Mercedes is following up the new A-class hatchback with the next-generation version of its CLA ‘four-door coupe’. That pigeonholing is important too, to avoid confusing the CLA with the A-class saloon, which has a larger cabin and a more traditional saloon silhouette where the CLA retains a more coupe-like profile.
Based on the same front-wheel-drive platform as the all-new A-class, the latest CLA is larger than its predecessor in almost all directions, sitting 48mm longer and 53mm wider, and just 2mm lower, for a more aggressive stance on the road. The previous CLA’s odd profile has been reformed, thanks to Mercedes’ designers moving the cabin marginally further back on the platform and lengthening the bonnet to make the model look longer, lower and more ‘premium’. Due to the availability of the more accommodating A-class saloon, the CLA’s cramped rear seats have not dramatically improved, with the only noticeable enhancement being the extra shoulder room, thanks to the wider body.
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Although the new A-class’s front-end styling is almost identical to that of the larger CLS, the new CLA instead takes inspiration from the GT 4-door, with an aggressively raked central grille, and larger, more ornate headlights. From there back, though, you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the CLS, as the soft, gentle curves, pared-back surfacing and clean rear elements are details directly borrowed from the bigger CL model.
Elsewhere, the CLA clearly shows its A-class roots, with an identical interior design, highlighted with the latest MBUX infotainment system and optional augmented reality satnav. As in the hatch, the cabin is innovative and different, but heavily based around the (also optional) pair of 10.25-inch screens that appear to ‘rest’ upon a shelf in the dashboard.
The CLA’s chassis and powertrains are also shared with the A-class, including the marque’s new 1.33-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and 2-litre turbo petrol and diesels. The standard CLA range will be topped by the CLA250, with a 222bhp turbocharged four-cylinder engine matched exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The new CLA will also eventually be available in up to three AMG versions, including a CLA35 with a 302bhp version of the CLA250’s engine, and two CLA45s, a non-S and an S, with power outputs straddling either side of 400bhp – impressive for a series-production four-cylinder engine with normal service intervals.
Although the new CLA doesn’t ostensibly do anything the last one didn’t, the new A-class’s more substantial, if not particularly engaging chassis should make this second-generation CLA a better saloon, even if it does creep even closer to the bigger, rear-wheel-drive C-class that sits above it in the range. Launching in May this year, the CLA’s unveiling at the CES tech show says all you need to know about who exactly Mercedes is aiming this new model at.