It is the avant garde CLA which a top boss at the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart says will really make its mark on the Mercedes brand image and attract new owners who never intended driving a Mercedes until seeing the CLA with its shapely styling and the famous three pointed star prominently displayed up front plus all the standard high tech kit on board.
CLA is a four door coupe available as Sport and AMG Sport models with either a petrol or diesel engine which is loaded with standard equipment such as Collision Prevention Assist that is radar controlled and helps to prevent shunts into a vehicle in front.
Also standard is a device which warns the driver of drowsiness another to aid parking and another which detects an impact with a pedestrian and raises the bonnet to reduce impact injuries all of which contrasts sharply with Mercedes cars of many years ago when just about all equipment on board was an optional extra.
Referring to options the test car had quite a few costing over Ł7,000 including the extremely efficient bi-xenon headlamps, lane tracking package which helped spot overtaking vehicles an interior package including leather upholstery and a very good Harmon Kardon sound system.
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Prices start at Ł24,355 for the CLA 180 Sport which was my front wheel drive test car that was powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine with six speed manual transmission with a top speed of 130mph a zero to 62mph time of 9.3 seconds and a combined fuel consumption of 50.4mpg.
There is quite a low driving position that should appeal to younger owners in particular and I found one of the most appealing features was the extremely precise steering and excellent handling which helped to provide such an enjoyable test period.
The four cylinder engine was quite punchy and provided a lively performance that should be enough for the type of owner wanting the cachet of this make of car but of course there are more sportier and far more expensive Mercs for those seeking really high performance and top quality motoring.
There is a very comfortable and luxurious interior with well designed instruments and switchgear including a very effective central digital speedometer which supplemented the conventional speedometer .
The boot is deceptively large and while fairly shallow it is quite extensive and should be enough for acommodating the baggage for a long holiday trip - this is the sort of car I would enjoy for driving to my favourite holiday destinations in the south of France.
A long time ago I knew an army officer who was so besotted with the rather square and conservatively styled Mercedes cars of that era including his own Merc that he named his daughter after the firm which is exactly what the founder of the company did over 100 years previously.
I don’t know how he would have reacted if he had seen the charismatic styling of the CLA which has massive street appeal and is a car that is set to take Mercedes-Benz into a new era and attract owners to the marque who have not owned a Merc before possibly tempting them from the other premium German car manufacturers.
My Verdict: A Mercedes trend setter.
Model: Mercedes CLA 180 Sport.
Engine: 1.6-litre four cylinder petrol.
Output: 122bhp at 5000rpm.
Transmission: Six speed manual.
Top speed: 130mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 9.3 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 50.4 mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 130g/km.