Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Mercedes Benz CLA

The Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is a more spacious and more practical version of the CLA saloon. On paper, it offers more bootspace than a C-Class estate, but the sloping roofline limits rear-seat headroom and compromises outright load capacity.Following the success of its larger CLS Shooting Brake, Mercedes painted the baby CLA with the same brush. Looks won’t be to all tastes, but there’s no denying the Shooting Brake casts a striking profile. It gets the same front end as the standard CLA, but from the B-pillar back, the higher roofline marks this out as the slightly more versatile estate model.

Merc’s habit of finding a niche within a niche means rivals in this market are few and far between. As a result the CLA Shooting Brake must compete with cars like the Volkswagen Golf Estate, Honda Civic Tourer – or even the Audi Q3 or BMW X1.

It gets the same range of engines as its four-door sibling, meaning a choice of three petrols and two diesels. The entry-level 1.6-litre turbo CLA 180 is the cheapest model, while the 2.0-litre turbo CLA 250 is faster and comes with 4MATIC four-wheel drive. Those looking for cheaper running costs should look at the 2.1-litre (CLA 200 and CLA 220 CDI) diesels, though true driving thrills are reserved for the flagship CLA 45 AMG.

Trim levels comprise Sport, AMG Sport, OrangeArt and ‘Engineered by AMG’. The latter features 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension and red styling details, while the full-fat CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake tops the range as a standalone model. The OrangeArt trim is new for 2015 and adds orange highlights to the wheels, bumpers and interior, and makes the already eye-catching CLA frankly unmissable.

 While the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake’s looks won’t be to all tastes, there’s no denying it cuts a sharp profile. From the front it looks identical to the four-door saloon, but from the side, the higher roofline and swept-back looks are clear for all to see.

Don’t be fooled by the slightly boxier styling, though. This CLA Shooting Brake is a fashion statement more than it is a practical load-lugger. The sloping roof eats into interior space and the sleek rear lights mean the boot opening is far less square than you’d expect from a normal estate car.

Inside, the dashboard has been lifted straight from the standard CLA. That means the same iPad-style central screen glued to the dash, and identical buttons for the stereo and navigation controls. The petrol and diesel cars get a steering-wheel mounted gearshifter, while the CLA 45 AMG, gets a beautifully detailed joystick-style lever on the centre console. It’s not the last word in quality, but the CLA easily holds its own in this part of the market.