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Mercedes CLA Review

7 / 10
6 November 2023
Mercedes CLA review front three quarter

The Mercedes CLA isn’t just incredibly stylish, but luxurious and economical too.

It's available as a handsome four-door coupe, or as the slightly more practical Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake.

What we like:
  • Great when driven smoothly
  • High-tech and well-equipped interior
  • Frugal engines
What we don't like:
  • Cramped rear seats
  • Indecisive automatic gearbox
  • Some cheap-feeling interior trim

Should I buy a Mercedes CLA?

Style plays a big part in choosing a car. You’re unlikely to pick a car that’s eye-searingly ugly, even if it’s otherwise the perfect car (unless you once bought a Fiat Multipla).

The Mercedes CLA offers plenty of style, with its swoopy design and frameless doors making it look like a big, expensive car. In fact, the CLA looks so much like the bigger, costlier Mercedes CLS that you might only be able to tell the difference when they’re parked next to each other.

The CLA uses the same parts and engines as the Mercedes A-Class, which keeps it relatively inexpensive compared with higher-end Mercedes models. Its sensibly powered petrol and diesel engines are pleasingly economical, while providing enough punch to breeze up to motorway speeds.

Cruising is where the CLA is at its best, being both quiet and comfortable at speed. Long journeys are made easier by a host of driver aids such as lane-keeping assist and a driver fatigue warning that flags up when you need to take a break.

Interior and technology

The CLA’s dashboard is carried over wholesale from the A-Class, meaning you get an eye-catching layout with two tech-filled screens sat side-by-side. Mercedes’ interior is probably the best-looking for the price, although material quality and ease of use aren’t quite as strong as in the Audi A3.

Almost all UK cars come in AMG Line spec, with a big infotainment screen as standard and sporty seats with suede upholstery and red stitching. Standard equipment is strong – all cars get sat nav, a reversing camera and push-button start.


There’s an acceptable amount of space in the Mercedes CLA, but you wouldn’t buy one on practicality alone. The sleek shape cuts into headroom for both front and rear occupants, leaving taller adults with their heads brushing against the ceiling.

The boot is considerably bigger than an A-Class’, but the items you carry will need to be fairly slim to get through the CLA’s tight saloon boot opening. That said, the rear seats fold individually when you need more space, and there’s the CLA Shooting Brake estate available with a larger hatchback tailgate and bigger boot.

Engines and performance

The CLA’s four-strong engine range should provide enough choice for most buyers. Higher-mileage drivers will gravitate to the 220d diesel engine, while there’s a plug-in hybrid if you want electric-only driving or mainly drive around town. For everyone else, one of the two petrol engines will suit. Topping the range are fiery models, the AMG CLA35 and CL45 S, which give you the most power and driving thrills at the expense of fuel economy.

We like the CLA 200 petrol engine, which is the more powerful of the two standard petrols. It offers 0-62mph acceleration in a whisker over eight seconds yet returns up to 46mpg – the same as the CLA 180 petrol engine. On paper, the CLA 250e hybrid is the quickest of the non-AMG cars and is the most efficient, but you’ll need to make extensive use of its 40-mile electric range to get anywhere near Mercedes’ claimed 282mpg figure.

Driving and comfort

It might look like a luxury car but the CLA doesn’t quite have the ride quality you’d get in a high-end Mercedes. The suspension is just a little too firm and busy for our liking, although it does settle down on faster roads.

Performance and handling are both good enough without being exceptional. If you just want to get from A to B in some sort of comfort, you’ll find the CLA perfectly acceptable. It’s just a bit of a shame that the CLA doesn’t excel for driving thrills or comfort, instead feeling very slightly compromised between the two.

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