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Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 Sport First Drive Review

What is it?

What you're eye-balling here is the CLA-class, Mercedes-Benz’ entry level saloon. Assuming everybody knows that this is basically the saloon avatar of an A-Class, let's delve deeper. The recent facelift is the model’s first major update in India since its launch in 2015, and exterior upgrades include a redesigned front bumper, new LED headlamps, restyled tail lamps, more chrome and angular exhaust tips.

The CLA-Class undeniably packs some shapely curves that could even put a few FTV models to shame, and also has a resemblance to its elder sibling, the striking CLS-Class. The design lines are so pleasing to the eye, it can almost be the single most important reason to plonk for it in the segment. From the characteristic broad shoulders, prominent fascia, aggressively tapering roofline, and detailing; everything about the CLA has been crafted with style in mind.  

How is it on the inside?

Let’s face it, the CLA’s cabin looks fascinating thanks to the sporty dash with unique silver trim, front seats, turbine styled vents, clutter free button layout and a large infotainment screen. Adding to the appeal is the pristine build quality, soft touch-points, and those sexy frameless doors.

As part of the facelift, the CLA now gets a new look instrument cluster, revised Drive Select for the pre-set modes, an updated COMAND system with new graphics, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and an 8-inch screen instead of the earlier 7-inch one.

Electrically adjustable front seats with fixed headrests offer lots of contours, support and cushioning on both the backrest and seat squab. There’s also adequate legroom and head room coupled with the manually adjustable thigh support which makes for an otherwise comfortable driving position. Due to the sloping roofline, one will have to watch their head while entering or exiting the rear portion of the CLA. 

The rear, on the other hand, has a decent backrest angle, is well cushioned and appropriately contoured too. However, there’s no doubt that it is strictly a four seater. In fact, inadequate leg and head room, non-existent thigh support, a front seat that’s too imposing, and a rear glass section that’s ridiculously confined, makes for a rear seat experience that’s nothing short of claustrophobic. Also, with the space-saver spare wheel occupying a lot of space, one will have to place their luggage appropriately. 

Some of the features on the CLA 200 Sport include LED head lamps and tail lamps, diamond radiator grille with pins in high-gloss black, 17-inch five spoke alloys, panoramic sunroof, rectangular chromed tailpipes, eight inch infotainment screen, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-start assist, ABS with brake assist, Attention assist, and ESP with acceleration skid control.

 

How does it drive?

Mechanically, the CLA 200 is identical to the pre-facelift model and continues to be powered by the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol that makes 181bhp at 5500rpm and 300Nm of torque at 1200rpm. A quick shifting seven speed dual-clutch auto transmission (with paddle shifters) works in tandem with this motor. On the move, what instantly catches your attention, is the free revving nature of this responsive motor at almost any speed. 

Users can take advantage of pre-set modes called Eco, Comfort, Individual and Sport that change the manner in which the engine and gearbox responds to throttle inputs. In Eco mode, engine responses are sedate and the transmission is in a hurry to shift up, and also coast (gliding mode) when you get off the accelerator pedal. Expect the best efficiency in this mode, though. Mild to medium throttle inputs makes the engine use the current gear to lug the speeds up gradually. It is only after you depress the pedal further that the gearbox will shift a cog down to deliver the extra response.

While Comfort mode is slightly more responsive than the Eco mode, it does away with the coasting bit when you get off the accelerator pedal. That said, it is the Sport mode that makes this engine and gearbox the liveliest. Performance is crisp from the word ‘go’, all the way up to the 6200rpm redline and it clocked the run to 100kmph from standstill in an impressive 7.84sec. The engine is always in a lower gear to allow for rapid response the instant the throttle is nudged, and this was depicted by our 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph sprints that took 4.77sec and 5.50sec. Also, one can immediately take over by using the paddle shifters in any mode and shift as per their requirement. It comes handy when you need to make a spirited manoeuvre in Eco mode. 

Despite the CLA’s suspension setup tilting slightly towards being firm, we believe engineers have struck the right balance by making the ride comfortable but thoroughly enjoyable when driven spiritedly. Bad road patches can be felt and heard within the cabin but never to the extent where the occupants feel uncomfortable. 

One can attack corners on the CLA with reasonable confidence, but what plays spoilsport in an otherwise potent package is the feedback from the steering. It feels vague just when you’re ready for some aggressive action around bends, especially when compared to the Audi A3. With ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’ modes to select from that alter the steering response; Comfort gets the steering markedly lighter while Sport mode makes the steering decidedly heavier. Although the CLA is good, it does not match the A3 in terms of dynamics.

Should I buy one?

With the C-Class moving up the price equation, the CLA has picked a sweet spot for someone looking to graduate to an entry level Merc saloon. Clearly, the CLA isn't meant for those looking to be chauffeured around as the rear portion of the cabin is unreasonably confined for space and has a restricted view. However, it has the looks, spirited performance, premium and sporty interiors, and optimum front seat comfort. If you’re not interested in its rear cabin comfort, then the CLA has the essence to spice up your drive and lifestyle. 

Where does it fit in?

Mercedes-BenzCLA 200 Sport petrol retails at Rs 35.20 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), while the Audi A3 40 TFSI is available at Rs 28.58 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). Despite the higher price tag, the young Merc makes a case for itself with an enticing overall package.

 

Pictures: Sanchit Arora

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA facelift launched in India for Rs 31.40 lakh

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Find out more about the CLA-Class

 

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Mercedes-Benz CLA Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 37.74 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 40.77 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 37.81 Lakhs onwards
Pune₹ 38.91 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 39.54 Lakhs onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 35.46 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 39.47 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 35.49 Lakhs onwards
Chandigarh₹ 36.02 Lakhs onwards
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