Review: Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

08 Jul 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

This impressive new Mercedes is an energetic, sporty drive – but it does take a bit of getting used to, writes motor reviewer Tim Barnes-Clay.

mercedes-benz cla class

Sometimes a pair of new shoes feels just right.

No blisters ever appear and they soon become your go-to choice of footwear.

Initial discomfort

Others cause you a little discomfort at first – but, once worn in, you feel as though you’d never sauntered in anything else.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 AMG Sport I drove was very much in the latter category.

It took me a while fine-tuning the seat to give me the best driving position. I then had to adjust the steering wheel several times – and then get the lumbar support right.

For the first day I just couldn’t nail it and, squirming uncomfortably, I was convinced this car wasn’t for me.

Adjustments necessary

But, by the second day of my week with the Merc, I felt it was made with my name on it.

Some car seats just require a quick twiddle here and there and you’re all set up. 

I think the CLA’s sports seats with integral headrests simply take some getting used to.

They’re sculpted in a curve-forward position, and make you feel like your head needs to go back more – although that could have been me being fussy on the day the car was delivered.

An excellent machine

Anyway, enough of the seats and my hair-splitting: let me explain why, on the whole, the CLA is an excellent piece of German machinery.

Aesthetically, its proportions and dynamic design give the compact four-door saloon-cum-coupé an unmistakable appearance.

The vehicle's striking features include the bonnet embedded in the front end with power-domes and a diamond-look grille.

The light modules and LEDs behind the headlamp cover glass have been arranged in such a way as to create a characteristic "flare effect" for the daytime driving lights and indicators.

'Energetic and youthful'

mercedes-benz cla class interior

This light signet defines the car's energetic form and shapes a new, youthful Mercedes face.

The width-emphasising rear end exudes muscle and athleticism, featuring an interplay between convex and concave surfaces.

The gently sloping roof contour and the pronounced, hallmark curvature of the rear window, provide the CLA 250 AMG Sport with a coupé-style character from the rear, too.

The exterior's progressive, sporty appearance is continued inside the Benz.

More seating issues

All trim surfaces are galvanised in silver shadow, resulting in a cool-to-the-touch metallic finish.

The instrument panel incorporates five large round vents and there’s a prominent free-standing display screen that features a black piano-lacquer-look front panel with a flush-fitting silver frame.

In the back, the seats, once again, become a sticking point.

They are cramped for adults and not even the best fit for two child seats, but my eight- and five-year-old coped without too much squabbling.

Spacious and precise

On the plus side, boot space is good for this type of car.

On the road, the CLA 250’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine rocks for most situations.

The car has excellent grip when pushed through corners and its seven-speed automatic transmission climbs and descends excellently under pressure.

Especially noteworthy is the Mercedes’ direct steer system, which offers precise feedback in comparison with conventional power steering.

Safety hasn’t been overlooked either, with numerous driving assistance systems offering support and reducing your workload behind the wheel.

Standard-fit features include drowsiness detection and radar-based collision prevention assist with adaptive brake assist, which helps to protect you from collisions from a speed of only 4mph.

Pros & cons

  • Design √
  • Steering √
  • Grip √
  • Safety kit √
  • Rear seats X

Fast facts

  • Max speed: 149mph
  • 0-62 mph: 6.6 secs
  • Combined mpg: 42.8
  • Engine: 1991cc 4 cylinders 16 valve turbo petrol
  • Max. power (bhp): 208
  • Max. torque (lb.ft): 258
  • CO2: 154g/km
  • Price: £33,440