The C-Class is no longer the smallest sedan in the Mercedes family. With the new W205-series C-Class growing bigger and more luxurious (not yet launched in Malaysia as per time of writing), the smallest sedan spot is now vacated. This is where the CLA-Class comes in to fill the void. I may be breaking the taboo by calling the CLA a sedan, since Mercedes-Benz insists that the CLA should be classified as a four-door coupe.
|Name||Mercedes-Benz CLA 200|
|Segment||C-Segment 4-door Coupe|
|Engine||1,595cc 4-Cylinder, Turbocharged|
|Transmission||7G-DCT dual clutch auto|
|Max Power||156 hp @ 5300 rpm|
|Max Torque||250 Nm @ 1250-4000 rpm|
Sharing the MFA (Modular Front Architecture) platform which underpins the W246 B-Class, W176 A-Class, and the upcoming X156 GLA-Class crossover, this C117 CLA-Class is also front-wheel driven. The MFA platform can also accommodate a 4WD drivetrain (which can be seen on the A 45 AMG & CLA 45 AMG models available here), and is set to spawn even more variants in the future. These new generation Benzes are targeting the younger demographic to inject more youthfulness into the brand.
To say the CLA is the booted version of the A-Class is not entirely true. Believe it or not, almost all of the body panels on the CLA are not shared with the A-Class hatchback sibling. From dead-front view it may look like an A-Class but anoraks will be more than glad to point to you that they’re not the same. Perhaps the easiest way to tell them apart from the front is that the CLA has two bulging ridges on its bonnet. No doubt it’s an attractive shape, and to this writer’s eyes the three-box shape with extended rear end makes the CLA better proportioned than the A-Class.
The CLA 200 offered here in Malaysia comes completely built up from Hungary and only comes in a single variant with Night Package. The Night Package includes the 18 inch 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels, black side mirror caps, and all the chrome bits such as the 230 pins (count ’em) in the diamond grille and the side window surrounding trims have been blacked out for an understated look. You can have the CLA 200 in Cirrus white, Jupiter red, Polar silver, Cosmos black, Northern lights violet, or Mountain grey metallic as seen here on our test car W1683V.
Viewed from the side you can see clearly why Mercedes wants you to call it a coupe. The shallow frameless side windows is a nod to the bigger CLS which further emphasises its coupe ambitions. Mercedes-Benz’s new design language stresses on their new trademark “dropping line” from the front fenders towards the rear of the car which can also be seen on the flagship W222 S-Class limousine.
The back of the car is arguably the most interesting, with the complex mix of convex and concave surfaces. The sculpted flowing lines on the CLA are not just for show, with a Cd value of 0.23 this car is even more slippery than a Toyota Prius. If you happen to see a parked CLA, do pause for a few minutes and try to absorb all the details to appreciate the overall design, I know I did.
The interior is faultlessly classy even though some of the plastics are hard to the touch they have a nice texture to prevent it from looking cheap. This particular unit is trimmed in delicious-sounding almond beige, but buyers can also choose from the not-so-classy-sounding alpaca grey or a more serious black trim. From the driver’s seat with both your hands on the steering wheel, almost everything is within your fingertips.
Buttons on the steering wheel controls the multifunction display located in the middle of the instrument panel, as well as Voice Control System and telephony. Behind the steering wheel there’s a pair of shift paddles, and on the steering column not only you will find the indicator/wiper stalk and cruise control/speed limiter stalk, but also the gearlever; or what Mercedes refers to as DIRECT SELECT lever. It may be a bit awkward for some to get acquainted with the steering-mounted lever but once you get used to it, the DIRECT SELECT lever feels just as natural to operate.
The dashboard design is not new as it is shared across the MFA platform siblings which first appeared on the W246 B-Class back in 2011. One thing that bothers me is the main 5.8 inch audio/COMAND display. Not only that it looks like an afterthought, the screen itself is in low resolution, and the surrounding bezel is annoyingly too thick. To control the menu on the screen there’s a controller on the center console, but weirdly enough the audio control is separated and located way up north on the dashboard.
The electrically-adjusted memory front seats look good and feel good, wrapped in man-made ARTICO leather they also provide enough side support during cornering. Same cannot be said to the rear seats, it looks good but they are just barely seats. If you were to be a passenger in the CLA, I suggest you call dibs on riding shotgun if you don’t want to suffer the lack of headroom at the back on long journeys. Legroom surprisingly is not a big problem but the rear perch is short on thigh support. Although the rear bench comes with three seatbelts, leave the middle seat to the little ones or better still to leave it empty.
In terms of practicality you get ISOFIX mounts at the back, four cupholders (two front, two at the back), three 12v power outlets (one front, one back, another one in the boot), storage space under the front armrest, additional storage bin in place of the gear lever in the center console (literally a bin, you can pop it out when you need to empty the bin), overhead sunglass compartment, stowage compartment under the front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and 470 litres of space in the boot. You will also get the normal front airbags, with additional knee airbags, side airbags front and rear, and curtain airbags as part of the safety features.
You get what you pay with the quality materials that adorn the interior, everything else feels solid and tactile. Worth noting that it’s best to experience the interior at night, only then you will appreciate fine touches with the ambient lighting that lit up the cabin to create such a warm and inviting ambiance.
Don’t be confused with Mercedes’s current naming convention. Gone were the simpler days where a ‘200’ badge on the bootlid means 2.0 litres until one day Mercedes decides that ‘200’ can still mean 2.0 litres but ‘200’ could also mean there’s a 1.6 litre engine under the bonnet. Confused yet? This CLA 200 is powered by a 1.6 litre turbo four that dishes out 156hp and 250Nm of torque via the 7G-DCT dual clutch gearbox. No you won’t shred the tyres with this powerplant, for that you need the CLA 45 AMG but let’s reserve that story for another day shall we?
This turbocharged 1.6 litre powerplant is not about hurrying up your drive to your trendy neighbourhood cafe for your caffeine fix but the engine sufficient enough to get the car going when the need arises. Nought to hundred km/h can be achieved in 8.6 seconds and keep your right foot planted you should top at 230 km/h but I don’t see the point why would you need to drive the CLA 200 that fast. Power delivery is laggy at the lower rev range not only when in the default E mode, but even on S or M mode as well.
Each time you twist the key to start the car (sorry, no fancy push start button here), the CLA 200 will default itself to E (Economy) mode with ECO start-stop function turned on. With this mode, you’re supposed to get the best mileage per tank of fuel. The throttle response is gentle to inspire you to drive smoothly and the 7-speed DCT will swap cogs for you seamlessly. Manoeuvering it is easy when the CLA is equipped with front and rear sensors, and it helps that it comes with reversing camera as the view out back is pretty limited. There’s PARKTRONIC as well to aid you with parking tasks. The front sensors also give out warning signal if you’re approaching the car in front too fast and too close but sometimes the sensors on W1683V tend to bleep out loud when there’s nothing around. Not sure whether it was just a glitch or does the sensors really detect something that’s invisible to the naked eyes. Either way I had goosebumps whenever that happens.
Those who expect the CLA 200 to ride soft are in for a surprise. On the potholed-stricken roads of KL the ride is on the hard side but not too brittle to make you feel uncomfortable. As with most new cars nowadays you can blame it on those big rims wrapped in low-profiled tyres, even more when the tyres are of the run-flat variety as per equipped on this CLA 200. Just be sure to thread the roads carefully when driving in town.
Once you finally break free from the traffic you can play around with the remaining two driving modes S (Sport), and M (Manual) via the drive program button on the center console. Put the car in either of these two modes and you will instantly feel the difference in throttle response, but it does not mean you are traveling that much quicker than in E mode. In S it will hold on to a gear longer until further up the rev range and in M the gear changing duties are left to your own self. One thing that bothers me is that when in S and leave the gearbox on its own, occasionally the gearbox is quite hesitant to shift up when the rev needle is already hitting the redline. But should you work your fingers with the shift paddles yourself in M, the shifts are instant and more satisfying.
With the 156 horses and 250Nm of torque under the bonnet the 1.6 turbo is adequately rapid when you need it to be. Although you still need to plan your move when it comes to overtaking slower vehicles on the road because as mentioned earlier, the turbo lag is still evident on lower revs. Use the CLA 200 to tackle the B-roads and it will entertain you with fine handling and good steering feedback. Shame that with all the cabin refinement and sound insulation, the sporty engine soundtrack is still audible to the ears but it won’t stir your emotion. Proof to this is when you pop open the bonnet and give it a few revs, you can hear the missing sweet sound of turbo spooling that you don’t get to hear when you’re sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat.
The 1.6 turbo can be economical especially when you leave it on the default E mode with ECO turned on but during my stint with mixed driving (mostly spirited driving in M mode) I managed a miserly 12.0l/100km. If driven sedately you should be able to get near to the claimed fuel consumption of 5.5l/100km. Traveling down the highway at 100km/h the engine revs lazily at 2,000 rpm with the only noticeable noise comes from the tyres and wind around the A pillars. Overall the CLA 200 is not a fast car and it never intended to be one in the first place. As a daily drive it should serve you well with its typical Mercedes refinement.
IS IT FOR YOU?
If you’re looking for something speedy, this CLA 200 is not what you’re looking for. The CLA 200 is for people who revel in style and grace from the sexy four-door coupe silhouette and not about being a hooligan behind the wheel. The price is pretty steep for a car with a 1.6 litre mill under the bonnet. That’s RM37,000 premium over the similarly-powered A 200 sibling and just RM3,000 shy from the more potent A 250 with 2.0 litre turbo generating 211hp. That shouldn’t be a problem if you want to make a statement with the CLA and its presence will definitely help to make everyone notice you.
Currently there’s no direct rival for the CLA 200 here in Malaysia. The Audi A3 sedan is rumoured to be launched within this year, but for now the nearest rivals are the BMW 316i and the Volkswagen CC 1.8. You won’t draw as much attention as the CLA if you pick the BMW, but you will get more space and supposedly more driving enjoyment from the rear wheel drive platform with just enough power from the turbocharged 1.6 litre powerplant. It’s practical to boot as well but you won’t be able to stand out from the crowd in the 316i when there are already plenty of F30 3-Series roaming the roads nowadays.
Volkswagen CC is another 4-door coupe but it’s bigger than the CLA in almost every aspect, well maybe except the grille size. The style have just been updated from the recent facelift so you will get a good few more years out of it. You get more space but just as much poke as the CLA 200, and due to the heavier weight penalty the fuel consumption is not as good compared to the CLA.
|Mercedes Benz CLA 200||BMW 316i||Volkswagen CC 1.8 TSI Comfortline|
|Type||4-cylinder direct injection petrol, turbocharged||4-cylinder direct injection petrol, turbocharged||4-cylinder direct injection petrol, turbocharged|
|Type||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted|
|Transmission||7G-DCT dual clutch||8-speed Automatic||7-speed DSG|
|Type||Spring strut & transverse link / Control arm & trailing arm||MacPherson strut / Multilink||MacPherson strut / Multilink|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Solid disc||Solid disc||Solid disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyres||235/45 R18||225/50 R17||235/45 R17|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS|
|Max Kerb weight||kg||1430||1480||1521|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||470||480||532|
|0 – 100km/h||sec||8.5||9.2||8.5|
WILL I BUY IT?
I can’t help but to crave for a bit more power in the CLA. If the 2.0 litre CLA 250 is available here I reckon that should be the better car overall and that would be pricier as well. Nevertheless I don’t mind driving the CLA 200 for its combination of style and prestige rolled into a svelte package, it’s pretty darn difficult to resist the CLA 200. I’ll have mine in Jupiter red with almond beige interior, please.