

“The latest CLA features lots of great tech and high-quality materials.”

The CLA feels luxurious and has a low seating position for a sporty vibe. It also has plenty of adjustment options.

The steering wheel is chunky and all the materials you see and touch are high-quality. There are also plenty of controls on the steering wheel as well as a dial to control Mercedes’ Comand infotainment system. All the basic functionality is easy to understand and use. 

There’s reasonable storage with a cubbyhole between the seats, a number of cup holders and the usual door pockets and glove box.  

In spite of its coupe-like roofline, there's a good amount of space upfront, but it lacks some of the practicality of a regular saloon, mainly for your back seat passengers.

Boot space was 470 litres on the original version but this drops to 460 litres in the new model. This is enough space to hold a number of suitcases and you can fold the seats down if you need more. Boot capacity increases to 495 litres on the Shooting Brake estate.  

AMG-Line models are popular and have lots of sporty trim elements inside as do the performance derivatives, the CLA 34 and CLA45 AMG.

The interior of a Mercedes-Benz CLA with steering wheel and dashboard in shot

What's it like to drive?

“It's more about style than comfort, especially for passengers.”

The CLA is sportier than the larger C-Class or rivals such as the Audi A3 saloon. This means a firmer ride and a tendency to feel the bumps more on broken road surfaces. If you’re going to spend lots of time on good roads and motorways the CLA will give you a composed ride. Sport models have a practical comfort setting that improves things, while AMG models look and feel sportier.

The ride was very similar in the last generation of the A-Class but, like the hatchback, things have improved in the latest version. It’s more comfortable with a better ride that puts it on a par with its rivals.

Engines range from fuel-efficient diesels to the sporty CLA35 and CLA45 AMG petrols with decent performance figures. While there are a few manual versions available, most CLAs are automatics which make long-distance cruising a breeze and also take the slog out of commuter traffic.

Rear seat shot of the Mercedes-Benz CLA

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“The diesels represent excellent value to buy and run.”

Prices are similar to the Audi A3 saloon and you can expect to pay less if you go for one of the not so popular manual versions.

The diesels deliver up to 67 mpg, which is excellent and you won’t pay that much extra for them over the petrol versions. 

Insurance costs can be substantially higher than the Audi and even the A-Class. Parts and servicing costs are similar to its German rivals but are more than non-premium competitors.

The rear exterior of a red Mercedes-Benz CLA

How reliable and safe is it?

“Safety is excellent with loads of important tech.”

The CLA has an average reputation for reliability, with a few electronics and interior component issues. It’s also had a number of recalls, mainly related to airbags. A proper service history will ensure they were fixed at the time.

Like all Mercedes models, safety is excellent with a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and loads of kit, including multiple airbags and electronic driver assistance systems, which all come as standard.

Engine shot of the Mercedes-Benz CLA

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - 220 CDI

Best for family - 220d Shooting Brake

Best for fun - CLA45 AMG

The diesels are the more popular choice and they don’t cost much more than the petrols. However, the petrol versions are quieter and smoother, so if you spend most of your time in town then they're your best bet. 

The automatics are easier to live with and have better resale values, while the Shooting Brake estate provides slightly more space.

The sport models are a good choice because they offer a comfort setting to improve the ride, but opt for the AMG if you want a sporty experience.

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