January 13, 2020
The ultra-niche Mercedes-Benz CLA has curiously done quite well for the German manufacturer, even in far-from-home climes like here in Australia. This new version hopes to at least fill the shoes of its predecessor while trying to gain headway in a league that’s only set to grow.
You can easily see how Mercedes is trying its utmost to wow customers when you see how much tech and equipment is offered on one of its lower-tiered models. It’s been the same way for a while, offering S-Class style at the lower end of the spectrum and with the 2020 CLA it’s actually hard to see how you’d fare better if you did opt for a considerably more expensive S-Class – there’s that much on offer.
We’ve picked up an entry-level CLA200 to see how the new generation car fills the shoes of its predecessor, and initial impressions are promising.
Jump inside and you’re immediately greeted with futuristic screens and fancy surface materials, and it feels plenty comfortable from the get-go. Our car is a fairly base spec, but even still there’s no doubt the interior is the place to be.
All cars receive the AMG line exterior styling package, automatic climate control, sports seats, ambient lighting, digital radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. It also gets the brand’s fancy new MBUX infotainment suite with a pair of 10.25-inch configurable widescreens.
READ MORE: Mercedes-Benz readies MBUX for entire range
A comprehensive list of safety features is also of no cost, with nine airbags, active brake assist, adaptive high beams, lane-keep assist and blind-spot assist equipped. Our Jupiter Red CLA200 also has a Vision package that brings a sunroof, LED headlights with automatic high beams and a 360 degree parking camera.
It’s said to be slightly larger than the outgoing CLA and on initial tests there’s a comfortable amount of room up front, but we’ll have to properly get in and around the car in weeks upcoming to get a seat-of-the-pants feel.
The CLA200 is powered by a 1.3-litre inline four cylinder engine that outputs 120kW/250Nm and is connected to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. On paper, those numbers don’t inspire us with too much confidence for something billed as being sporty and athletic, but we’ll have to judge that in due course too.
We don’t have anything special in store for the CLA’s tenure at WhichCar HQ, we’ll just run it daily and see how it stacks up against the grind of daily driving. We’ll also send it on a few drives and perhaps even spend a weekend away to gauge how well its practicality suits our needs.
If you’ve got any questions or want to know more about a specific aspect of the CLA200, drop us a comment below and we’ll see if we can work in your requests into the next update.
February 10, 2020
Our long-term Mercedes-Benz CLA has been in hot demand ever since it arrived in the WhichCar garage. Firstly it ferried Daniel Gardner north to Mildura to present a segment of WhichCar TV, Glenn Butler has had his hands all over it using it as a runabout to attend meetings and our TV show host, Peter Elliott has also spent time behind the wheel.
It seems like each moment you spend with our little red number is fleeting, but luckily I’ve spent some quality time in the CLA over the past weekend and come away with some key learnings.
As a city-slicking stylish runabout, the CLA presents a strong package. It's priced at a relatively modest $60,700 (before on-road costs) but hosting many of the technologies and design features you’d find on more upmarket Benzes.
Let’s start with the inside. The interior experience is one of the highlights of the CLA, dominated by a duo of 10.25-inch widescreens which house the MBUX infotainment system. Considering Lexus draws the ire of critics for its touchpad-control infotainment system we were a little sceptical of Mercedes moving to it as well; but so far it doesn’t annoy nearly as much as Lexus’ system. The cursor intuitively reacts to where you want it to go and a number of shortcuts allow the user to quick-switch between menu screens.
The materials used around the cabin are of impressive quality, with suede-like fabric used as inserts in the seats and covering part of the door card, while the seat outers, dash and steering wheel are all clad in leatherette. Brushed metal highlights also prevail on the air vents, steering wheel control pads and door uppers.
It’s a fancy place to be, and one that suitably impresses passengers, especially at night with the customisable ambient lighting.
One area that hasn’t impressed us just as much has been the start-stop driving experience around town. The 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder paired with the dual-clutch gearbox is frustrating to use at times, especially when setting off.
Take off from a stop with a press of the accelerator like you would in any car and there’s some initial hesitation from the gearbox which is followed by an unexpected solid shove of acceleration. Breathe lightly on the accelerator the next time round to try mitigate the surge and you find it’s too little. It’s a delicate dance to get right, even just to do something as mundane as driving away from a stop.
We’re happy with the engine’s 120kW/250Nm outputs, but the way it’s delivered needs some fine-tuning. It is much happier at speed, so we wouldn't mind taking it out of Melbourne for a brief country drive to see how it fares.
At the moment the CLA is returning a 7.0L/100km fuel consumption, which is up from its 5.7L/100km claim, but we’ll see how that continues after a bit more varied driving.
If you didn’t tell someone that this was one of Benz’s entry-level sedans, they’d probably guess that it belongs several levels above its actual station in the Mercedes hierarchy.
In fact, with just the A-Class sedan residing beneath it, the CLA 200 sits no higher than the second rung of Mercedes-Benz’s seven-tier four-door line-up. The small wheels and chubby tyres might clue you in on the base-spec status of our CLA, but virtually everything else has an expensive aura.
And that’s why I never grow tired of pinching the keys. Sure it’s got ‘just’ 120kW and I have to manually wind the backrest angle like a peasant, but that all matters nought when I’m in a car that looks and feels this good. It’s scientifically proven that attractive people are more confident, better liked by others and generally the recipients of preferential treatment, and I feel like the same applies when average-looking people (me) drive attractive cars (the CLA).
It’s part of the reason there was no love lost when it had to go back to Benz to have a stuck fuel filler flap rectified – I was just happy to see it eventually return to the WhichCar garage, its low-roof silhouette and handsome proportions were sorely missed. The non-metallic Jupiter Red paint might be atypical for a Mercedes, but it definitely works well with the CLA’s shape and certainly helps it stand out against other traffic too.
That aesthetic appeal flows through to the interior. The sculpting of the dash and choice of materials gives it an opulent feel, enhanced at night by customisable ambient lighting. Sure, there’s faux leather and synthetic microfibre on the seats, but it feels great and the microfibre has an especially nice tactility to it. There’s nothing ersatz about its desirability.
Considering it’s all basically standard, the CLA 200 is a stunning car. The only option box ticked on our long termer was the Vision Package, and with that adding a panoramic sliding sunroof, LED headlamps and a 360-degree parking camera, it’s not an option that greatly influences the beauty of the car. Forgive me for sounding shallow, but the CLA 200 is an attractive thing… and that’s precisely why I like it.