Mercedes Benz CLA 200 Launch Review

Tim O'Brien | 7 Comments

MERCEDES CLA REVIEW

What’s hot: Mercedes quality, but affordable, and a super drive
What’s not: The length of the waiting list might be a killer…
X-FACTOR: Not just an affordable Mercedes Benz, but one with edgy lines and space inside for the modern family

Vehicle style: Compact Sedan
Price: $49,990
Engine/trans: 115kW/250Nm 1.6 turbo petrol | 7spd twin-clutch auto
Fuel consumption listed: 5.7 l/100km | tested: 7.9 l/100km

Here’s the next salvo in Mercedes Benz’ “compact car offensive”: its CLA 200 sedan.

It gate-crashes the Australian market at just under $50,000. It is spookily quiet on road, beautifully finished inside and drives superbly.

It’s also a tad longer (about a centimetre) than the more conservative C-Class sedan and its swoopy coupe-like lines give it real ‘carpark presence’.

But is the new CLA going to sell? Spend a day in the saddle and you won’t even bother ask.

This, the CLA 200, the “A-Class sedan”, is one very compelling car. With that three-pointed-star on the nose, and a price within reach of ‘ordinary’ buyers, it will sell its buns off.

There’s a bank of orders already on the books. The only question in this market will be the length of the waiting list, and how long it will be before you can get your mitts on one.

INTERIOR

The interior look and feel will be familiar to Mercedes A-Class hatch buyers. The interior style, layout, controls and material quality are essentially the same.

Settle in behind the grippy sports wheel and there is no mistaking the feel of a premium interior.

The ‘leather’-stitched dash (it’s not really leather), nicely-shaped ARTICO sports seats and the mix of galvanised metal surfaces and highlights elevates the CLA 200 above the common rung.

There is a very typical Mercedes feel of solidity and of no-nonsense style. We weren't so keen though on the 'sports-kit' stripes running through the seats of our tester (a bit naff, we thought).

2013 mercedes benz cla 200 05a
I’m also no great fan of the gear-selector lever sitting at the right of the wheel. While it's something you get used to, it’s too easy to snag and tip into neutral.

Of course, the Mercedes badge on the steering wheel helps adjust the appreciation of your surroundings.

With the doors snugly shut, it’s one of the quietest places you’ll experience on four wheels.

And if you like clarity in your audio, or quiet conversation, the serenity inside adds to the comfort and enjoyment of the drive.

Front seats are nicely shaped, as are those in the rear.

A downside to the flattened coupe profile however is the sense that the top of the screen sits a little too near the forehead of front passengers, and the taper of the roofline compromises rear space.

Long-legged teenage lumps might find the headroom in the back an issue on a longer trip.

But they won’t complain about the comfort of the seats, the quality of the trim, nor the ride.

Neither will they complain about the AUDIO 20 platform, the easily accessed 14.7cm screen display (which, as in the hatch, is ‘hung’ awkwardly on the dash), or the quality of the sound system with CD/DVD/MP3 and WMA/ACC compatibility.

Features also include Bluetooth with audio streaming, Becker MAP PILOT navigation, iPod and iPhone integration, Aux-in and USB interface, plus exterior folding mirrors, 18-inch twin-spoke alloys, illuminated door sills, rain-sensing wipers, ‘thermotronic’ climate control and a host more.

Standard safety features include nine airbags, attention assist, radar-based braking system (for preventing low-speed shunts), adaptive brake hold, blind-spot assist and active park assist among the usual dynamic safety braking and traction control acronyms.

ON THE ROAD

Yes, it’s just a 1.6 litre turbo ‘four’ under the bonnet. But no, for everyday driving, for overtaking, for running through the hills or hustling out of a corner, it feels not at all underpowered.

The turbo helps matters. Those 1.6 litres manage a reasonable 115kW and 250Nm thanks to the extra huff of the turbo.

The result is that the CLA 200 will pull 100km/h in 8.5 seconds and return 5.7 l/100km into the bargain. Those are not the figures of an engine struggling in the performance of its duties.

Sure, it’s no hot-hatch, but this is a car for the ‘everyday’. And for that it’s powered just right.

Also helping things is the seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission (7G-DCT). It is beautifully matched to the characteristics of the engine, and shifts rapidly and seamlessly to keep the right gear underfoot.

It is also ‘settled’; free of hunting and happy to rely on the low-down urge of the turbo rather than chopping through the gears.

And if any further assistance is required you can always knock it down a cog or two with the steering wheel paddles.

The settled nature of the seven-speed DCT gives the CLA 200 the relaxed long legs of a much bigger four or six-cylinder.

This impression is strengthened by the serene quietness of the engine – banished by the sound-deadening isolating the cabin – and the near total absence of wind-noise, even at very high speeds.

The CLA 200, according to Mercedes, is “the world’s most aerodynamic production vehicle”.

With a drag co-efficient of just 0.23Cd – achieved, surely, thanks to the swoopy coupe profile and rounded ‘duck-arse’ rear – it punches the smallest of holes in the air and makes not the tiniest flutter on the highway.

It’s so quiet, in fact, that tyre noise is more noticeable than it would otherwise be. Our test car featured ‘run-flat’ Goodyear tyres. I’d be getting rid of them, I’d reckon, and go for something quieter.

The ride though is as good as you’ll find in car this size. With superb fore-aft balance and well-controlled damping, the CLA is a delight to hustle along a country road.

Even when pushing on, we found it free of jarring and with just the right compliance – slightly firm, but not too firm – to have an alive sporting character. It’s conventional fare down below: McPherson front axle and an independent multilink rear, but it works very well.

FIRST DRIVE VERDICT

The sedan is dead? I think not.

If there was to be a sedan with the appeal, quality and price to bring family drivers back to ‘four doors and a boot’, this is the sedan to do it.

The CLA 200 is a cracking car. There’s not a lot headroom in the back, but ample knee-room, a huge boot and a little ‘four’ under the bonnet with ample zest for relaxed long-distance driving.

Better still, even if you wring its neck, it is never going to kill the family budget at the bowser.

The harder and longer you think about this car, the more sense it makes. Stylish, individual, and beautifully engineered and finished, the CLA is a ‘Mercedes for the people’.

Well, people, that’s our verdict. When word gets out, the only thing that will slow sales of the CLA down will be the wrestle with the waiting list.

(Here’s a tip: get in early.)

Pricing (excludes on-road costs)

  • CLA 200: $49,900
  • CLA 250 Sport: $63,400 (due April)
  • CLA 45 AMG: $86,900

Filed under: Featured, review, Mercedes-Benz, awd, sedan, automatic, fwd, prestige, small, family, Advice, special-featured, 4door, 7a, tim o'brien, 5seat, mercedes-benz cla, 2014my, mercedes-benz cla 45 amg, mercedes-benz cla-class, mercedes-amg cla 45

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  • Chest Rockjaw says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    Looks like a winner. I have my doubts about reliability and running costs after owning a couple of much vaunted German cars. If. MB offered a 5 year warranty and 10 years on drivetrain it would be a good sign. As it stands, MB only offers 3 years that cannot be factory extended... Not exactly a ringing endorsement by MB themselves.
    • MotorMouth says,
      1 year ago
      It's a Mercedes-Benz - it will be leased and turned over after two years by 99% of buyers. That leaves the second owner with a year to make sure it's all good.
    • Paul says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      Went to Mercedes on Kinsway Melbourne today. They have a few CLA 200's coming in next month but apparently there is a 8 month wait list for orders with panoramic glass option.
      Have to say the service was pathetic today. The salesman was eager to show off his sales awards on his desk but it took him 5 minutes to price an entry level with leather interior.
      The plonker didnt know any optional pricing packages and was not forthcoming.
      He basically said there's the car mate, 8 month wait list, if you want a standard one come back next month.

      Off to another dealership tomorrow.
  • Russ says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    Being an owner of a new A180 I agree about the gear selector, I have put it into neutral a few times. What I am surprised that I haven't read about in reviews, and this applies to the CLA as well, is the ergonomics in relation to the HVAC controls. It is virtually impossible to change settings while driving as they are so low down on the dash and everything is BLACK! The only easy adjustment you can make is the fan speed. The other annoying thing is the park break, WHY put it out of sight and reach? Particularly seeing as it does not apply automatically (unless you remember to use the HOLD function)The centre consul is the obvious place for it. Is this being different for the sake of it?
    Apart from those things (and the go-cart suspension) my A Class is a beautiful machine.
    • Russ says,
      1 year ago
      OOPS! BRAKE not break!
      Being an owner of a new A180 I agree about the gear selector, I have put it into neutral a few times. What I am surprised that I haven't read about in reviews, and this applies to the CLA as well, is the ergonomics in relation to the HVAC controls. It is virtually impossible to change settings while driving as they are so low down on the dash and everything is BLACK! The only easy adjustment you can make is the fan speed. The other annoying thing is the park break, WHY put it out of sight and reach? Particularly seeing as it does not apply automatically (unless you remember to use the HOLD function)The centre consul is the obvious place for it. Is this being different for the sake of it?
      Apart from those things (and the go-cart suspension) my A Class is a beautiful machine.


  • Popper says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    In the US, the base CLA 250 (yes, 250) is about the same price as the new model MAZDA 3 with the 2.5 litre engine (with a few options added to it). That is, ~US$29,000 for the Mazda versus ~US$31,000 for the MB and US$33,000 for the MB with 4matic. Just saying.
  • john says,
    1 year ago
    3 likes
    The CLA looks and sounds like a winner.Having owned several Mercedes both in Australia and in the Us we really have to wake up to the enormous difference in the MRP in the US and here. The CLS is about US$ 75000 in the US. The same car is about A$ 230,000 in Australia The same difference will apply to the CLA.
    The australian consumer is taken to the cleaners. The price in Australia is "what the market will stand"
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