2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA220d AMG Line Premium Plus C118
The key to maximising profits is platform sharing, and Mercedes- Benz certainly looks like it has this licked, judging by the number of models that sits on the MFA2 platform. It stands for Modular Front-wheel-drive Architecture 2 and underpins every small car that the company makes, and some that aren’t so little. First there was the A-Class hatchback, then the saloon iteration, and this was followed up by the B-Class MPV. Next came the CLA-Class four-door Coupé, then the Shooting Brake and after that it was time for the SUVs to come to the fore, with the GLB-Class midway through last year, and just before Christmas last year, the GLA-Class made its debut. Once you take into account the long-wheelbase A-Class saloon that is China only, it makes eight different silhouettes, all built on the same chassis. I’d say that the bean counters at Mercedes-Benz can pat themselves on the back and have really put the MFA2 underpinnings to good use.
It’s been approximately a year from when the CLA was revealed until we were able to get behind the wheel of the first diesel examples in the UK. Some may be confused that there’s an A-Class saloon and CLA-Class Coupé existing together, but we’re told by Mercedes- Benz marketeers that they both appeal to a different market, despite appearing to be very similar. Our test car is the more practical of the two CLA models, the Shooting Brake, with a boot that is a very reasonable 505 litres with the seats up and 1,370 litres with the chairs folded down. It’s disappointing that the sill is relatively high, but we’re thankful for the additional storage underneath the boot floor.
The cabin of the CLA is a work of art. As you would expect, it’s a carbon copy of the one found in the A-Class, and that’s just fine, as it’s beautiful. The mood lighting at night is awesome, and really sets the car apart from its rivals. The propeller-like air vents are quite simply wonderful, and the instrument cluster that merges into the infotainment screen to appear like one, long consistent screen is marvellous, not to mention crystal clear to read and perfectly located. Alright the dashboard has a touch too much piano black for our liking, on account of the attraction of dust and dirty finger marks, but it’s worth keeping a cloth close by, just to appreciate how wonderful it is. Neat rows of switches and buttons are carefully arranged for ease of operation and everything is where you would expect it to be. Soft, tactile surfaces adorn the dashboard and door tops, for the maximum amount of plushness.
The driving position is low set, and the seats hug your body nicely. The seat back neatly integrates with the head rest and boosts the car’s sporting agenda. Headroom is great both front and back, though taller rear occupants will wish for more kneeroom, however foot space is decent. A lidded cubby on the centre console is generously sized, and the armrest that opens butterfly-style delivers a decent amount of room for oddments, while large door pockets and a goodsized glovebox provide extra storage.
The frameless windows are a neat touch, though our test car required a decent slam in order to close the doors first time. The 188bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is seriously quick, and in our opinion, really could do with the addition of 4Matic four-wheel- drive to avoid wheel spin, and so that the available power can be put down on the tarmac cleanly. There’s a thumping amount of mid-range torque that makes overtaking slower moving vehicles an absolute joy. A choice of three driving modes – Sport, Comfort and Eco –and an individual setting allows you to tailor the driving experience more to your liking. The eight-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission is responsive and kicks down quickly when you need extra power and paddleshifts allow you to take over manual control. The steering is responsive and alert, and the handling very tidy through the bends, with lean nicely controlled. Road and tyre noise are a little higher than we would expect, but wind flutter minimal. Ride comfort is suitably sporty, yet pliant, with only the severest of imperfections transmitted inside the car into the cabin.
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