When I think of a Mercedes-Benz, I’ve always envisioned really big cars; I mean, the name alone denotes something big and regal, something I’d have trouble parking or driving in the city. Thus when I was given the opportunity to review the latest Merc in town, to be frank, I was more than a bit apprehensive. Isn’t it amazing what three simple letters, in this case C-L-A, can do to alleviate one’s fears? Could this finally be a Merc made just for me? Well, not me per se, but also for the countless others who love Mercs but don’t really want a big one?
Right off the bat, I have to admit that Mercedes-Benz’s latest addition, the CLA 200, in addition to providing a red-carpet ride, is quite a stunner in the looks department. No matter where I go, onlookers, passers-by, uncles and aunties, young and old, will glance at it more than twice. The CLA is blessed with sleek design cues and bodacious curves just like the CLS and the S-Class so it’s no surprise that this German sweetheart can get anybody’s attention and its svelte design should enable it to sell on looks alone in our local market. I could actually end this review right here, because that’s true, this car will sell on looks alone! But there’s more to be said.
The vehicles’ most striking features include the bonnet embedded with power domes and the ‘black pins’ radiator grille. The light modules and LED daytime running lights behind the headlamp cover have been arranged in such a way as to create a characteristic “flare effect” for the DRLs and indicators.
Moving to the rear, the gently sloping roof contour and the curve of the rear window provide the CLA with a coupe-style character from the rear, too. And I absolutely adore its rear lights that feature an arrow style arrangement that looks stunning, especially when viewed in darkness. Frameless doors complete the ‘coupe’ like design of the CLA.
The rear end does not only look good, but it is very practical too. The boot offers 471-litres of cargo space for you to stack up language and golf bags. However, due to the sloping roofline, the back seat might not be the most comfortable place to be in especially for tall passengers (agreed. – Ed.).
If you are familiar with the A-Class interior, then you wouldn’t have much problem getting accustomed to the CLA either because they are pretty much identical. The model I tested features an elegant black interior dominated by high-quality materials such as a three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel, free-standing display screen that features a black piano-lacquer-look front panel and round vents that features a high-quality electroplated finish.
Both the driver and front passenger will not only enjoy a roomy and comfortable cabin, but also an ergonomically sound seating position, thanks to its 4-way lumbar support and numerous seating configurations. Being seated in the posh cabin of the CLA 200 makes me feel, oh…so civilized! Sorry, the diva in me caught up. It’s the car’s fault.
The CLA 200 is available in a 1.6-litre turbo, in-line 4-cylinder engine that puts out 156 hp and 250 Nm of torque mated with 7G-DCT dual clutch automatic transmission. As a result, the CLA 200 is capable of pulling from zero to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds with a limited top speed of 230 km/h. An ECO start/stop function also comes as a standard feature which contributes to an economical 5.2- 5.5-litres/100km fuel consumption figure.
When driving around town at a slow pace, the CLA 200’s firm, sport-suspension can be a tad jarring, and I’m was pretty sure that all my passengers during the time I had the car felt the same way. The coupe can make the slightest road bumps or potholes seem really dramatic, which may leave you cringing at some point. Not that I don’t appreciate its characteristics but having to disregard the poorly constructed roads in Malaysia might not be such a good idea as it does upset the cars’ composure. Perhaps it’d be more suited to be driven in its hometown, Germany but a sleek car like this should glide with grace and manners of a Mercedes-Benz. It actually reminded me of the A45 Sport actually, in terms of ride comfort.
However, once you cruise down the highway and start to pick up speed, the CLA reveals its true colours. Before you merge onto the freeway, make sure you press the Sport button as it further tightens up the car’s responsiveness. Better yet, listen to the engine’s melodious warble as it eagerly changes gear. Do you know that women are highly responsive to the effects of sound? If you aim to impress your date then you might want to floor that throttle once in a while and make her listen to the sound of the raucous exhaust note.
In sport mode, the CLA 200’s ride is much smoother on highways and the throttle is more responsive while the engine is more eager to rev, enough to the please the majority of drivers out there.
The electromechanical power steering on the other hand, provides enough feedback to the driver and additionally it enables various steering assistance functions which are activated by the ESP control unit. These include counter-steering in case of over-steer, corrective steering when braking on various road surfaces, offering different levels of grip (split-friction braking), mitigating how the front-wheel drive influences the steering and compensation for crosswind and road gradients.
I’m not a big fan of parking a large vehicle because sometimes it can be a little time consuming. Plus, at the area where I normally park at home, parking the CLA 200 requires me to reverse diagonally between a huge pillar and a Nissan Teana. However, thanks to its Active Parking Assist, I was able to let the machine do all the ‘dirty’ work for me.
It works like a charm really, all you’ll have to do is just reverse and accelerate accordingly and the coupe will do the steering turn for you. Suffice it to say, I managed to impress my neighbor with my super straight reverse parking skill!
Other numerous driving assistance systems offered in the CLA 200 include Attention Assist drowsiness detection where it detects unstable or erratic driving behaviour and warns the driver to take a break, as well as radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive Brake Assist, which helps to protect the CLA from collisions from a speed of only 7 km/h.
My dad used to own the Merc W123, and when I showed him the new CLA 200, he stood there and started to examine the vehicle. He commented how his W123 and the CLA 200 seem very different right down to the seat filler which was previously made of husk and how comfortable it was to be seated in and how supple his ride used to be. Well it seems pretty obvious that Mercedes-Benz has turned to a new direction by targeting groups who bring a certain non-conformist approach to life and honestly, I was really impressed with this latest offering.
TECHNICAL DATA: MERCEDES-BENZ CLA 200
- Cylinder arrangement/number: in-line 4
- Displacement: 1595cc
- Rated output: 156 hp @ 5,300rpm
- Rated torque: 250 Nm @ 1,250–4,000rpm
- Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 8.6 sec
- Top speed: 230km/h
- Fuel consumption combined: 5.5-5.2l/100km
- Drive system: Front-wheel drive
- Transmissions: 7G-DCT automatic transmission