Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The CLA 220d is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine that’s also found in the C-Class and E-Class saloons, and is a big step forward from the clattery 2.1-litre unit in the previous-generation CLA. It has more than enough power; it takes only a relatively gentle squeeze of the accelerator pedal to get the 220d to pick up significant speed,Yes, you’ll 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.
Switching to petrol, the CLA 250 is pretty rapid; its 6.3sec 0-62mph time will comfortably see off the similarly priced Audi A5 Sportback 40 TFSI (it covers the same sprint in 7.2sec). As a bonus, the 250 is a smoother and quieter choice than the diesel-powered 220d.
As for cheaper options, the 1.3-litre petrol engine of the CLA 200 is perfectly adequate when you’re just pottering around town, and has the legs for longer motorway journeys, too. You have to work it hard for it to feel as potent as its 161bhp output suggests, though, and when you do it starts to sound rather coarse and thrashy. There’s also a 134bhp CLA 180, but it’s best avoided – it’s the weakest engine in the lineup and feels far less spritely than the CLA 200.
That same 1.3-litre petrol engine also shows up in the plug-in hybrid CLA 250e, where it’s paired with an electric motor that offers a boost in performance making it almost as quick as the CLA 250. As well as offering impressive pace, this plug-in CLA can officially travel for up to 44 miles on pure electric power alone. That’s a lot farther than the 33-mile Volkswagen Arteon plug-in hybrid will take you, while the A5 Sportback doesn’t offer a plug-in hybrid variant at all.
The petrol cars are fitted with Mercedes’ seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, while the diesels and the plug-in get 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 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.
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