Overall rating: 4/5
When the Mercedes-Benz CLA arrived in Ireland in 2013, we applauded its swoopy styling, offering compact premium buyers something completely unique in visual terms, yet we criticised it for its lack of rear space and the fact its decent road holding came at the expense of overly stiff springs. Now we're at the Irish launch of its supposedly more practical alter ego, the equally stylish new CLA Shooting Brake. Has Mercedes listened to us?
In the metal 4.5/5
Though the Shooting Brake is more spacious than the regular Mercedes CLA we reckon it's at least as good-looking as the 'four-door coupe' and possibly better when comparing cars in the more demure specifications - where the regular version can look ungainly. So, we expect it to be bought by people that love how it looks more than those that need the extra space.
For what it's worth, there is a fraction more headroom in the back because of the revised roof line, but the 2,699mm wheelbase is unchanged. At 495 litres, the boot holds only 25 litres more luggage, though the back seat can be folded down to open up 1,354 litres capacity. There's quite a narrow space between the wheelarch intrusions though, so carefully measure up your Ikea purchases before bringing them to the car... Don't for a second try to convince yourself that this will make a decent family car; parents of babies will find the boot filled by most big buggies and rear legroom isn't conducive with growing kiddies sitting on booster seats either.
Practicalities aside, the cabin feels well-made and is good to look at. The big stylised air vents have aged well and the sculpted dashboard is a nice touch. Move up to AMG Sport and things improve considerably with better figure-hugging sports seats and red contrast stitching. Really, there are few complaints with life in the front seats.
Driving it 3.5/5
If this category dealt with the chassis alone then the CLA Shooting Brake would score higher. The suspension is noticeably more comfortable than in the regular car, even on larger AMG alloys. This has not been at the expense of the car's competence in the corners though, where it remains flat and controlled. The steering is pleasantly direct and weighted and the leather steering wheel is a joy to use. So long as you choose Sport mode for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission - or take control of gear-changing for yourself via the paddles - the gearbox swiftly yet smoothly swaps cogs.
Keep it in too low a gear for too long though and the engine noise becomes unbearable. This CLA 200 CDI model is powered by a 2.1-litre diesel and it's quite raucous when pushed, which you'll need to do to make the most of its modest 136hp and 300Nm of torque. It's far better at a cruise on the motorway. If you don't need a car for that then seriously consider one of the cheaper, quieter petrol engines instead.
What you get for your money 4/5
Prices start at €31,490 for the CLA Shooting Brake, in '180' petrol guise, which is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine making 122hp and emitting from 128g/km (it depends on the wheel size). An uprated version of that engine producing 156hp powers the CLA 200 Shooting Brake, priced from €35,235, while the CLA 250 model features a 211hp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and costs from €45,045.
Although there's probably a small market for the entry-level petrol models, most Irish buyers are likely to stick with diesel for this car. Prices start at €36,125 for the CLA 200 CDI Shooting Brake, which is only €465 more than the equivalent version in the four-door body style. The CLA 220 CDI uses a 177hp version of the same 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine and all diesel variants are in either Band A3 or A4 for tax purposes.
Trim levels are standard, Urban and AMG Sport, while the range-topping CLA 45 AMG model has its own unique specification as found in the non-Shooting Brake CLA 45 AMG. Other than the CLA 250 and the 45 AMG models, (which come with automatic transmissions as standard), all Shooting Brakes come with a manual gearbox that can optionally be upgraded to an automatic.
The new Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake offers those that like the CLA look a little more justification in terms of practicality, but to call it an estate would be pushing things. Nonetheless it looks even better than the regular car to our eyes, which is job done for image conscious buyers - and it's not all that much more expensive either.