Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Yes, you do feel a few vibrations through the seat, steering wheel and pedals at idle, but these all but disappear as soon as you start moving. What’s more, any gruffness remains muted even under hard acceleration and engine noise is virtually non-existent at a cruise.
In addition, it takes only a relatively gentle squeeze of the accelerator pedal to get the 220d to pick up significant speed, although the CLA 250 feels much faster again; it will see off any similarly priced Audi A5 Sportback with ease. As a bonus, the 250 is a smoother and quieter choice than the 220d.
As for cheaper options, the 1.3-litre petrol engine in the CLA 200 is perfectly adequate when you’re just pottering around town. However, you need to work it hard for it to feel as potent as its 161bhp output suggests, and when you do it starts to sound rather coarse and thrashy.
The petrol cars we tried were fitted with Mercedes’ seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, while the diesel gets an eight-speed auto. Both ’boxes hold onto gears for an unnecessarily long time when in Sport mode, but switch back to Normal and shifts are impressively smooth, especially with the eight-speeder.
In town, the CLA feels smaller and more nimble than rivals, and if you break out in search of the countryside and back roads, it’s perfectly capable up to about eight-tenths pace. Just bear in mind that beyond that its steering doesn’t provide a huge amount of feedback and it will run out of grip before the A5 or Volkswagen Arteon.
The CLA also bounces around more than those models over dips and crests, but it stops well short of being uncomfortable, and its ride is suitably smooth on the motorway.