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Mercedes CLA interior, tech and practicality

Comfort and visibility

Mercedes’ interior design, with two large screens connected by a sleek bezel, isn’t new now, but it still looks fantastic. The first impression you get is quality – it manages to look expensive, and a lot of the materials you interact with feel authentic. The seats are upholstered in man-made Artico leather that feels soft and plush, while the metal trim is cool to the touch and the controls operate with a reassuring solidness.

Even so, build quality could be a fraction better. Everything you’ll regularly touch feels well screwed together, but venture into less-used areas of the cabin – such as the air vent surrounds and the interior light buttons – and you’ll come across some cheaper, flimsier materials. You typically wouldn’t get this in a more expensive Mercedes, while the Audi A3 manages to hide its cheaper plastics a little better.

The car’s coupe shape means rear visibility can sometimes be obstructed, but parking shouldn’t be an issue as every CLA gets a reversing camera and parking sensors at both ends as standard.

Standard equipment

In December 2022, Mercedes added a new Sport Executive entry-level trim to the CLA range, which had previously only consisted of sporty AMG Line models. Sport Executive gets intricate silver-painted 18-inch alloy wheels, wood trim and beige Artico upholstery. Equipment highlights include LED headlights, heated comfort seats, two-zone climate control and cruise control.

The standard AMG Line trim level has now been discontinued. A used CLA in AMG Line trim has plenty of features, including sat nav, two-tone 18-inch alloys, heated sports seats and push-button start. AMG Line editions get a racier body kit and a chrome-dotted grille.

AMG Line was effectively replaced by AMG Line Executive, which gained a larger digital dial display and 64-colour ambient lighting. Moving further up to AMG Line Premium adds keyless entry and a powered bootlid.

Top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus has a long name and a long kit list, with highlights such as a panoramic sunroof, memory seats and Multibeam LED headlights that adjust the lighting pattern to avoid blinding other drivers.

Infotainment and audio

Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system is one of the best on the market, with high-definition graphics and rapid loading times. It makes the CLA feel like an expensive car. Once you’ve worked out the slightly fiddly steering wheel controls, you’ll be able to explore all the features squeezed into those screens. Even so, the left-hand screen is a touchscreen and you can control the system with voice control by saying ‘Hey Mercedes’. Additionally, there’s also a touch pad on the lower centre console, which can be used for functions such as inputting letters for a postcode.

All CLAs get a large 10.25-inch infotainment screen, which heightens the premium feel. Lower-spec Mercedes A-Class models made do with a seven-inch screen that looks lost in the plastic surround. Now, all new CLAs get a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster as well so, whichever spec you get, you’re guaranteed two impressive-looking displays.

The large touchscreen makes the built-in sat nav really easy to follow, and some models get fancy augmented reality sat nav that overlays big arrows onto a camera feed of the road ahead. Of course, you might not decide to use Mercedes’ in-built system if you pick a CLA that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto fitted.

Rear seat space

The CLA is a car you buy for its svelte styling and not necessarily how spacious it is. Even the front-seat occupants will find headroom a bit tight, and rear-seat passengers have less space because of the sloping roofline. You don’t have to be particularly tall to feel your hair brushing against the headliner – six-footers will feel cramped. And you might be nursing a bruise on your head, as the car’s roof shape makes it easy to bump your head on the way in or out.

Both those issues are partly solved by the CLA Shooting Brake, which does a little better for rear headroom. It’s also probably a better car for getting kids’ car seats in and out, although neither CLA body style makes this especially easy.

As the CLA shares its wheelbase with the A-Class, legroom is about the same despite the CLA being a longer car. With the scalloped shape of the front seat backs, there’s enough legroom unless you’re really tall.

Four adults should be comfortable in the CLA, but it’ll feel very cramped with five on board. A smaller middle seat and a large transmission tunnel mean there’s not much space for a fifth bum.

Boot space

In terms of sheer size, the Mercedes CLA has a much bigger boot than the A-Class hatchback or saloon. At 460 litres, it’s around 100 litres larger than the A-Class hatch, so you’ll fit far more in the CLA. Although, like in any saloon, the items you carry can’t be too tall or too bulky because they won’t fit through the boot opening.

In fairness, the boot opening is better than some small saloons, and it opens to reveal a deep and wide boot space. The seats can be folded in a 40:20:40 split using levers in the boot if you need more space.

Or, you could go for the CLA Shooting Brake, which is an estate version that’s still very style-led. This offers a 505-litre boot and a squarer tailgate opening, with up to 1,370 litres available if you drop the seats down.

With their battery packs below the boot floor, the CLA 250e plug-in hybrid models offer slightly less boot space than petrol and diesel versions. With the seats up, you get 395 litres in the coupe and 454 litres in the estate.

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