Low slung and sporty, the all-new Mercedes-Benz CLA four-door coupe looks great
Low slung and sporty, the all-new Mercedes-Benz CLA four-door coupe looks great

Low slung and sporty, the all-new Mercedes-Benz CLA four-door coupe looks great

The all-new Mercedes-Benz CLA adds yet another vehicle class to the ever growing range provided by the iconic German marque. Though it has the underpinnings of the third generation A-Class, the CLA isn’t a four-door sedan version of that very successful five-door hatch, but rather a four-door coupe.

So the Mercedes-Benz CLA is a smaller Mercedes CLS four-door coupe, not a longer A-Class sedan. To some extent this decision wasn’t a voluntary one, because when they set out to pen a ‘A-Class sedan’ the designers discovered it was actually longer than its big brother, the C-Class sedan. It was back to the drawing board – and the decision was made to take the four-door coupe direction, and leave the medium sized family car to the C-Class.

The good news is that the CLA is a stunning looking car that drew plenty of attention during our preview drive from Melbourne to the Yarra Valley and back by the scenic route. The front end has the same bold, look-at-me styling of the A-Class with a large ‘diamond’ grille and lights and bonnet taking a definitely sporting shape. The sides are fluted as in the A-Class, with a further high-set style line along the back doors that finishes at the rear of the car.

The sides slope in noticeably at the rear and there’s a distinctive built-in boot spoiler. This shape isn’t for fun – Mercedes tells us the CLA is the most aerodynamic production car ever built – with a Cd figure of just 0.23.

Every external panel of the CLA is different from those of the A-Class, though you can see a family likeness. Inside, the story is different as the two vehicles share the same overall architecture, albeit with detail changes to give the CLA-Class a different theme. The colours and materials change from model to model and there are optional packages to further increase your choices.

Front seats are well shaped and comfortable and there’s good stowage space. However the CLA is a coupe so the back seat has limited headroom and children in their teenage years may not fit well. The boot is a good size and easy to load.

Satellite navigation is standard on all CLA models imported to Australia and sits in the centre pod where it’s easy to see. It ties in neatly with the rest of the Comand system that provides a full degree of connectivity. A quality Harman Kardon audio system is available as an option, it’s sound quality is superb, though there’s no need to criticise the standard audio unit as it also works nicely.

The Benz CLA 200 uses a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine producing up to115 kilowatts of power. The real story is the torque – with a strong 250 Newton metres being there from a ridiculously low 1250 rpm and stretching all the way up to 4000 revs. Unless you drive the car hard the chances are that all your motoring will be done with the engine providing the efficiency of maximum torque.

Transmission is by a seven-speed double-clutch automatic, there’s no manual option.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Sport won’t reach our shores till April 2014 and will have a 2.0-litre powerplant with 155 kW and 350 Nm. A turbo-diesel 200 CDI will arrive in February next year.

We will cover the high-performance AMG version of the CLA, the 45 AMG, in a separate story. Suffice to say it’s an all-wheel-drive rocketship that’s guaranteed to bring smiles to the faces of all keen drivers.

Our introduction to the new midsize Mercedes-Benz was done in the CLA 200. The engine performance from the blown 1.6 engine will suit most drivers, with its strong torque being complemented nicely by a transmission that’s happy to change down to the correct gear with little prodding being needed from the driver.

Though it’s a front-wheel-drive car, that’s not really obvious from the driving seat unless you are pushing it very hard. Until then it retains the sort of neutral feeling you expect from the CLA’s rear-drive big brothers. That’s clever and those who are moving from an Asian car to a relatively affordable Mercedes for the first time will love the driving feel.

Mercedes-Benz has long been one of the leaders in safety and the CLA has everything from driver drowsiness warnings to radar detection of potential crashes that can prevent or at least minimise crashes. There’s automatic lane keeping and blind spot warning systems. A complete suite of occupant protection devices ensured the CLA had no trouble getting a maximum five-star rating in crash tests.

The newest Mercedes CLA coupe is a good family car as the kids can get in and out without having to disturb mum and dad in the front seats. Getting a bub into their seat is made simpler as well. So the family can enjoy the looks and prestige of owning a coupe and the pleasure of driving a sporty looking machine.

With a price range beginning at $49,900 the all-new Mercedes CLA seems assured of enjoying the same sales success as its brother the A-Class.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class range is:
CLA 200: $49,900
CLA 200 CDI: $50,400 (due February 2014)
CLA 250 Sport: $63,400 (due April 2014)
CLA 45 AMG: $86,900
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for driveaway prices.

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