What is it?
Mercedes-Benz has found great success by creating a wide variety of variations of its models. That’s especially true of the A-Class, which is available with slightly different names as a hatchback, saloon, estate, coupe and SUV – the only thing missing from the line-up is a convertible.
It’s the estate we’re testing here, more specifically the CLA Shooting Brake. It’s longer than the A-Class but retains its fairly compact proportions, meaning you get practicality in an ultra-stylish package. Prices start at about £32k, marking a £5k saving over the larger and less sleek-looking C-Class Estate.
Based on the latest-generation A-Class, the CLA Shooting Brake gets all the same updates, including that stylish front end and a massively improved interior. The latter is filled with technology because Mercedes is targeting a young audience with this car.
The Shooting Brake model specifically is now more practical than before, with the rear luggage space improved, thanks in part to being 48mm longer and 53mm wider, with a 236mm wider boot opening. Meanwhile, the CLA Coupe and Shooting Brake have been given the sportiest driving characteristics of any of Mercedes’ A models through a retuned suspension.
What’s under the bonnet?
There are five petrol engines and one diesel available. The petrols range from the entry level 180 model, which features a 134bhp 1.3-litre engine, all the way up to the high-performance CLA 45 which has a 415bhp 2.0-litre unit.
Our test model was the only diesel, badged 220 d, which gets a 187bhp 2.0-litre engine. It’s a decent unit, which plenty of torque that makes it feel punchy under acceleration. However, it’s at its best settling into long motorway journeys, where it’s possible to see 50mpg-plus.
What’s it like to drive?
While the CLA models tend to focus on being sportier than other A-Class-based models, coupled with this torquey diesel engine and big-boot design, the CLA Shooting Brake is something of a compromise between being fun to drive and being comfortable.
The upshot is that it can be a little bumpy on a rough road, not helped by the large 18-inch alloy wheels, but not so much that it’s annoying. The trade-off is that should you find yourself on a fun road, this stylish load lugger is pretty good fun, though with the lethargic diesel engine it’s definitely better-suited to a more relaxed driving style.
How does it look?
The Shooting Brake – rather than ‘estate’ – name denotes that swooping rear end that compromises high-level boot space a little in the name of looking good. There’s obviously substance beneath the style, but the CLA’s real trump card is that it offers extra practicality without having to sacrifice on style.
Only being available in AMG Line trims certainly helps, because the sporty body kit gives the car a more purposeful stance, while the large alloy wheels fill the arches nicely. The latest A-Class front end, which it shares with the CLA, looks great too, with its small but angled headlights and prominent Mercedes logo within the grille.
What’s it like inside?
We’ve come somewhat familiar with the latest A-Class interior, which is one of the best in its segment, but jumping back in the CLA is a reminder of just how great it is. It looks premium, though there are a few cheap-feeling buttons here and there. It has some great integrated technology too, such as the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice activation.
It’s pretty roomy inside, though being based on quite a small car, it’s not as capacious as it looks like it should be from the outside, with four large adults perhaps finding it a bit cramped. Opt for an all-black interior and it can feel quite dark and claustrophobic inside, too. If you had an old CLA Shooting Brake the slightly improved boot space and rear entry will be welcome, however.
What’s the spec like?
Our ‘entry level’ AMG Line model, which starts at £32,250, is very well-equipped for the money. Standard kit includes LED lights all round, leather upholstery, various safety equipment, and an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
AMG Line Premium and Premium Plus trims gets the much-improved 10.25-inch instrument display, with our AMG Line model getting a seven-inch version as standard. However, all models get a 10.25-inch central infotainment system with the latest MBUX operating system.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake is an enticing prospect, because it largely sits in a segment all of its own. If you’d like the extra practicality of an estate but only need quite a small car, it’s a great option – the fact it looks so good is merely a bonus, and means it’s worth considering even over the coupe and hatchback alternatives.
From behind the wheel, non-AMG models do find an odd compromise between comfort and sporty driving, meaning it does neither particularly brilliantly. However, it’s also not bad at either, meaning that if you’re sold on the styling – and who isn’t? – you won’t be disappointed by the driving experience.