When: March, 2015
Where: Stuttgart, Germany
What: Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake 220 CDI
Occasion: International first drive review
Overall rating: 3/5
Mixed gene CLA Shooting Brake adds back lost practicality the CLA four-door coupe robs from the A-Class it's based on. Confused? You should be.
Model: Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake 220 CDI
Pricing: starts from €31,490
Engine: 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed automatic
Body style: Shooting Brake
CO2 emissions: 131g/km (Band B2, €280 per year)
Combined economy: 5.0 litres/100km
Top speed: 225km/h
0-100km/h: 8.3 seconds
Power: 177hp at 3,600- to 3,800rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,400- to 3,400rpm
Boot space: 495- to 1354 litres
In the metal 4/5
The CLA Shooting Brake's conception is a confused one, it being the spawn of a hatch that became a four-door coupe that became a hatch again, albeit it an estate (or Shooting Brake to use Merc's parlance), which gives it a bit of wiggle-room to focus more on the style rather than the actual carrying capacity. It follows the CLS Shooting Brake in that respect, if you want a large, useful estate there are better choices in the Mercedes-Benz showroom, but if you're after a more beautiful, long-roofed machine then the Shooting Brake is it.
The confused parentage makes for a convincing mix, the CLA Shooting Brake's lengthier roofline softening the pinched backside look of its CLA four-door coupe relation. Boot space only swells by a moderate 25 litres, though the Shooting Brake does allow you to drop the seats to add to its usefulness. That's assuming you can get what you want in the back through the narrow and high opening. Best to think of it a slightly bigger hatchback then - the rear seat passengers benefitting from improved headroom thanks to the Shooting Brake's lines. Otherwise it's all business as usual inside, which is no bad thing, as the A/CLA's interior is among the best out there with high class materials and neat design inside.
Driving it 3/5
It might be pretty, but the CLA Shooting Brake struggles to live up to those looks as a driving machine. It's better in other engine/transmission combinations, the 2.1-litre turbodiesel and front-drive not the happiest of partners. There's plenty of urgency, but the torque-rich delivery is a bit too much for those front wheels to cope with. That might be okay if the steering had some feel, but there's no information at the wheel. Even if you're not in a hurry it makes for a drive that's far from smooth, the diesel not the most refined performer either, as it's notably noisy at idle, though it quietens down as the speed increases.
The ride is decent enough on smooth German roads, but choose the AMG Sport package and larger wheel and tyre options and the CLA's ride will be a bit busier on less well invested Irish tarmac. It grips decently enough, the steering might lack feel but it's faithful to input, though there's no real incentive to drive it. The seven-speed automatic, an option, does little to help, being a touch too keen to hold onto revs in Sport, very slow to respond in Eco mode and prone to ignoring inputs in manual. It's not all bad news if you want a CLA Shooting Brake, as the CLA 250 4Matic is a far more appealing proposition, its four-wheel drive and smoother petrol flattering the chassis more, the diesel only highlighting its deficiencies.
What you get for your money 3/5
A good-looking compact estate, that's not hugely practical. But then it's not supposed to be. Mercs are pretty decently specified these days, with even the entry models coming with everything you could reasonably wish for.
The biggest issue with the CLA Shooting Brake in 220 CDI guise is its lack of traction. If you're seduced by the looks and want diesel economy then be patient, as a four-wheel drive 4Matic version is anticipated to join the line-up at the tail-end of 2015.
It's all but impossible not to be seduced by its good looks, but as a package, it's not as appealing as it could be. If you want a more practical version of the CLA then you could just buy the car it's spun off from - the A-Class. It might lose a bit of boot space and rear headroom, but it'll leave you with a lot more in your pocket.