Skip advert
Advertisement

Mercedes-Benz CLA250 review (2013 - 2018)

The new Mercedes CLA is a mini-me CLS four-door coupe, driven here in CLA250 turbo petrol form

Evo rating
Price
from £28,000
  • Looks stylish, well balanced
  • Harsh ride, average drivetrain

This is the Mercedes-Benz CLA. It looks a little bit like a dumpier, stumpier CLS but instead of a suave rear-drive chassis it’s actually based on the front-wheel drive A-Class. A ‘four-door coupe’ with a three-pointed star on the grille for sub-£30,000 is sure to be a recipe for success. 

Technical highlights

It has McPherson struts up front, a multi-link rear axle and is powered a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines that drive through a six-speed manual or seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox.  The most exciting model from evo’s point of view is the CLA250, powered by a 2-litre direct injection and turbocharged engine producing a decent 208bhp and 258lb ft. Sadly it’s pushing a rather portly 1480kg, although its astonishingly slippery shape should help to pass it energetically through the air. In tiny-rimmed C180 BlueEfficiency spec the CLA has a drag coefficient of Cd 0.22. 

What’s it like to drive?

As a sensible, premium and stylish statement it’s probably a mighty fine thing. Sadly, it’s not really on the pace dynamically. Not just for people like us, but for anybody with an ounce of sensitivity in their bones. The engine offers plenty of performance but sounds hopelessly dull and its delivery feels strangled at the top end. Of course the wide spread of torque is useful but the almost diesel-like delivery can feel rather turgid.  However, the real problem is with the 7G-DCT gearbox, which is incredibly slow-witted in Eco mode, too aggressive in Sport – downchanging into corners like a 17-year-old Ferrari owner in Mayfair and hanging on to gears when you just want an upshift – and then failing to really respond to inputs from the paddles in Manual mode.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

It’s not a patch on the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox used by rivals. The six-speed manual is better but if fails to lift the CLA out of mediocrity, and is only available on less potent models, not this 250. The chassis balance itself is pretty tidy, there is understeer but also a surprising amount of throttle adjustability when you really get going. But the ride – whether the CLA is fitted with Comfort or Sport suspension – is ragged and its poor wheel control makes the car feel scrappier the harder you push it. It’s a shame because that underlying balance is rather sweet and the steering is accurate and has good feel, too. Somehow though, it just never really comes together for the CLA. We can only hope that the CLA45 AMG – complete with a Haldex four-wheel drive system – will be a more cohesive and exciting package. 

How does it compare?

Priced at around £28,000 when sales begin in late summer, the CLA is priced above the A-class it’s based on and just below comparative BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class models, rear-driven cars traditionally from a class above. A more fitting comparison for us is to a five-door BMW M135i. Not as stylish or good-looking as a CLA, but from £31,085, a proper drivers’ car with 316bhp and the choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. 

Anything else I need to know? 

That CLA45 AMG (previewed here) debuts at the 2013 New York motor show in April, so we should get to drive one in the summer. The recent talent seen in AMG-badged models has led us to expect big things.

Specifications

EngineIn-line 4-cyl, 1991cc, turbocharged
Max power208bhp @ 5500rpm
Max torque258lb ft @ 1200rpm
0-606.7sec (claimed 0-62)
Top speed149mph (claimed)
On saleSummer 2013
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Saab PhoeniX – dead on arrival
Saab PhoeniX
Features

Saab PhoeniX – dead on arrival

The Swedish brand’s failed 2010s revival meant we missed out on a 400bhp hybrid TT rival – and more
11 Jul 2024
BMW M3 CS v Litchfield BMW M2: which makes the better track car?
BMW M3 CS v Litchfield BMW M2 – front
Group tests

BMW M3 CS v Litchfield BMW M2: which makes the better track car?

BMW's latest and greatest M3 takes on Litchfield's 640bhp tuned M2 around Cadwell Park
13 Jul 2024
Mercedes-AMG GT 63 v Porsche 911 Turbo S – car pictures of the week
Mercedes-AMG GT 63 v Porsche 911 Turbo S – front
Features

Mercedes-AMG GT 63 v Porsche 911 Turbo S – car pictures of the week

In the latest issue of evo, we test the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 against Porsche’s 911 Turbo S – these are our favourite shots
14 Jul 2024