Paul Murrell’s 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

In a nutshell There is an obvious contradiction in the term “four-door coupe” but more manufacturers are taking it on board. Latest to join the list is Mercedes-Benz’s new CLA. Despite being the cheapest Mercedes-Benz sedan (it comes in a full $10,000 under the already-good-value C-Class), this is a car that will sell on its appearance, as much as the three-pointed star in the grille.

Practical Motoring Says The Mercedes-Benz CLA will tempt a record number of new buyers into sitting themselves behind the three-pointed star. It is tempting to contemplate how the Australian car building industry may have fared had it built cars like the CLA: beautifully styled, impeccably built, sensibly sized and affordable.

MERCEDES-BENZ IS RAPIDLY MOVING into price points and categories it has never previously targeted. All those car companies that had the playing field to themselves had best prepare for a blitzkrieg the likes of which they have never seen before.

The CLA sedan borrows heavily from CLS, and even though it’s a “mini-me” interpretation, it generally comes off. It shares not a single panel with the A-Class from which it is derived. The bold grille dominates the front end with an unmistakable Benz presence and thrusts forward aggressively. The low roof line severely compromises rear seat headroom, but that’s the trade-off most buyers will be happy to make.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 is a great entry point into a Merc sedan

The front tombstone seats are well shaped and provide good support, although you’ll have to adjust them manually. As we said, it’s a different story in the back. If we are being honest (and we always are), we’d call the CLA a 2+2. The imitation leather trim is not up to M-B’s usual high standards.

The interior follows current Mercedes-Benz practice. The faux-leather stitched dash, evocative Benz steering wheel and a fine balance of galvanised metal surfaces to offset the black impart just the right sense of premium. The floating colour display and circular air vents look the part, but the Becker satellite navigation unit looks like an afterthought. Mercedes’ Command navigation looks far more in keeping with expectations, although it will set you back $2264 if bundled with digital radio and Harman Kardon audio.

Only the most optimistic would assume that the CLA will perform and handle to the same high standard as more imposing Mercs. That said, it does deliver the same taut handling and torquey engine response to be found in the A-Class. The minor let down comes with the steering and ride quality – they simply aren’t what we have come to expect from Mercedes-Benz.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 rides and handles well and the cabin is well insulated

With only 1.6-litres of turbocharged four-cylinder (115kW and 250Nm from 1250rpm) to move its 1400kg, the CLA won’t rip the tarmac from the road, but in the real world, there is more than adequate get-up-and-go. Fuel consumption figures (claimed) of 5.7L/100km wouldn’t be achievable if the engine was working close to its potential. The seven-speed twin clutch auto is perfectly matched to the power and torque of the engine, always seeming to find the exact ratio for the situation.

Only a few years ago, the prospect of a Mercedes-Benz sedan for under $50,000 (or the equivalent) would have been unthinkable. It’s still something of a surprise to see Benzes for the same price as less exalted brands. Despite undercutting the C-Class sedan by around $10,000, the CLA is actually a larger car (although patently less practical).

And the equipment levels are hardly bare bones either: bi-xenon headlights, blind spot monitor (useful with the large blind spot around the C-pillar), dual zone air conditioning, 14.7cm screen display, Bluetooth with audio streaming, Becker Map Pilot sat nav with iPod and iPhone integration, folding exterior mirrors, 18-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, illuminated door sills, auto wipers, thermotronic climate control and quite a bit more.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 is more of a 2+2 than a true four-seater.

Mercedes-Benz would never compromise its commitment to safety, and it hasn’t done so here. There are nine airbags including knee bags for both front passengers. In addition there are attention assist, pre-tensioning seat belts, radar-based braking system to prevent low speed nose-to-tail collisions, adaptive brake hold, blind-spot assist, active park assist plus all the usual electronic braking and traction control systems. Needless to say, the CLA achieves the full five-star ANCAP safety rating.

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Mercedes-Benz CLA 200

PRICE $49,900 (+ORC) WARRANTY three-years/unlimited kilometres SAFETY five-star ANCAP ENGINE 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol POWER/TORQUE 115kW/250Nm TRANSMISSION seven-speed twin clutch automatic BODY 4.63m (L); 1.78m (W); 1.43m (H) WEIGHT 1395kg THIRST 5.7/100km (combined – claimed)


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