The CLA Shooting Brake is the fifth model in their compact range, all underpinned by the platform of the A-Class hatchback. Shooting Brake – estate to you and l.
It offers a great combo of style, space and affordability in the sector and the likes of Audi and BMW are left playing catch-up. Although this is a compact car, they have made a great fist of making it feel much bigger. It is longer than the previous generation C-Class and longer than most of its rivals. Interior space is great with 495 litres with the rear seats up and 1354 with them down and that is a very good chunk of load space.
The CLA comes with a choice of 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines and a 2.1-litre diesel engine and you can order it with the 7G-DCT dual-clutch auto box and the 4Matic all-wheel drive system, which sends torque to the back axle via a rear mounted multi-plate clutch when it deems necessary. All clever stuff but then you would expect nothing else from Mercedes.
I have to admit that regardless of the fact that it sold like hotcakes, l never liked the CLS. All that swooping nose to tail just left me confused as to whether it was coming or going but the CLA, although it has similar lines, it is less dramatic and therefore less like the shell of a tortoise. It’s a good looking car.
Inside it is all as it should be. Cosy, warm and lit up like the 4th of July. There are strip lights all around and they can be colour changed at will and as much as l would like to hate them, l don’t. They just look very cool, offering a very cosy feeling to the interior. The seats are great but they are all manual, which I guess helps keep the sticker price down. The air vents have been carefully designed to match the colour lines and it is all very harmonious.
As regular readers know, l am a great fan of the Audi all-singing, all-dancing dashboards and, equally, l am a great fan of the Mercedes auto gear changer. It’s on the stalk on the right side of the steering column just like it was back in the day. It’s out of the way and just takes a very simple flick of the finger to switch from forward to reverse and does away with any hump in the centre, thus giving more room for cubbyholes for all that ‘stuff’ that we seem to carry around in our cars. I should point out that l am the master of not carrying ‘stuff’ as with changing cars every seven days, l am neat and compact although my bag is a disaster zone. Anyway, the point is that we carry an increasing amount of crap around with us and here, there is room for all.
The one thing that drives me potty is over complication and Merc are masters at this. I am sure that once you own the car and spend the time to work it all out, this might not apply but the infotainment system in so confusing to those relatively new to it such as new car owners, hire car clients etc. The large central screen is great and is touch sensitive but then there is a pad on the centre console that you can direct with the touch of your finger but doing that safely whilst trying to keep any eye on the road is overcomplicated. The controls on the steering wheel are also overly complex as an array of buttons does various things based on where you touch them. All very smart but come on guys, other cars allow the same function with half the complication.
On the road, it is all calm and correct. The 2.0-litre engine sounded too small to please me on paper but not at all. It is pretty rapid and very smooth and l would find it tough to justify the extra money for a larger engine - and these are not words that fall from my lips easily – especially as l still have the Lamborghini on the driveway right behind the CLA! The damping is quite gentle, just as it should be for a bias towards refinement, and allows its wheels plenty of vertical travel when absorbing bigger lumps and bumps in the road without disturbing the body too much. Body roll is distantly present in the handling mix but doesn’t prevent the car from steering crisply and cornering with poise.
The CLA is one of those rare cars that does not benefit very much from the extras list. Bigger wheels, bigger engine – none of it improves the car as the base model is already so well sorted that it should not be played with and isn’t that the point – any new car should, but rarely does, come in its best party frock as standard. (the Mercedes FD is currently having a heart attack!)
The CLA Shooting Brake is a very well rounded car that l would challenge you not to be content with right out of the gate. Stuttgart done good.