Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake review

Category: Estate car

Estate car is great to look at, but rivals are more practical and better to drive

Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake front right driving
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake front right driving
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake rear right driving
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior dashboard
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake boot open
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior infotainment
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake right driving
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake front right driving
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake rear lights
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior steering wheel
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior front seats
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake front right driving
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake rear right driving
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior dashboard
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake boot open
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior infotainment
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake right driving
  • Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake front right driving
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake rear lights
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior steering wheel
  • Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior front seats
What Car?’s CLA-Class deals
New car deals
Save up to £3,500
Target Price from £32,050
Save up to £3,500
or from £311pm
Swipe to see used car deals

Introduction

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.

Rivals are tricky to define, but if you're looking for a part-coupé, part-estate, there's the Kia Proceed or the VW Arteon Shooting Brake.

In terms of straightforward estate cars, there's also the Skoda Octavia Estate and the Skoda Superb Estate or, for another premium brand option, the Audi A4 Avant and the BMW 3 Series Touring.

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.

Overview

The Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake has a pretty big boot, and although the narrow boot aperture hurts its outright practicality, the car's attractive interior, strong engines and decent driving experience hold plenty of appeal. We recommend AMG Line Executive trim and the 220d diesel engine (or the PHEV is you're looking for a company car).

  • Flash interior
  • Wide range of engines
  • Lots of kit included
  • Tight rear head room
  • Small boot aperture
  • VW Arteon Shooting Brake is bigger inside
New car deals
Save up to £3,500
Target Price from £32,050
Save up to £3,500
or from £311pm
Swipe to see used car deals

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.

See our Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 and Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 to read about the AMG performance versions, which are significantly quicker.

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.

Mercedes CLA-Class image
Skip the showroom and find out more online

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.

Driving overview

Strengths Punchy diesel engine; quiet cruiser

Weaknesses Petrol engines needs working hard; tidy handling

Grey Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake rear right driving

Interior

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.

Interior overview

Strengths Looks great; lots of tech

Weaknesses Quality not as good as in some rivals

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior dashboard

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.

Practicality overview

Strengths More spacious than the regular Mercedes CLA; competitive boot

Weaknesses Still falls behind on space against other estates

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake boot open

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.

If you're looking for a company car, the 250e plug-in hybrid is a good option, because its low official CO2 emissions and good electric-only range will keep your benefit-in-kind tax bill down.

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.

Costs overview

Strengths Well equipped; relatively frugal engines, priced well against rival estates

Weaknesses Not many options available

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake interior infotainment

FAQs

  • The CLA Shooting Brake is based on the Mercedes A-Class and is smaller and sleeker than the Mercedes C-Class Estate.

  • Well, "Shooting Brake" basically means "posh estate car", and in the case the CLA, you get sleek coupé styling.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £3,500
Target Price from £32,050
Save up to £3,500
or from £311pm
Swipe to see used car deals
RRP price range £35,550 - £69,260
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)6
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol, petrol parallel phev
MPG range across all versions 256.8 - 54.3
Available doors options 5
Warranty 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
Available colours