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First drive: Mercedes-Benz's stylish new CLA 220d

2019-04-17 00:45

Sean Parker

A

Image: Supplied

It’s safe to say Mercedes-Benz have almost every niche and segment covered in the automobile sector. One of those segments is the four-door coupe, a term they revived in the mid-2000s when the big, luxurious CLS arrived. 

A four-door coupe, as many of you will know, is a four-door car with a coupe-like roof line and usually focuses on form over function. 

Keen to line its pockets even more, Mercedes created the sub-compact executive four-door coupe in 2013 with the CLA.

It was significant for one main reason; it was the first ever front-wheel drive Mercedes sedan and was powered exclusively by four-cylinder engines. 

Due in South Africa in the final quarter of 2019, Sean Parker traveled to Bavaria, Germany to drive second generation Mercedes-Benz CLA. 

 
Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 d Coupé, digitalwei� metal

                                                                                   Image: Supplied

What’s it like to drive?

I’ll get straight to the point - the diesel engine is the pick of the bunch for now. We’ll see the A35 and A45 later in 2020. 

The 220d is powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 140kW and 400Nm and is mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Mercedes quote a top speed of 241km/h and reckon it’ll reach 100km/h from standstill in 7.1 seconds. 

The other engine derivative available is the 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine in CLA 200. It has 120kW and 250Nm, I drove this version too at launch but preferred the oil burner in comparison to the smaller capacity petrol engine.  

The optional paddle shifts helped things along nicely when twisty roads presented themselves, and there was nothing negative about the gearbox’s effectiveness. 

Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 d Coupé, digitalwei� metal

Image: Supplied

Almost all the dimensions of the CLA have been increased, it’s now longer, wider than its predecessor and only 2mm lower. 

It has a wider and longer track and a 30mm increased wheelbase. Why am I telling you this? Despite a now longer and wider car, the CLA feels less stodgy to drive than its predecessor. Adaptive dampers are optional. 

The steering is too light for my liking, but up the alley for someone in the market for a fancy small sedan car. 

It does feel better to drive than the A-Class, which I think has much to do with the wider track and longer wheelbase. 

Another highlight was the damping, which resulted in a lovely smooth ride that ironed any bumps on Bavarian roads. It felt like a Mercedes - plush and cosseting.  

Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 d Coupé, digitalwei� metal

                                                                               Image: Supplied

Is it as technologically-advanced as the A-Class? 

Inside, it’s almost identical to the new A-Class. There’s the intuitive user experience system that allows the driver or passenger to call out ‘hey Mercedes’ and command it to play music, close the sunroof or even provide the outside temperature. 

Sajjad Khan, who sits on the board for Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric (CASE) at Mercedes says: "What's more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passengers conversing. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said, 'Hey Mercedes' to activate the system - and you can retain your natural speech rhythm while using the system."

Mercedes-Benz CLA, C118, 2019, Head-up-Display //

                                                                              Image: Supplied

The two high-res screens are neatly laid out and as ergonomically-slick as your favourite smartphone. The graphics are clear and bright, the optional heads-up display is a boon, offering speed, navigational direction and speed limit signs in the driver’s line of sight. 

Does it have any competition?

Strictly, no. The Audi A3 comes closest to offering an alternative in the compact executive sedan segment and then later this year Mercedes will confusingly introduce an A-Class sedan to try and steal sales away from Audi. 

Yep, the CLA competes in the more stylish category. It’s more form over function, with the frame-less windows echoing design cue from coupes and that sleek body just as aerodynamic (0.51 CdA) as German triathlete Jan Frodeno on a racing bike. 

In fact, all three models: CLA, A-Class sedan and hatch are built on the same Modular Front Architecture (MFA2) platform. 

Mercedes-Benz CLA MaÃ?zeichnungen // Mercedes-Benz

                                                                                          Image: Supplied

Mercedes reckons it has done enough to distinguish the CLA from the A-Class sedan and I guess sales numbers will be the determining factor.  

The new CLA is scheduled for local introduction in the final quarter of 2019 and will be built at the assembly plant Kecskemét in Hungary. 

Expect the AMG models, the CLA 35 and 45 to follow in 2020. Local pricing of the CLA 200 and CLA 220d will become clearer closer to its South African introduction later in 2019. 

Mercedes may have created the compact four-door coupe segment with the original CLA, and with the new one they've just ironed out the rough edges of its predecessor. 

It should catch the eye of wealthy millennials and buyers looking for a small Mercedes sedan that echoes coupe styling in a more practical package.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 d Coupé, digitalwei� metal
 

                                                                     Image: Supplied 

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