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Mercedes-Benz CLA; a sweet, swoopy little sedan

14.10.2016

An artful little nip 'n tuck can make a world of difference - notably in the case of the Mercedes-Benz CLA which recently had a mid-life facelift.

This A-Class based sedan is now a more compelling and engaging machine than I can recall from a couple of years ago, even though the changes have been fairy mild. They number, among other things, a diamond radiator grille in black, rather tasty new alloy wheels plus some interior upgrades.

And while the suspension doesn't appear to have been fettled, it's less harsh-riding than I remember from before - a complaint I've had with some of Merc's compact cars including the A-Class and its GLA SUV sibling. But I do understand the rationale for dialling into these cars a rigid ride which is meant to be perceived as sporty.

With its compact cars, Mercedes-Benz is appealing to a whole new generation, and they've been pretty successful. In Europe, the average age of drivers of these cars is around 13 years younger than for the rest of the Benz line-up.

Under the hood, if you'll pardon the Americanism, things stay pretty much the same on this little sedan whose styling so clearly reflects its much bigger, much more expensive CLS stablemate.

Pretty much the same, expect for the addition of the new CLA 200d derivative to the range. This uses a version of Merc's 2 143 cc turbodiesel detuned to make 100 kW and 300 Nm. Claimed fuel consumption is 4.4 L/100km. At least that's according to controlled NEDC testing. As with most of these figures it's a case of good luck in achieving them in real-world driving. You won't.

I digress. I've just spent a week with the entry-level CLA 200, or at least one up from the entry-level as the version I had was the automatic fitted with Mercedes' well-known seven-speed self-shifter.

Performance from this turbopetrol 1,595 cc motor is entirely acceptable. Not once during the week that took in urban and freeway use did I feel the need for more than the 115 kW and 250 Nm generated by this motor. This corresponds to a zero-to-100km/h time of 8.2 seconds, and a top speed of 230 km/h.

Drive is to the front wheels, as it is with the rest of the range, bar the halo AMG CLA 45 4Matic, while claimed fuel consumption is 5.5 L/100km.

Cutting to the interior, well, as it's as ergonomically excellent and attractive as all modern Merc interiors, and well-specced too. But as with most of this Swabian manufacturer's cars - and indeed most German cars - there is a vast and expensive list of optional extras to select from.

Go really wild in specifying these, and adding around the half the purchase price of the car itself in optional extras is not beyond the realms of possibility.

For this sweet little sedan you'll pay R482 712. But - and this is a big "but" - you'd arguably be better off paying only fractionally more and getting an entry-level C-Class. You see, while this facelift has convincingly polished the CLA, the slightly larger C-Class embodies better perceived quality, and a calming, balming ride that this car, improved as it is, still lacks. Then again the CLA is a more extroverted, youthful beast, so I guess you pay your money and take your choice.

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14.10.2016
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