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Old 4th February 2015, 17:02   #1
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Default Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

The Mercedes CLA-Class has been launched in India at a price of between Rs. 31.50 - 35.90 lakhs (ex-Delhi).

What you'll like:

• Gorgeous styling! A head-turner wherever she goes
• A proper Mercedes on the inside. Topnotch interior quality
• Potent petrol engine with 181 BHP on tap. Good driveability & performance
• 7-speed automatic transmission is extremely smooth. Paddle shifters too
• Well-tuned suspension offers a balanced ride & handling package
• Equipment: 17" rims, panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlamps, memory seats, Harman Kardon ICE etc.
• 5 star NCAP safety rating. 7 airbags, ESP, ABS, attention assist & more

What you won't:

• Very expensive for a small sedan. Pricing is in line with the W204 C-Class!
• Mediocre 134 BHP diesel engine. Ordinary highway performance
• A 4-seater at best. Rear headroom is scarce. Legroom comparable to B2-segment hatchbacks
• Transmission isn't as quick to shift as a dual-clutch ought to be
• Spare tyre significantly reduces the usable luggage space
• Diesel's Sport variant costs 5 lakhs more (on the road) than Style. Also, petrol available in a single variant only

Last edited by GTO : 4th February 2015 at 17:30.
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Old 4th February 2015, 17:03   #2
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Default re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

The CLA-Class is the 4th car on the MFA platform to be introduced in India (after the A, B and GLA-Class). Of course, it was launched in its AMG avatar earlier, but now, the CLA arrives in the 'regular' variants. These MFA-platform cars are integral to Mercedes' growth plans. After years of selling mainly the C, E & S-Class, the company finally has 4 products below its earlier entry-level car (the C-Class). In 2014, Mercedes sold over 10,000 cars in India. It was a similar case with Audi, which also has the small A3 sedan & popular Q3 SUV positioned below the A4. BMW, on the other hand, can only watch its competitors go from strength to strength. The 1-Series sedan is still sometime away, while the X1 slowly lost popularity in our market due to the many compromises it made. In terms of sales, BMW was a distant 3rd in 2014 at 6,800 units.

Unveiled in 2011 at the Shanghai Motor Show, the CLA concept was well received. It entered production soon after in 2012, and has been on sale globally for over a year. The CLA was initially targeted at buyers in the USA who don't like small hatches like the A-Class. Mercedes has already moved 100,000 CLAs globally, in which 80% of buyers are conquests from other brands. Fact is, a majority of CLA customers are first-time Mercedes owners. Hence, as a strategic customer acquisition tool, the CLA has done its job. There is yet another variant of the CLA - the shooting brake - but knowing the Indian market's averseness to station-wagons, chances of seeing that here are slim.

The CLA's India entry saw a few delays due to a couple of reasons; the first being pricing. The new C-Class moves up a price segment, creating room for the CLA. It didn't make business sense to sell the outgoing W204 C-Class and CLA at similar price points. Either the CLA would have flopped or Mercedes would be saddled with excess stock of W204 kits. The other issue was a hold up in production expansion at the Chakan plant. There was some uncertainty on the environmental clearances required to raise production to 20,000 units per annum. This matter has just been resolved. Due to the production constraints, the MFA cars have been CBUs so far. CKD assembly of the CLA-Class is poised to begin later in 2015.

The CLA has its work cut out in replacing the C-Class at its current price point, and also to attract those who would be considering the Audi A3, A4 (after discounts) and 3-Series (after discounts). Like the other MFA cars, it is priced above the competitors and comes with much more equipment, although power ratings for the diesel are lower. When I addressed the high pricing strategy with the management, they responded by saying Mercedes is saddled with long waiting lists for the GLA and CLA (prior to the price announcement). This waiting list could be due to the novelty factor of a new launch, as well as limited CBU supplies. Lets hold judgement until they are a year or two old in the market. There was also a claim that, although competitors theoretically offer stripped versions at a low price point, the product is unviable as the poverty specification doesn't meet the customer's luxury aspirations. It is best to be honest and upfront with the offering as opposed to "bait and upsell" techniques.

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The CLA-Class is well equipped and comes with features such as a panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights, a funky Harman Kardon sound system and electric front seats + memory. The safety kit includes 6 airbags, Hill Start Assist, ESP, ASC (Acceleration Skid Control), Brake Assist, Attention Assist and a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System. Additionally, the CLA gets a new central display with a 17.8 cm screen (as opposed to the 14.7 cm unit with thick bezels). Under the hood are the same engines as the GLA; the 2.0L direct-injection turbo petrol produces 181 BHP and the familiar 2.1L diesel makes 135 BHP. The diesel's power rating is lower than some 15 lakh sedans!

Tall CBU pricing apart, what will attract buyers to the CLA are its svelte, distinctive design and the Mercedes brand. In person, the CLA looks are w-o-w and the car turns heads everywhere it goes. One cannot get away from the CLA's sporty styling. The car will appeal to the young urban yuppie as well as the older citizen facing a midlife crisis (yes, that's me!). Based on my observations of both the GLA & CLA, Mercedes is veering away from the concept of total practicality, to a compromise between form and function. The CLA mimics the CLS in profile, yet has a better balance to it due to comparatively reduced overhangs. At 2699 mm, the wheelbase is 62 mm longer than the A3 and its overall length is just ~50 mm lesser than the W205 C-Class. The coupé-like stance makes it look lower than it actually is. The curvy side profile is accentuated by a couple of side creases which reflect the air flow. What I liked about the CLA is that the bling factor is subtle...the styling is about curves & tautness.

Build quality is typical Mercedes solid. Fit and finish are impeccable and there's not an inch that gives you the feeling that you're in a budget Merc. The frameless doors shut with a solid thud. None of the test cars had squeaks or rattles, even after being abused over the media drives. A kerb weight in excess of 1.5 tonnes for a FWD small sedan is testimony to the solid build of the CLA.

Although similar to an A-Class at first glance, there are subtle differences. E.g. the power bulges on the bonnet:

In terms of styling & presence, the CLA owns the A3. There's no contest:

Its styling is inspired by big brother - the CLS, and it shows. The CLA's drag coefficient of 0.23 makes it the most aerodynamic production sedan in the world:

This view makes the CLA stand out as being squat:

Chrome black diamond grill comes in as standard on the Sports edition:

Bi-xenon headlamps:

AMG Sport nose is entirely a single unit. Notice the front parking sensors too:

AMG-esque power bulges on bonnet distinguish it from the A-Class:

Mirrors replete with LED indicators are of a good size. Unlock the CLA & pull the door handle, only then will the ORVMs unfold. Press the lock button and they fold. Neat attention to detail:

Boring door handles on an otherwise stylish car:

235/45 R17 shoes. Our test cars either had Continental or Yokohama rubber:

Panoramic sunroof slides over the roof. It will automatically slide shut if it rains:

Deflector is more prominent in order to facilitate airflow. It is perforated too:

Shiny radio antenna. Why not an integrated one, I wonder:

"Organic" shaped rear lights look spectacular at night:

Rear bumper diffuser coupled with integrated dual exhausts:

A closer look:

Integrated boot lip:

If you're looking at the maximum square feet for your rupee, this is not your ride of choice:

Its AMG twin - the CLA 45:

Svelte styling for a red carpet entrance:

Last edited by GTO : 11th February 2015 at 12:04.
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Old 4th February 2015, 17:03   #3
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Default re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

Interior - Front

If you've been in an A-Class, then you've been inside the CLA (and GLA!) too. The interiors are almost identical across these cars, barring a few changes.

Like the GLA, the ambience is brightened by the huge panoramic sunroof. The sunroof opens out and goes over the rear portion of the roof, while a thin mesh blind rolls into it. This large sunroof is the first thing you notice when you step inside the CLA. The roofline is on the lower side; you don't have to be careful when getting in at the front as much as you do at the rear. The seats are on the lower side as well. The front seats with integrated headrests are similar to the A-Class. They are inviting and once you've settled in, the leather seats feel snug. The front seats are a very comfortable place to be in. You get electric adjustment for the driver and passenger with 4-way lumbar support. Moreover, both front seats get three memory settings each. The seat controls are located on the doorpad which takes some getting used to. I kept reaching for the controls on the side of the seats, only to find the lumbar buttons there. Seat travel, both in terms of length and height, is awesome. The driver's chair felt as roomy as my Jetta's, except that the roof is an inch lower.

The good looking dashboard (straight lift from the GLA and A-Class) gives the interior a high quality environment. The brushed aluminium trim adds a lot of class (and also hides a lot of the dust!). Our white test car came with a beige interior which provided an airier ambience. The red & silver cars come with all-black interiors with double stitch lining on the dashboard & seats. The black interior looks sportier, but also smaller / claustrophobic. In terms of overall look & feel, the Audi A3 is comparatively bland and minimalistic. Material quality is better in the CLA & its cabin is a special place to be in. The CLA is every bit a Mercedes!

The sporty steering wheel is very nice to hold. The MID buttons on the left caught me out for a while, as most cars have audio controls there. The MID has controls for the ambient lighting, Attention Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System and a host of other settings. On the right of the steering wheel, you have buttons for the audio & voice command system. Behind the steering are the paddle shifters and 3 control stalks. All Mercs now have this arrangement of a steering-mounted gear lever on the right and a single stalk for indicators & wipers to the left. Additionally, there is a small stalk on the left for cruise control (just below the indicator/wiper stalk). This arrangement may look confusing at first, but after a couple of hours, I absolutely loved the ease of just flicking the gear lever down for 'D' or pressing the 'P' button when parked. Moreover, the parking brake isn't foot-operated like in some other Mercs. A small pull/push button (on the right side of the dash) engages the 'handbrake'. Getting the car moving off is just a matter of pushing the parking brake button and flicking the gear stalk down. Parking the car means you simply press the 'P' on the gear stalk and pull the 'Parking brake' button. If you are in neutral on an incline, you get a message advising you to use the handbrake.

The center console has a sea of buttons, yet they are easy to locate & operate. There are a lot more buttons than in the A3, but the Audi's switches are smaller and feel crowded. The two most important buttons are the driving mode selector (E-S-M) and the engine start / stop deactivation. The button labelled E-S-M defines the driving mode. 'E' denotes economy, it will shift to the highest gear as soon as possible, 'S' denotes Sport and holds the gearbox in lower ratios for a sportier drive. 'M' denotes manually shifting the gears (via the paddle shifters on the steering). As is usually the case, the system overrides your gear selection when the revvs are too high or too low.

The center is dominated by the large infotainment screen. Compared to the earlier MFA cars, this "iPad tacked on the dash" is a 17.8 cm higher-resolution version (instead of the 14.7 cm unit with thick bevelled edges). The way that this screen is fitted makes it look after-market'ish and - unfortunately - it isn't a touchscreen either! With the CLA, Mercedes introduces the new 'Telematics Generation 5' infotainment system. Only a matter of time before this version feeds into the other MFA cars. Additional features on the new infotainment system include navigation by Garmin (SD-card based system), Mercedes-Benz Radio (via an app on your phone), ability to read your phone messages and web surfing (another app will connect your phone to the internet and stream it onto the screen). However, the rotary command dial makes it fiddly to use and this works only when the car is stationary.

Operating the COMAND system takes some getting used to as there are many levels of navigation. It's not the most user-friendly interface either. Luckily, there are individual buttons for the radio, navigation and vehicle settings. Anything else is best done when the car is stationary, as you need to take your eyes off the road to navigate through COMAND.

The navigation system is comprehensive and provides information on points of interest etc. Maps can be updated by downloading the latest files onto the SD card. The system was buggy though. The navigation worked well initially, but the SD card got corrupted in the first car that I drove. When I took over the second car, the system kept hanging. I stopped to reboot, albeit the system would remain dead...and suddenly come back to life! This meant I had to stop in order to input the destination again. A strange thing happened when I was driving back to Panjim. I received a call and the system hung again, rebooted and suddenly was directing me in the opposite direction!! The fact that 3 other media CLAs drove across meant something was wrong, else I would have happily ended up in Bangalore later that night. As for the app and internet capabilities, Goa's connectivity leaves a lot to be desired. It barely worked during the presentation and we never really tried it in and around the rural areas. This might be different in a metro.

The CLA's audio system deserves a special mention here. Developed by Harman Kardon, it's known as the Logic7 surround sound system. Audio quality is absolutely brilliant from the 9-channel DSP amplifier & 12-speakers (including a subwoofer). The ICE can deliver deep bass, and remains crisp & clear even when pushed loud.

The top variant's dual-zone climate control system has rear air-con vents and is effective. The turbine air vents look and feel classy, they have a nice tactility when being operated by twisting them to control airflow. When I swapped cars to a lesser variant, I was disappointed to see a manual air-con unit without the rear vent. It took a little longer to cool down and of course, one needed to fiddle with settings to keep the cabin temperature at an optimum setting.

Thanks to the relocation of the gear lever and parking brake, there are plenty of storage spots in here. The center console has a storage space below the armrest, cup holders and another storage compartment where the gear shifter would have been. All 4 doors get bottle holders as well as some additional storage space.

The beige & black interiors (in white cars only) brighten up the ambience. Red and silver cars get completely black interiors which look sporty, but might be too dark for some:

Lovely steering wheel is great to use:

Deep set instruments. Notice 4 warning lights for the brakes alone! One denotes the manual parking brake, another is for the automatic 'hold' function, one pertains to the ABA and another warning for brake pad wear or brake fluid levels:

The influence of KERS - regenerative braking. At the bottom, 'A' denotes the annoying auto start/stop feature, 'E' denotes the economy driving mode:

Wiper, headlight and indicator stalk on the left; gear selector on the right. Barring Aston Martin's gear buttons or the Jaguar's knob, this has to be the world's most minimalist gear selector:

Below is the cruise control stalk:

Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Response isn't instantaneous like the DSGs:

Integrated tombstone seats hold you in place and add a sporty feel, but at the expense of making the cabin's rear feel claustrophobic:

Frameless windows! The window lowers itself by half an inch when the door is opened, and raises back when the door is closed. This is to prevent shattering of the glass if the seals are airtight:

Memory seats. Headrest switch is redundant. Each door has a small bulb which adds to the ambient lighting:

All four windows get one-touch up & down:

Front door pockets can swallow a 1 litre bottle. The area inside the doorpad is carpeted:

Illuminated door sill garnish looks classy:

Headlamp switch with 'Auto' mode. Notice how the foglamp button is separate, allowing it to be operated independently of the headlamps. Don't miss the electronic handbrake switch below:

The transmitter that behaves like a regular key. One still needs to twist it to start the car like a normal key:

ORVMs are wide enough and provide good visibility:

Foot well with dead pedal:

Bonnet release is hidden away. It took sometime to locate this lever. Notice the foot well light:

Manual reach & rake adjustment for the steering:

Biggest change from the other MFA cars is the 17.8 cm infotainment screen. It still isn't a touchscreen though:

A variety of functions on offer:

You can adjust the ambient lighting as well as the follow-me-home settings here:

Controller wheel for Comand - The 'return' key takes you to the previous screen; the 'star' takes you to the homescreen:

SLS-style air-con vents make the interiors stand out. They feel very tactile. Aluminium-burred trim makes the cabin look classy:

This console might look like a button fest, but it helps in getting to the correct screen quickly in one push (as opposed to fiddling with the controller wheel):

Microphone located between the instrument cluster and centre console:

Dual-zone climate control on the top variant:

Loads of storage space liberated by the steering-mounted gear stalk & electric handbrake:

Enough place to store the loose items:

Beverage cum ticket holder. It is illuminated too:

Comfortable armrest with fore and aft adjustment:

Armrest compartment is deep and complete with 2 USB ports. You could lose an iPod nano in here!! It managed to hold our camera!

Rear view is restricted by the thick C-pillars and short rear windscreen. The reversing camera is essential for blemish-free parking:

Rearward visibility is poor:

Reversing camera is clear and displays adaptive guidelines for convenience:

Roof controls for the lights & sunroof:

Illuminated sunvisors on both sides. Notice the black headlining:

Ol' pull-type manual locks in case of an electrical failure:

When you're in the mood to chuck this car around, remember that your co-passenger doesn't have grab handles to hold on to:

Large sunroof (Sport variant only). Tilt and slide movement adds a couple of cm to the front headroom. Brightens the interior (especially the all-black interiors):

A lateral view of the all-black interiors:

Last edited by GTO : 16th February 2015 at 14:34. Reason: Typo
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Old 4th February 2015, 17:03   #4
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Interior - Rear

The B-Pillar onwards is what the CLA is all about. Is it a coupe, is it a saloon, is it practical, is it comfortable, is it a gimmick? Read on...

While the rear half of the car scores in terms of styling, it doesn't in functionality. The good news ends once you move from the front to the back. Clearly, this is a car only for self-driven owners. The CLA is after all similar to the small A-Class and has an identical wheelbase too. Rear legroom is far lesser than what you'd expect in a 30+ lakh ride. If you are going to be using the back seat frequently, look elsewhere. It's disappointing that a 1/3rd as expensive Honda City can shame the CLA for rear bench comfort. Also, the low roof line means you have to watch your head when getting into the back.

To put things in perspective, rear legroom is similar to a B-segment hatchback. For tall occupants, headroom is in short supply as well. My head would touch the roof if I tilted it back. Yes, the rear bench is better than that of the Audi A3, but that's not saying too much, is it? Although snug, the seat itself offers good all round support. Wiggle room is minimal and the narrow bench is good for two adults at best. The limited width and prominent floor hump make a 5th occupant unwelcome. The rear seat comes with an armrest and two flip-out cupholders. With the tombstone-like rear seat, small rear windows and that black headlining, you will find the cabin to be claustrophobic. The light from the sunroof provides some relief though.

On paper, the CLA-Class has a boot capacity of 470 liters. That's 45 liters more than the A3. Still, it is the A3's boot that is more practical, because the Merc has no well for a spare tyre. It's strapped on top of the boot floor, severely compromising usability. Large suitcases won't fit flat as more than half of the floor area is taken up by the spare. Why this design error? The CLA-Class is sold with runflat tyres & no spare wheel in some countries.

Ingress / egress aren't going to be easy. It is a coupe after all. Watch your head when getting in:

Frameless door theme continues:

Seat is supportive, but limited width means only two out here:

Limited legroom, comparable to B-segment hatchbacks. Front seats have been scooped out to make things that much better. Seatback pockets missing:

The extremities of the front seat's travel range. A 6 footer won't be able to sit behind a 6ft tall driver:

Headroom is at a premium too. Friendly Moderator Aditya (5'10" height) demonstrating the same. Taller passengers will crib about headroom, and bad roads will give them a 'headache'

Small rear windows add to the claustrophobia:

Forward vision from the rear is limited:

Sunroof brings in some light to the rear cabin area:

Rear armrest and cup-holders:

Top variant gets rear air-con vents:

Lower variant gets a storage spot instead:

470 liter boot is well shaped, but...

...there is no well underneath for the spare! Strap the spare wheel on and the boot completely loses its practicality!

Generous cubby to hold the first aid kit and manual:

Boot access from the rear seats. But wait, there's no way to open this door from the cabin. It can only be opened from the boot area - meant to carry long items:

Seats can fold down in a 60:40 ratio:

Isofix child seat mounts:

Last edited by ajmat : 5th February 2015 at 09:43.
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Old 4th February 2015, 17:04   #5
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2 liter direct-injection turbocharged petrol:

The CLA-Class comes with either a 2.0 liter turbocharged petrol engine that makes 181 BHP, or the familiar 2.1 liter diesel which pushes out 134 BHP. Both engines offer peak torque of 300 Nm (probably limited by the dual-clutch transmission). These specs are identical to the GLA-Class. Do note that the A-Class & B-Class diesels have a lesser power output, while their petrol engine is a smaller 1.6L unit.

Opening the bonnet is quite a task. One needs to look under the driver's footwell to find the red lever. The bonnet pops up, then another latch needs to be accessed before lifting the bonnet. It takes a bit of fumbling in the recesses to find & figure out how this latch is operated. The bonnet is assisted by a manual strut (not a hydraulic one). There's no sound insulation on the underside of the hood either.

Driving the Petrol

No start/stop button here; you take the transmitter key, plug it into the ignition slot and turn it like a regular key. From the outside, the engine sounds tappity. So much so that when a fellow reviewer drove up in a petrol, I asked him how the diesel was!!! The petrol motor is loud from the outside, and you can barely make out the difference between the petrol & diesel when standing in front of the vehicle.

There remains no confusion between the two engines when you start driving though. The petrol is superior to the diesel in all areas (except fuel economy). Tap the gear stalk down into 'D' with the brake pedal pressed and, as soon as you start moving, you realise this motor is no slouch. Even with a light foot in slow moving traffic, the engine is drivable and never leaves you wanting. Up the ante and you discover the ample torque and explosive mid-range punch that the turbo-petrol offers. It easily revs till the 6,500 rpm rev limit, although things get rather vocal as the rpm needle climbs. The exhaust note is quite sporty, but at high revs, it doesn't sound anywhere as sweet as the Octavia 1.8 TSI. This engine offers fast performance and will do the 0-100 dash in 7.8 seconds. Floor the accelerator and torque steer is noticeable. On an open stretch of tarmac, it's easy to reach silly speeds before you look at the speedometer and realise how fast you're actually going.

The 7G-DCT dual clutch gearbox has 3 driving modes to choose from - E (Economy), S (Sports) and M (Manual). The default driving mode is 'E' and you can toggle between 'S' and 'M' via a button on the center console. In 'E' mode, the gearbox quickly shifts up to the highest ratio possible. Don't be surprised to see 7th gear at merely 80 kmph when driving with a light foot. This works fine when cruising sedately. If you suddenly need to close that gap in traffic though, the gearbox has to drop a gear or two, which ends up taking too much time. On the open road, the gearbox would upshift to 3rd or 4th gear when I slowed down for a corner and, when exiting out, there was a delay in getting the power down as two downshifts were required (for 2nd gear). Also, during long overtaking manouveurs, you aren't sure if it will upshift unexpectedly (in the middle of the overtaking move). Of course, you can use the paddle-shifts to downshift just before overtaking. The disadvantage with using the paddle shifters is that the transmission automatically goes back to 'E' mode after a few seconds of using the paddles.

'S' (Sports) mode does a far better job of holding onto lower gears. I found 'S' mode to be responsive, intuitive and well-suited to my style of driving. I didn't need to summon the vast bank of torque, since it was already there at my disposal (unlike in 'E' mode). 'S' mode does a better job of keeping the engine in the powerband. Still, in this mode too, the gearbox is tuned on the conservative side. As long as you are pressing the accelerator, the transmission won't upshift. It will try to hold onto the lower gear. However, the minute your right foot is off the pedal, the gearbox thinks it's ok to upshift. 'S' mode works fine when you need outright acceleration as it's usually in the meat of the powerband, but not when you drive aggressively with varying throttle inputs. Brake for a corner and the gearbox has a tendency to upshift. When you accelerate out of that corner, it will again downshift. This really slows down progress and the constant upshifting / downshifting can get annoying if you're in the mood for some fun. You can get around the problem by using the paddle-shifters here also, albeit it’s not as much fun as a true manual gearbox. Or for that matter, the VW DSG too.

For drivers like us, there is an 'M' (Manual) mode provided. Like most auto gearboxes these days, 'M' mode will still automatically upshift close to the redline and automatically downshift if the rpm needle drops too low. I found this to be the best mode when driving hard, as it was up to me to remain in a lower gear (vis a vis the tranny upshifting unnecessarily). Although 'M' mode is completely manual, there was an odd delay I observed in putting the power down after a downshift. Once past this delay, the sweet turbo-petrol engine pushes you back into the seat and punches ahead. This is where the fun truly begins. The trick is to downshift when braking, let the gearbox match the revs and then power out of corners till you hit the redline & upshift...only to repeat the procedure for the next corner . Enthusiasts will also appreciate how the CLA-Class allows you to generously use engine braking and isn't overly conservative in restricting downshifts in "M" mode.

Overall, the 7G-DCT is a gearbox that is set up more for a smooth, sedate driving style. It doesn't like to be hustled and there's always a slight delay in downshifts. The shift quality is extremely smooth, irrespective of rpms. But it's not as quick as I would have liked in the area of downshifts. In terms of responsiveness, VW's DSG unit & BMW's 8-speed gearbox come out on top. There is no doubt that the potent petrol engine masks the laidback nature of this gearbox. In real world driving, it's a silky smooth transmission. Knowing Mercedes, responses would have been intentionally dulled in favour of 'refinement' and to reduce shock loading for better long-term reliability.

Driving the Diesel

Under the hood of the diesel CLA-Class is the familiar OM651 motor with a displacement of 2,143cc. This is the same engine that powers the A, B, C, E, GLA and ML-Class. The engine is labelled as the 250 CDI in the ML & E-Class, 220 CDI in the C-Class, 200 CDI in the GLA & CLA and 180 CDI in the A/B Class. It produces 107 BHP in the A/B-Class, going up to 201 BHP in the larger cars. For the CLA, it's somewhere in between with 134 BHP and 300 Nm torque (1,600 - 3,000 rpm). We know the motor is capable of far better numbers, thus it's quite disappointing that Mercedes opted for the '200 CDI' tune rather than the '220 CDI' version available internationally. The 220 CDI with 168 BHP would have been ideal. As things stand today, the CLA diesel offers lesser power, torque & performance than cheaper D1-segment sedans like the Jetta, Octavia & Cruze.

If the numbers look mediocre on paper, well, it's the same on the road. I got to the diesel after driving the petrol. The CDI loses out on the responsiveness & urgency of the turbo-petrol. The throttle is lazier, and there is some lag present at lower rpms. Performance is obviously adequate for the daily commute and will serve most purposes. But don't you expect something 'special' after spending 35 lakhs? There will be driving conditions where you wish the engine had more horses on tap. Further, the diesel is noisier than expected in a premium car and you're always aware that there is an oil-burner under the hood.

In the city, the large displacement engine with 300 Nm of torque does a good job of delivering brisk performance. You can keep the gearbox in 'E' mode and drive around town sedately, without feeling any deficit in power. Thanks to the smooth shifting 7G-DCT, the CLA diesel is suitable for calm cruising within the city as well as on the highway. It's no road-burner though and enthusiasts should look elsewhere. Power is adequate, not explosive. It is delivered in a linear manner. The 0-100 kmph run takes 9.8 seconds, that's slower than the CLA turbo-petrol by 2 seconds! Mercedes have clearly targeted performance with the petrol and efficiency with the diesel. The CLA CDI delivers ARAI numbers of 17.9 kmpl (petrol = 15.04 kmpl). The real-world difference between the two will be greater.

Similar to the petrol, the dual-clutch gearbox is slow to respond & lazy when downshifting. This laziness - coupled with the lower output of the diesel - diminishes the fun-to-drive factor. The diesel is the exact opposite of the punchy petrol. No point using manual mode; even when you're in a hurry, engage 'S' mode and let the gearbox do its work. This is the best way to drive the diesel CLA. On the highway, you have adequate torque at your disposal, but you need to plan before overtaking fast vehicles, due to the car's delay in kickdown response. If you merely want to keep up with the flow, the diesel does a fine job. If you want to be ahead of the pack and play the press-on drive, look at other options.

Ride & Handling

Despite the coupe profile, the CLA is easy to drive. The steering is accurate and well-weighted. What it lacks is feedback, typical of modern electric power steerings. Driving in traffic is effortless. An added benefit is the super convenient 'brake hold' function. After rolling to a stop at a traffic light, just press the brake pedal once and it will activate the 'HOLD' feature. You no longer have to keep the brake pedal pressed to 'hold' the car stationary. As soon as you press the accelerator, the hold feature deactivates. Obviously, being a dual-clutch gearbox, it's preferred to keep it in 'P' when stationary for a long time. Slotting in 'P' involves a mere click of the button on the edge of the gear stalk. Coupled with decently sized mirrors, rear visibility is good. Both ORVMs are convex - rare for a Mercedes. The reversing camera and parking sensors help when manoeuvring this 35 lakh car into a tight slot. The 5.5 meter turning radius is identical to my Jetta.

The big advantage that the CLA has over the other MFA cars is its ride – The A-Class was deemed choppy, the GLA was labelled as firm, but the CLA is just right. It is firm, yet minor bumps and potholes aren't transmitted into the cabin. You know what the surface is like...still, you don't feel the shocks. As with most Europeans, the ride only improves with speed. I'd say that ride comfort is at par with the Jetta. It's never uncomfortable. A lot of this is due to a multi-link subframe designed for the CLA.

From its stance, the suspension has been raised by an inch. Mercedes supply 17" wheels for India which are more than adequate. The car is unflappable and immensely stable. You need to keep an eye on the needle to ensure you aren't getting carried away. Cornering is flat, the car responds well to driver inputs and you are aware of a slight understeer bias...only on the extreme. Turn-in is accurate, but not eager (like say, the BMW 1-Series). It steers as per your command, but isn't a willing partner in crime. In the diesel, understeer was definitely more apparent. I took a fast hairpin bend in the 200 CDI and understeer was obvious, although you get more than enough feedback to correct the same. For a front wheel drive car, the handling is very balanced.

At speed, the steering is accurate enough. It's lacking in feel though. The weight is on the lighter side at low speeds, and it gets better as you go faster. You are always aware that the weight is virtual and not the 'real thing'. Considering it's an electric system on a front wheel drive car, the experience is quite good. The steering doesn't feel as disconnected as that of an Audi. Highway stability at any speed is typical Mercedes. Even at high triple digit speeds, this baby Merc remains planted & composed, making it an excellent expressway cruiser. The CLA-Class felt far from being a poor cousin to its bigger brothers. The ride / handling balance is impressive. That said, if you're looking for an outright driver’s car, look elsewhere.

The brakes are brilliant. There isn't too much travel and overall feel is excellent. I simulated panic stops & the car responded safely & confidently. I tried braking on uneven patches and it was still tracked straight. This was the only time that the ESP light actually came on.

Strut brace also serves as an impact beam:

Engine, ECU and other components are made in Germany:

As is the case with all Mercedes, the battery, relays & fuses (in red) are all segregated and easily accessible:

Manual bonnet holder doesn't deserve a place in a car of this price. Also, unlike other Mercs, the bonnet won't tilt to 90 degrees:

More ground clearance than its AMG twin to tackle Indian road conditions:

Unusual for a Merc - the fuel filler is on the passenger side (like a Japanese car)! Tyre pressure information can be found here as well. Notice the built-in carrier to hold the fuel cap while refuelling:

Last edited by GTO : 4th February 2015 at 17:39.
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Old 4th February 2015, 17:04   #6
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The Smaller yet Significant Things:

Classy small LEDs within the headrests provide ambient lighting:

An eccentric mechanism pivots the passenger side wiper to sweep the upper corner. Not as efficient as the jumping wiper of the erstwhile Merc W124:

Driver side ORVM has an auto-dimming function:

Aluminium suspension components:

Mounts to latch additional items on the roof (bike rack, cargo box, roof rack):

Tiny rear quarter window - style over practicality:

Reversing camera pops out when reverse gear is engaged:

It retracts to avoid getting dirty:

Boot floor houses the jack and puncture repair kit. Shame it's not deep enough for the spare wheel:

Tyre repair kit comes with a pump:

Warning triangle folded up and attached to the boot lid:

All 4 doors get puddle lights:

Built in Hungary:

VIN stamped under the driver's seat:

Windscreen condensation, a problem seen on other Mercs too:

Parking sensor display with an audible warning. Present on the dashboard as well as near the rear cabin light:

Middle neck restraint to prevent whiplash injuries to the 5th passenger. Can be pulled up:

At the rear is a wide speaker bar with tweeters and the subwoofer:

Last edited by GTO : 4th February 2015 at 17:40.
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Old 4th February 2015, 17:04   #7
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Chief Competitor, the Audi A3

What you'll like:
• Clean & timeless design. Styling similar to its bigger brothers
• Premium quality, inside out. Excellent interior fit, finish & feel
• Competent engines: Torquey fuel-efficient diesel & fast petrol
• Quick dual-clutch transmission with smooth shift quality
• Rich dynamics, strong grip levels and solid stability
• 5 star safety & kit (6 airbags, ESC, ABS, ASR, all disc brakes)
• Equipment: Bi-xenon headlamps, MMI system with 7" screen, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control etc.

What you won't:
• Compact size. Length is comparable to the VW Vento!
• Uncomfortable rear seat. Headroom (especially) & legroom are in short supply
• Long-term reliability concerns over the DSG automatic
• Electric power steering lacks the feel & feedback you'd expect in a driver's car
Premium plus variants are priced dangerously close to the A4, 3-Series & C-Class
• The larger Jetta & Octavia are cheaper. A3 has a lot in common with the Skoda
• Paddle shifters, smartkey entry & go and memory seats are conspicuous by their absence

Review Link (Audi A3 : Official Review)

Last edited by GTO : 4th February 2015 at 18:06.
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Old 4th February 2015, 17:04   #8
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Other Points:

• A huge shoutout to S2!!! for helping out with the photographs! Thank you.

• Yep, we've driven the CLA 45 AMG - link (Driven: Mercedes CLA 45 AMG @ Buddh).

• Disclaimer: Mercedes invited Team-BHP for the CLA test-drive. They covered all the travel expenses for this driving event.

Last edited by GTO : 4th February 2015 at 23:25. Reason: Linking to CLA 45 drive
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Old 4th February 2015, 18:41   #9
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It's small, it's overpriced...yet this is a car that just makes you w-a-n-t it. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think of how a CLA would fit in my garage. The car has an air of desirability around it.

I didn't expect the CLA petrol to be so competent, but was pleasantly surprised after driving it. The styling is just wow (especially in person), and the sheer quality blew me away. This, and all that equipment, adds to the 'feel good' factor. In the area of engineering too, the turbo-petrol feels sorted and the all-round experience was nice. I parked next to the W204 C-Class and - even though the W204 is only a generation older - it feels like its 10 years behind the fresh CLA. Merc's new design language is going to win it a lot of fans. Older folk don't mind youthful styling, albeit the young hate old, boring designs.

Haven't driven the diesel, though the power output is a shame. Can't imagine spending 40 big ones and having a 1/2 price Cruze leaving me embarrassed.

Also, there is no way this can be the only car of the house. The rear seat is way too cramped for the multi-purpose usage our rides go through (family, school, airport, holiday drives) and the boot is useless with that spare tyre strapped in. As the only car, I'd pick a Jetta or Octavia over this. On the other hand, the CLA is a sweet 2nd / 3rd / 4th car in a rich man's house.

Prices will come down once local assembly & more variants trickle in.

Great report Ajmat, thanks for sharing! You & European cars are made for each other. Rating thread a well-deserved 5 stars .

Last edited by GTO : 4th February 2015 at 18:43.
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Old 4th February 2015, 19:50   #10
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Default Re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

The much-awaited review is here! Thanks for sharing

Even though it looks to be overpriced by at least 4-5 lakhs, I am sure this is going to be a big-seller for Mercedes. The styling alone will pull buyers into the showroom, and to top up the engine options are superior to A and B Class models. Those frameless doors are so drool-worthy!

Originally Posted by ajmat View Post
Interior - Front
Integrated tombstone seats hold you in place and add a sporty feel, but at the expense of making the cabin's rear feel claustrophobic:
Even the GLA gets similar front seats in other markets, but for India they changed to conventional seats. I feel similar approach would have done a whole lot of difference to the interior ambience of the CLA.

Last edited by vb-san : 4th February 2015 at 20:14.
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Old 4th February 2015, 19:57   #11
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Default Re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

G-R-E-A-T Review Amjat.

This car is on the wishlist of many but not sure how many would actually want to buy it. If only space is considered, these vehicles (Read: Merc CLA & Audi A3) are like Xcents & Amazes from Germany's garages.

I echo GTO, I would most definitely vouch for the Superb or Passat (or even Camry) if I had to spend ~30L on a sedan. On the other hand, if I want the CLA (because of the great design and looks), I would go for the AMG!
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Old 4th February 2015, 20:03   #12
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Thumbs up Re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

Absolutely superb review..thanks for sharing this with us and the awesome level of detail!

The car looks absolutely GORGEOUS!

A bit overpriced and constrained in space but a huge refreshing change in Merc's design language. How I wish I could afford one!
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Old 4th February 2015, 20:30   #13
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Default Re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

Nice review ajmat!

The coupe-line and the frameless doors look swell! I think a 2-door variant would have looked a tad nicer.

Originally Posted by ajmat View Post
When you're in the mood to chuck this car around, remember that your co-passenger doesn't have grab handles to hold on to:
Looks like the driver side has a grab handle?

Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review-804.jpg
Source: Google images

What an irony! Isn't that kind of useless?

Surprised that a 30+L car misses out the keyless-entry-and-go when features like these have been trickling down to cars 3-4 segments lower!
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Old 4th February 2015, 20:34   #14
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Default Re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

Very well written review Ajmat. Detailed and to the point. To talk about the car, it's a beauty to look at specially those frameless doors, alloys. But the price and lack of space make it a bit impractical. Ideal for a 2nd or even a 3rd car for a wealthy family but it can not be a primary car.

And no rear AC vents in lower trim even for a 30+lakh car? That's something astonishing to talk about.
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Old 4th February 2015, 20:47   #15
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Default Re: Mercedes CLA-Class : Official Review

Beautiful car and brilliant review Ajmat, covers all the aspects a hungry BHPian like me wants to read about and look at. I guess Audi will soon start offering discounts on the A3 Tsi now that Mercedes has raised the stakes, hoping A3 comes with some attractive offers soon making this affordable game closer home. The CLA is pretty much in sync with the market standards if not better. Thanks again Ajmat.
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