A Mercedes-Benz sedan that’s legitimately compact, is front-wheel drive and driver-centric? Not so long ago such an idea would be deemed sacrilegious, but times have changed. Compact luxury sedans are now getting popular as they tend to combine the prestige badges with solid driving dynamics and posh interiors, all bundled up in a fairly affordable package. Take the CLA, for instance. Introduced in early 2015, the CLA looks right, drives right and most importantly, feels posh enough to carry that big, three-pointed star upfront. Nonetheless, Mercedes India has just given it its first major update in the form of the 2017 model. Here’s what it’s like now.
The CLA preserves all of its curvy lines, the coupe-like silhouette and that sharp, low-slung nose. The overall shape still mimics that of the bigger, twice as expensive CLS – both these vehicles look the part and ooze plenty of character. What’s new in the 2017 model, then, you may ask? Not much, if we are honest. That said, Mercedes has concentrated on refreshing the finer details – bits like the chrome trim strip on the front bumper and the headlights are new. The headlights, in fact, are now full LEDs and are claimed to have color temperature closer to that of daylight than xenon headlamps.
Moving on to the rear, only the taillight detailing and the exhaust tips are different. Sadly, Mercedes India isn’t offering the new alloy wheel designs that are available on US and Euro-spec 2017 CLA. What we do get though is a new blue metallic color called Cavansite Blue.
The interior of the CLA is bang on the money, not just for the overall quality and finish but also the way it’s laid out. In typical Mercedes fashion, the dash is full of high quality switches and soft-touch surfaces. But unlike the competition, there is a certain degree of flair the moment you step inside the CLA, especially as you brush past those achingly gorgeous frameless doors. Once seated, the CLA continues to impress with all that’s new in this update.
Like the exterior, the changes are limited but noteworthy indeed. You now get an 8-inch display (as against the 7-inch unit before) with vastly improved graphics for the COMAND infotainment system. The system also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for better smartphone connectivity. Other notable updates include a more vivid looking instrument cluster and revised Drive Select for different driving modes.
Like the Audi A3, the 2017 CLA’s cabin feels more of an executive sedan than that of a compact sedan, with decent comfort for up to four adults. Now although there’s ample stretch-out space, it’s worth noting that the CLA is nowhere as spacious as the similarly priced Skoda Superb or even the similarly sized Audi A3.
Upfront, the seats are well bolstered and remarkably comfortable even after long stints behind the wheel – a ton of adjustment can be made including manual seat base extenders for additional under thigh support. There is some bad news though for the rear seat passengers. While the seats themselves are nicely cushioned with good backrest angle, there’s isn’t much space to move around. The legroom can be deemed adequate at best though what really spoils the comfort level is the same thing that defines the CLA – Its sloping roofline. The headroom, as a result, is barely there and the tiny rear windows only add to the claustrophobic and cramped feeling. At 470-litres, the boot is fairly big until you realize that most of its base is hogged by the space saver.
As one would expect, the 2017 CLA is generous in the what-do-I-get-for-the-price department. On the tech front, there’s the updated COMAND infotainment system with Bluetooth and smartphone linking tech. We tested the Sport trim which also gets you a large sunroof, cruise control, a rear camera and of course, those full LED headlights. In terms of safety, the 2017 model gets six airbags, ABS, ESP, Attention Assist and hill start assist. Strangely, the CLA still does without rear parking sensors, rear AC vents and climate control.
The updates on this 2017 model are restricted to the exterior design and cabin enhancements. This means you get the same old 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol motor that develops 181bhp at 5,500rpm and 300Nm of torque at 1,200rpm. The gearbox, too, is the familiar 7-speed dual clutch automatic with paddle shifters.
The 2-litre unit is a free-revving engine that offers impressive acceleration off the line (thanks to a rather strong throttle response). That said, it sings its best tune around 3,000rpm where the CLA gets up to speed with a great degree of spirit. The midrange grunt is commendable and allows the car to sprint from 0-100kmph in 7.84 seconds as tested. The general refinement levels, too, are impressive with minimal wind and tire noise even at higher speeds – one can hear that grainy engine note only while going full throttle.
The CLA gets Merc’s Drive Select which gives the driver the option to choose between Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual modes. As you may have guessed, the CLA feels like a proper gentleman’s express in Eco and Comfort modes, accelerating sedately and delivering smooth gearshifts. In Sport, it’s noticeably feistier to drive and demands more driver involvement. The gearbox, too, hangs on to gears till the redline – tapping the paddles allows quicker downshifts than the lazier automatics in some of the other Mercedes models.
The CLA’s ride quality is quite sorted and that’s despite the suspension setup being on the firmer side. The suspension tune strikes a nice balance between bump absorption and high speed composure – there is sufficient compliance to iron out minor bumps and pot holes. However, it tends to amplify road patches, some of which get filtered into the cabin. In comparison, the Audi A3 certainly has a softer edge to its ride and its steering feel is a tad better, too. The CLA isn’t an out-an-out sport sedan and yet, it tackles the twisty bits rather well. The steering has decent feel to it in Sport mode and the body roll is well contained as well.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||183bhp @ 5500RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||300Nm @1200-4000RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||56-litres|
|Tyre size||225/45 R17|
|8-inch infotainment system||Yes|
|Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity options||Yes|
|Full LED headlights||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||200 Sport||40 TFSI Premium|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||183bhp @ 5500RPM||178bhp @5100RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||300Nm @1200RPM||250Nm @1250RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||56||50|
|Tyre size||225/45 R17||205/55R17|
Mercedes did a lot of things right with the original CLA. It exuded class from its stunning exterior design and a nicely put together cabin. But with its incredibly low roofline and a cramped rear seat, the CLA might as well have only two doors.
The 2017 model does no favors for the CLA when it comes to improving the rear seat comfort. That being said, it has enhanced the driver-centric nature of the CLA through the updated infotainment system and the revised Drive Select. When you take these updates into account and add them to the balanced chassis, strong performance and those looks, the CLA makes for a great entry-level ticket for those aspiring to own a Mercedes sedan with oodles of class and solid performance.
Photos By : Sanchit Arora