Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces. This week, it’s the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake.
First there was the Mercedes C-Class, which arrived in 1993, and was swiftly followed by the C-Class estate. Four years later the A-Class arrived. And in 2013, Mercedes gave us the CLA (not to be confused on Google with the Country Landowners Association). Was it a small C-Class, or a large A-Class? It was a car which is variously described as a sub-compact saloon, a four-door coupe and a fast-back sedan, all of which show the challenge: this is a niche within a niche, within a niche, which borrows the best bits from various other models and sticks them all together alongside a price tag. And, actually, there’s another niche within that niche, which is what we’ve tested: the CLA Shooting Brake. Or shooting break, depending on how you view the etymology of the word. Or estate.
More favourably, however, this is the car plenty of customers are looking for. Many will argue it’s better looking than the C-Class estate, or the A-Class hatchback on which it is based – it’s certainly got more contemporary lines – and it feels more performance focused, as well as offering more boot space than the A-Class.
We put the revised CLA 220 AMG Line Premium Shooting Brake to the test.
Inside, there is now more shoulder, head and elbow room for passengers, although tall adults will still struggle in the back, where that sloping roofline, so great on the outside, takes its toll. There is now a touchpad on the steering wheel for controlling functions, taken from the S-Class, and a fully digital cockpit display.
Standard equipment includes Mercedes’ frankly brilliant new MBUX infotainment system, which puts all other brands’ in the shade, for now. The graphics are sharp and innovative; for example, your albums on your smartphone display as a curved, swipeable carousel on the large screen. There is a huge array of apps and connected services on offer and voice recognition.
AMG Line cars come with three years of sat-nav live services, LED high-performance headlights, privacy glass, smartphone connectivity, wireless charging, heated front seats and a choice of four colours for the leather seats. You also get active lane-keeping assist, speed-limit assist and parking assist as standard.
Our test car had a 2.0-litre, in-line four-cylinder petrol engine developing 190PS and 300Nm of torque. That means 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, via Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic transmission. None of this is scintillating stuff, but it’s just the job for fuel consumption –expect about 42mpg – and the performance is complemented by the sweet chassis of the A-Class, which has made that hatchback such a popular car. At the front there are double-tube gas pressure MacPherson struts, coil and springs and there’s a multi-link rear set-up, which is all pretty standard, but somewhere along the line it gets a dose of Merc magic that dampens down harshness and vibration and dials up the premium vibe.
Where the A-Class hatchback and C-Class estates are purchases for the head (with the exception of the AMG variants…), the CLA Shooting Brake contains a bit more for the heart. That’s in essence down to the fastback design of the rear, which isn’t very practical but does look great, and lends a more dynamic edge to this practical little estate.
Combined with the new MBUX infotainment software, this car should now be on the radar of chic urban and rural dwellers looking for a stylish, high-end, compact car.