What Car? says...
When is an estate car not just an estate car? When it’s a Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake, of course.
Unlike models that look like the designers have simply tacked a big box on to the rump of a hatchback, the CLA Shooting Brake focuses on style as much as practicality (as the regular Mercedes CLA does). And as well as petrols and a diesel, the engine range includes a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and two high-performance AMG versions.
So, which one is right for you? To help you decide, this review will tell you how we rate the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake against the best estate cars out there.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The only diesel option for the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is the 220d, and it has a 188bhp 2.0-litre engine. It gives you more than enough oomph, taking 7.4 seconds to get from 0-62mph, and requires only a gentle squeeze of the accelerator pedal to get up to motorway speed. It’s our pick of the range.
As for the petrol options, the 1.3-litre petrol engine in the CLA 200 is perfectly adequate when you’re just pottering around town. On paper, its 161bhp output and 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds seems adequate.
However, you need to work it hard to get up to motorway cruising speeds, and when you do, it sounds rather coarse and thrashy. We’ve yet to try the entry-level CLA 180, but with 134bhp, it takes 9.6 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
That same 1.3-litre petrol engine also shows up in the CLA 250e PHEV, where it’s paired with an electric motor to produce a combined 215bhp.
As well as offering impressive pace with a 7.7 seconds 0-62mph time, the 250e can officially travel for up to 47 miles on electric power alone. For comparison, the VW Arteon Shooting Brake eHybrid can manage 36 miles, while the BMW 330e Touring will cover up to 37 miles.
With the petrol cars, Mercedes gives you a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox while the diesel and the PHEV get an eight-speed auto. In Normal mode, the gear shifts are smooth, but there’s a bit of a pause when you need a burst of acceleration. Switching to Sport helps speed up the reaction time, while letting the engine go higher in the rev range for sustained performance.
In town, the CLA Shooting Brake feels pretty compact and nimble compared with most estate cars. That’s thanks in part to quick steering that prevents you having to twirl the wheel endlessly when negotiating a multi-storey car park.
Out of the city on twisting roads, it's perfectly pleasant when being driven briskly and feels more composed than the Arteon Shooting Brake, although the steering doesn’t give a great sense of grip. The Audi A4 Avant is grippier in the bends, while the BMW 3 Series Touring is sharper and genuinely good fun.
The CLA bounces around more than those models over dips and crests, but stops short of being uncomfortable, and the ride is smooth on a motorway.
In the diesel, you’ll feel a few vibrations through the seat, steering wheel and pedals at idle, and there's a little gruffness under acceleration, but that all but disappear into the background at a cruise.
Occupants are well isolated from wind and road noise, with just the odd clunk from the suspension and thump from the tyres on sharper bumps.
Strengths Punchy diesel engine; quiet cruiser
Weaknesses Petrol engines needs working hard; tidy handling
The interior layout, fit and finish
The interior of the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake offers a serious wow factor, especially with the dual 10.3in screens as standard. One is the central infotainment touchscreen, while the other is for the driver’s instrument cluster.
It helps that the graphics are very sharp, and the menus are logically laid out. You can choose between pressing the on-screen icons, scrolling with touchpads on the steering wheel, or issuing voice commands to a system that recognises natural speech instead of requiring you to remember specific phrases.
Neither is foolproof, because the touchpads are on the small side and exchanging voice commands takes longer. Fortunately, there’s a row of physical controls for the ventilation system, unlike in the BMW 3 Series Touring. The CLA has wireless phone-charging on a handy tray in front of the main infotainment touchpad, and you also get USB-C sockets so you can plug in devices to charge.
Whether you’re tall or short, it won’t be too tricky to find a driving position that works for you. There's a wide range of adjustment for the steering wheel and seat, and good under-thigh support. You can also sit lower to the ground than you can in the VW Arteon Shooting Brake.
Forward visibility is excellent, thanks to slim windscreen pillars that don’t obstruct your view out at junctions. The narrow rear windscreen and chunky rear headrests mean the view out of the back is a little more restricted, but at least all models come with a rear-view camera. You’ll need the high-spec AMG Line Premium Plus for a 360-degree one.
Powerful LED headlights are standard, while adaptive LED headlights, which can remain on main beams without dazzling other drivers, are standard on AMG Line Premium Plus trim.
For visual pizzazz, the CLA Shooting Brake outguns most rivals demonstrably and the Kia Proceed by a mile. There’s plenty of relaxing ambient lighting, flashy air vents and classy wood or metal finishes to distract you from some of the hard plastics dotted around. In terms of outright interior build quality, it's no match for the Audi A4 Avant because some of the materials feel a bit flimsy.
Strengths Looks great; lots of tech
Weaknesses Quality not as good as in some rivals
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Mercedes CLA Shooting offers plenty of head room up front, especially if you avoid the panoramic sunroof that comes with the top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus trim. Oddment storage is pretty good, too.
One of the most noticeable benefits of choosing the Shooting Brake over the regular CLA is the additional rear-seat space. There’s plenty of leg room in both, but the estate car version gives passengers over 6ft more head room.
That said, the CLA Shooting Brake still falls behind on space compared with the VW Arteon Shooting Brake, while the Skoda Superb Estate has limo-like leg and head room for similar money.
Meanwhile, the CLA Shooting Brake has a bigger boot capacity than the Audi A4 Avant (and the Mercedes C-Class Estate), with 505 litres, or 454 litres in the PHEV. The Arteon Shooting Brake has 590 litres, or 455 for the PHEV version.
The CLA’s boot is trickier to load, though, because the wide rear lights reduce the width of the lowest section of the opening. There’s also a high loading lip to lug heavy items over before you drop them into the boot.
The back seats split 40/20/40 so you can drop them in various combinations to manage passenger and boot space.
Strengths More spacious than the regular Mercedes CLA; competitive boot
Weaknesses Still falls behind on space against other estates
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Prices for the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake are slightly lower than for the VW Arteon Shooting Brake. The Kia Proceed is even cheaper, but has a far more limited choice of engines and trim levels.
Mercedes gives you a generous amount of standard equipment for your money, and even entry-level Sport Executive getting 18in alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate control and heated front seats.
Our recommended AMG Line Executive trim adds sportier exterior and interior styling, snazzy ambient lighting, keyless entry and sports front seats.
The pricier AMG Line Premium trim comes with larger alloy wheel (19in) and two-zone climate control.
AMG Line Premium Plus adds a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery and electric seats with memory settings.
The PHEV Arteon is in a higher tax bracket because of its shorter electric range. Non-PHEV diesel and petrol CLAs are more economical than the Arteon.
It’s worth noting that the CLA earned the full five-star Euro NCAP rating back in 2019, with very high individual scores for adult occupant, child occupant and pedestrian protection.
The Mercedes CLA did well in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey coming second out of 15 models in the coupés, convertibles and sports cars section. Mercedes didn't do so well, finishing in 24th place out of 32 manufacturers.
Strengths Well equipped; relatively frugal engines, priced well against rival estates
Weaknesses Not many options available
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|RRP price range
|£35,535 - £69,175
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|petrol, diesel, petrol parallel phev
|MPG range across all versions
|256.8 - 54.3
|Available doors options
|3 years / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£648 / £4,999
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£1,297 / £9,998