First Drive: Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake

The CLA Shooting Brake is another niche product from Mercedes, aimed to slot in between a standard estate car and a large hatchback. With coupe-like looks and increased boot space when compared to the standard CLA, the Shooting Brake should be all things to all people. The question remains, is it? AOL Cars takes it for a spin to find out.

What is it?

The CLA Shooting Brake is a car that Mercedes is angling towards active types of drivers – those that want a car into which they can easily throw a bike in the boot, while keeping coupe-style looks and decent on-road handling. We're testing the 220 CDI, which will no doubt be the most popular as it gives the best amount of performance while still retaining decent fuel economy.
What's under the bonnet?

Residing under the CLA's long, sculpted bonnet is a 2.1-litre diesel engine, which produces 175bhp and 350Nm of torque. It does this while returning a combined economy figure of 67.3mpg and emitting 108g/km of CO2. Driven through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to the front wheels, this engine also features in the lower-powered 200 CDI - though in a lesser state of tune. Unfortunately, the little four-cylinder is a touch clattery under hard acceleration, and seems lazy to get going from a dead stop. Up and running it's very pleasant, though, and settles down on the motorway. Fuel economy is decent in the real world, too.

What's the spec like?

You can have the CLA Shooting Brake in four different specifications – Sport, AMG Sport, OrangeArt and Engineered by AMG. We were given the base Sport specification, which still includes Active Park Assist, body coloured bumpers and an automatic powered tailgate. It also features cruise control, sports seats and a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. Despite being the base specification, the Sport still includes a hefty amount of standard equipment – but this is to be expected given the £30,625 base price. Some of the plastics used in the interior are a little scratchy - something we'd like replaced with softer-touch materials.

Unfortunately, this interior lacks the sparkle that we've come to expect from Mercedes lately, and the dashboard developed an annoying squeak despite the car having only done around 7,000 miles. We've tried the standard CLA in the higher AMG Sport trim and it's a much more special place to sit – this base one appears to lack the 'wow' factor that should come with a £30k plus car. That said, it's a comfortable environment to be in for trips, be they long or short.

First Drive: Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake
See Gallery
First Drive: Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake

Any rivals?

Definitely. At this price range, the Shooting Brake is punching into the small estate category, with the likes of the BMW 3-Series Touring coming into view. There's also opposition from within Mercedes itself – with a C-Class Estate only around £3,000 extra but providing a greater amount of space and versatility. It's a pretty thing to look at, there's no doubt about that, but whether that is enough for the Shooting Brake to win points over its rivals is difficult to see.

What's it like to drive?

Strangely enough, much like the standard CLA saloon. There's a large amount of tyre noise from the 18-inch alloy wheels, especially at motorway speeds. Intrusive in the cabin, it doesn't provide the calm driving experience that you would associate with a luxury estate car. The gearbox is smooth when left in fully automatic mode, with Sport mode allowing you to hold on to each gear should you need to. It works well, and can be handy when overtaking or pulling away from a slipway. The gearbox does struggle when pulling away from a dead stop, with the car moving off a few seconds after the throttle has been pressed - annoying when you're trying to get away from a stop quickly.

With such a sloping roofline, visibility is affected – despite the blind spot detectors it can still be difficult to see vehicles over your shoulder. It also makes parallel parking a little tricky at times, though the rear reversing camera helps ease this problem. On standard comfort suspension this Shooting Brake rode very nicely, leaving few bumps transferred to the cabin, but of course body roll does come into play through faster corners – though the increase in comfort is a trade off that most wouldn't mind in an estate car.

AOL Cars Verdict

The CLA Shooting Brake is a genuinely attractive car. With coupe-like lines and grooves in all the right places, it stands out when compared to other small estate cars. Economy-wise, it's an attractive proposition, and business drivers will appreciate the low running costs and consumption figures. It's also a much more practical car than the standard CLA, offering motorists just a little more room to fit some of the bulkier items that the saloon would struggle with. However, the noisy engine is a little bit of a let down, as is the cabin's quality. Of course, a higher specification car is likely to add more of the bells and whistles that we'd associate with Mercedes, but at £30,000 and over you'd think that there would be a little more here.

If you're looking for a small, good-looking and economical car then the CLA Shooting Brake is an almost ideal car. But with a slightly larger C-Class Estate costing only around £3,000 more, it's a tricky decision. With a slightly more refined engine this could be a completely different car, but with the 220 CDI under the bonnet, it lacks the refinement that estate car buyers will be looking for.

The Knowledge

Model: CLA 220 CDI Sport Shooting Brake
Price (As tested): £33,745
Engine: 2.1-litre turbocharged diesel
Power: 175bhp
Torque: 350Nm
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Top Speed: 142mph
Economy: 67.3 (combined)
Emissions: 108g/km
Read Full Story