The C-Class has always been one of Mercedes-Benz’s best sellers but buyers have often faced a dilemma – should they buy the more spacious saloon or opt for the more stylish coupe.
Now the German luxury car maker has made things a little easier by producing a car which combines the best of both worlds – the new CLA.
It’s available as either petrol or diesel in either Sport or AMG Sport trim with – surprisingly – both petrol versions being manual and both diesel versions being automatic.
What is probably more surprising is that prices start from just £24,355, although the petrol version even in AMG trim is only powered by a 1.6-litre engine, albeit it a turbocharged one.
With full body kit including side skirts, dramatic low front and rear valances, twin exhausts and suspension lowered by 20mm at the front and 15mm at the rear the AMG model is a very macho looking car, although a little bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
The interior is dramatic too, with the high-backed sports seats, aluminium sports pedals and red stitching.
And while the 122bhp, transverse petrol engine is far from the quickest in the Mercedes range its performance is still respectable and it does ensure that the car should average around 50 miles to the gallon officially, although with a gentle right foot the most I could manage was 44mpg.
Inspired by the larger CLS coupe, the CLA is the most aerodynamic production car in the world, which plays a major part in making it as quiet as it is. On the road there is hardly any wind noise at all. For Mercedes this is certainly a budget priced luxury saloon which, although probably aimed at a younger age group, will appeal to drivers of all ages.
There is good rear legroom and rear seat passengers get a more elevated position so they can see the road ahead more easily.
The CLA has a decent sized 470-litre boot – the Coupe version’s is somewhat limited – and the seats fold down in a one third/two thirds split.
First gear lacks a little urgency and to get the best out of the petrol engine you do have to wind the revs up but I enjoyed the performance and certainly was bowled over by the appearance, ride and comfort of this new model.
The manual six-speed gearbox is a dream to use and even though there is a dashboard-mounted electric handbrake the car comes with a hill holder clutch to avoid any problems when pulling away on inclines.
The twin dashboard dials are conventional but there is a 5.8-inch free-standing display screen mounted near the centre of the dash for sat nav and controlling most of the onboard functions.
My test car came with Parktronic – which parks the car for you – as well as Adaptive High Beam Assist, a brilliant system which automatically switches the headlights to main beam when the road ahead is dark and dipped beam when oncoming cars appear.
And on the subject of lighting, when you open either of the front doors you will see the name Mercedes-Benz illuminated on the sills. A nice touch.
What is it they say. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Model: Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 AMG Sport
Basic price: £26,555
Mechanical: 1598cc, 4 cyl, 122 bhp petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6spd manual gearbox.
Max speed: 130 mph
0-62 mph: 9.3 secs
Combined mpg: 50.4
CO2 emissions: 130 g/km
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited mileage