Rise above the A-Class crowd with a fastback or a shooting brake
To many, Mercedes-Benz offers the ideal blend of performance, comfort, style and efficiency. And the second-generation CLA, introduced in 2019, certainly lives up to that ‘something for everyone’ billing, offering fastback and shooting brake bodystyles and a wide variety of powertrains.
Opening proceedings is the CLA 180, which is propelled by a turbocharged 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 134bhp and arguably the most attractive choice of the lot, for its yin and yang of power and efficiency.
The next-step-up CLA 200 boosts that unit’s output to 161bhp and thus can do 0-62mph in just under 9.0sec.
The CLA 220 ups the ante with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-pot producing 187bhp, a top speed of 150mph and a 0-62mph time shaved down to 7.0sec.
And then there’s the 221bhp CLA 250, which is expensive to run but offers hot hatch performance, hitting 62mph from rest in 6.4sec.
Not enough? Cast your eye towards AMG’s fiery four-wheel-drive models.
The CLA 35 uses a 2.0-litre turbo engine with 306bhp and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, while the CLA 45 S has 415bhp, a 0-62mph time of 4.0sec, an eight-speed gearbox and a significantly higher price tag.
At the opposite end of the scale, the CLA 220d will suit long-distance commuters. Its 187bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine can average up to 55mpg – significantly more than petrols.
Drivers of a greener disposition can opt for the CLA 250e plug-in hybrid, which combines the 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine with an electric motor for 215bhp, 331lb ft and an electric-only range of up to 46 miles.
Mercifully, choosing a trim level is much simpler: AMG Line, AMG Line Premium or AMG Line Premium Plus.
Even the cheapest is well kitted out, with cruise control, 18in alloy wheels, heated front seats, climate control, LED headlights, a 10.25in touchscreen infotainment system and a 7.0in digital instrument display.
AMG Line Premium gets you a 10in instrument display, 64-colour ambient lighting, keyless entry and a premium sound system.
AMG Line Premium Plus brings multibeam adaptive headlights, a panoramic sunroof, traffic-sign recognition and an even better stereo.
All of this adds up to a refined and stylish interior, and this is where the CLA really leads its Audi A3 Saloon and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé rivals.
Sadly, the same can’t be said of the engines: they’re punchy and smooth in the mid-range but fairly coarse on start-up and harsh above 4000rpm. Your default driving mode is likely to be Comfort, as Sport adds a bit too much weight to the steering but not enough feel. In fact, quite illogically, the CLA impresses a bit less than the cheaper A-Class in dynamic terms.
Need to know
A used CLA will cost anywhere between £27,000 and £60,000. Expect to spend up to £33,000 for an entry-level petrol or diesel, rising to £38,000 for an AMG Line Premium plug-in hybrid.
Head room is ample in the front, but rear passengers over six feet tall will struggle for head and leg room. What’s more, each interior handle is so big that you can trap your knee between it and the front seatback while closing the door.
At launch, a shooting brake would have cost you £1000 more than a fastback. There are far fewer of the former type on the used market, but there’s no clear discernible price difference between the two.
AMG Line Premium cars are equipped with augmented reality sat-nav, which displays directions atop a video feed sent through the CLA’s front camera. It’s a nifty, effective and accurate feature not seen on many other cars.
Recalls: The CLA has been the subject of seven recalls since it was launched to remedy problems concerning, among other things, the air conditioning, gearbox and airbags.
Electronics: Owners have complained about some of the interior ambient lights not working once the car is moving. The culprit is a wiring fault that, in a month-long stint at a dealership for one driver, required all the wiring to be stripped out from behind the dashboard, inside the doors and under the seats.
Interior: Some drivers have had their seatbelt mechanism replaced due to rattling emanating from behind the B-pillar. This becomes a safety issue if it distracts you while you’re driving, so book your car into a dealership if you hear it.
Our top spec
AMG Line premium: Mid-range trim offers an impressive array of technology, including ambient lighting, keyless entry and a larger digital dial display, making for a more premium environment.
CLA 180: Powerful enough to satisfy and relatively cheap to run, the CLA 180 offers the ideal blend for most. High-spec examples with lots of kit are available at a reasonable price.
AMG CLA 45 S: The most hardcore variant of the CLA is blisteringly fast and exceptionally sporty, but be prepared to pay hefty sums when both purchasing and running it.
Ones we found
2019 CLA 180 AMG Line, 30,000 miles, £27,490
2020 CLA 200 AMG Line, 10,000 miles, £29,900
2020 CLA 220d AMG Line Premium, 8000 miles, £31,981
2020 CLA 250e AMG Line Premium, 5000 miles, £37,499
2020 CLA 45 S, 8000 miles, £59,990