herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

Merc's CLA estate is more of a looker than it is a lugger

Mercedes last week pulled the dust covers off its latest offering - the CLA Shooting Brake.

Now, to the great unwashed (mere mortals like you and me), this means it's an estate version of its very slick baby coupe of the same three-lettered moniker.

So it's a coupe estate, right? Exactly, thereby creating a niche within an already niche market - all Mercedes has to do now is figure out who it's going to sell it to.

Like its baby brother, the wagon looks absolutely fantastic. The sloping roofline, frameless doors and sweeping lines soften the extra dimensions, while the rounded, pert rear end with chrome embedded exhausts complements her sporty posture.

Inside, it's equally exciting, with a young and vibrant dash peppered with chrome, suede and piano black finishes.

The flat-bottomed three-spoke leather steering and the X-Men-style air vents (five in all) are a big hit, as is the iPad-like centre screen which is home to the infotainment/sat nav/Bluetooth and car stats.

What it gains in form though it loses out on in functionality. Yes, it's bigger than the CLA, but only by an extra 25 litres - boosting the boot capacity to 495 litres, which extends to 1,354 litres with the seats folded.

It's not the size that's the biggest gripe here, it's the accessibility, which is hampered by a high lip and bulging rear lamps which narrows the aperture. They'll make even modular loads (IKEA springs to mind) practically impossible to carry with the tailgate shut.

On the up side, there's an extra 40mm of headroom in the rear seats and decent elbow room either side.

Engine-wise the pick of the bunch will be the 200 CDI, a 2.2-litre generating 136bhp, and the 220 CDI (auto) with 177bhp, both with annual road tax of €190. Petrol versions begin with the CLA180 - a 1.6-litre 122bhp. We tested the 200 CDI on a brief jaunt.

A little gruff and noisy, it lacks the refinement one expects from a premium brand, while the steering could have been a lot more informative and the ride less choppy.

That said, it did cruise happily on the motorway, and returning a whopping 66mpg (4.2l/100km) it will appeal to high-milers. I still can't call it an estate, though - more of an elongated coupe. Prices for the CLA Shooting Brake start at €31,490.

Philip Hedderman

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