As the CLA shares its underpinnings with the A-class it’s not off to the best start. The A-class has never been heralded as a standard-bearer for ride comfort or particularly sharp, engaging handling, and nothing has really changed with the CLA. There’s obviously some difference in the weight distribution thanks to the longer saloon boot, but it does little to change the car’s balance.
Rather confusingly, Sport models get comfort suspension, while AMG Line and WhiteArt models get lowered comfort suspension. Trade up to the CLA 250 and lowered sports suspension is standard, while CLA 250 WhiteArt models trade the 18in alloy wheels standard on every other model for 19in AMG items. We've not yet driven this particular car, but the combination of the sports suspension and 19-inch wheels is likely to be quite firm.
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The comfort option offers the best ride comfort, and while it gets a little bit busy over rougher road surfaces the recent range revisions made it a great deal better than before. The sport suspension is firmer still, particularly as it’s usually in conjunction with larger alloy wheels. The steering offers good weighting, but there’s little feel at the rim, even if it proves accurate on turn in. Roll resistance is good as a result of the firm suspension, but it’d benefit from a touch more roll if the trade-off were a more compliant ride on typical British roads.
It's worth mentioning that recent improvements to the standard A-class - including adaptive suspension - have somewhat transformed the model's previously poor ride quality, and they're now available on the CLA too. They aren't available on all equipment grades, but the £595 Mercedes commands is well worth the extra given the improved behaviour.