The CLA looks great and comes with lots of standard equipment. It also has a big boot and lots of safety kit.
The CLA doesn’t ride or handle particularly well, and it isn’t that cheap to buy, either. Rear space is also pretty cramped compared with most proper saloons.
On the road
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The range starts with a 120bhp 1.6 turbo petrol, but the 168bhp 2.1-litre diesel will be the more popular choice. The diesel picks up pace swiftly from low revs but is hamstrung by a slow-witted and jerky seven-speed automatic gearbox. On the other hand, the petrol is flat at low revs, being happiest when worked hard. A lower-powered diesel model will soon join the range, whilst the 355bhp, 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-wheel-drive CLA45 AMG offers Porsche 911 pace.
Ride & Handling
CLA Sport models get ‘comfort’ suspension, while AMG Sport versions have an even firmer chassis. The softer set-up is smoother, although the car still shimmies around over poor road surfaces. Sports suspension brings sharper handling, but you suffer a choppier ride. Whichever version you choose, the steering weights up nicely as you turn in and there’s plenty of grip. The CLA 45 has bespoke suspension and is great fun, but it's much harder to live with.
There’s a bit of wind noise down the sides of the car at motorway speeds, and a lot of road noise over coarse surfaces. The 220 CDI’s standard seven-speed automatic is rather jerky sometimes, and the engine sounds a bit gruff when you accelerate hard. The petrol is the quieter option, whilst mechanical vibrations are well suppressed in all CLA models. The AMG is noisy in a good way, but quietens down enough on light throttle provided you avoid the loud (but entertaining) sports exhaust.