ALTHOUGH ITS MAKER calls it a coupe, there’s no denying that the Mercedes-Benz is one of the brand’s best-selling four-door models. Tellingly, this car also serves as proof that not only do customers not care about the differentiation between a coupe and a sedan, as long as it has four doors and a boot, they are also not concerned about whether their cars are driven by the front or rear wheels. At the right price point, the car will sell like proverbial hotcakes as long as it wears the three-pointed star and looks cool.
Today, the CLA effectively serves as the entry point to a Mercedes-Benz sedan rather than the C-Class. More relevantly, this car is powered by the same engine in an identical state of tune as the entry C-Class model. The powerplant in question is a 1.595cc four-cylinder turbocharged unit that makes 156hp. Interestingly the CLA 200 is mated to a seven-speed Double Clutch Transmission (DCT) while the C180 uses a seven-speed torque convertor automatic.
Twin clutch autos might be lauded for their responsiveness but few realise that they also tend to be heavier than other types of transmissions. This probably explains why the CLA 200 weighs five kilos more than the 1425kg C180, which is apparently a class bigger. This however is probably as Irrelevant to the typical CLA customer as the fact that this car is based on the A- Class hatch back rather than a bespoke sedan plat form like the C-Class. Driven in isolation, the CLA 200 feels like a well-sorted front-wheel drive car. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd either.
If anything, the steering feels overly assisted. The drivetrain response, suspension and steering can be customised through the Dynamic Select rotary selector to varying degrees but the difference between Comfort, Sport or Efficiency don’t seem to make much of a difference to the steering feel. There’s a big difference between ‘feel’ and ‘weight’ and the two are often confused by folks who have never experienced a car with good handling.
A coupe is nothing, if not stylish, and in this department, the Mercedes-Benz CLA cuts a handsome figure that visually aligns it with the bigger CLS. Like many coupes however, styling takes a bigger priority over practicality and in the case of this car, that swooping roofline can make access to the rear seats challenging for geriatric passengers. In terms of rear passenger legroom, the CLA shows its hatchback roots with an identical amount of leg space as the other A-Class models.
Those who value the styling of the CL A above all else on the other hand, are likely to appreciate the subtly improved shape that can be found in the new LED headlamps, cooler bumpers, a diamond radiator grille and new light-alloy wheels that add up to give it a sportier presence on the road. Inside, the latest models get some new seat designs and matt chrome-plated controls that lend a touch of class while a feature called Hands-Free Access promises even more convenient connectivity with your smartphone.
If you’re attracted to the styling of the Mercedes-Benz CLA 200, there’s nothing that I can say to convince you otherwise. However, if you’re more attracted to its pricing as an entry point to a Mercedes sedan, than you’re better off in a CLA 180 which offers a bigger savings over a base C-Class.