Road Test

Mercedes-Benz CLA Diesel India First Drive Review

By   |   13 January,2015

In the fiercely competitive luxury car segment it has been Mercedes-Benz which has been the most aggressive for the past two years and after a fantastic 2014 (sales surpassing 10,000 units) it is in no mood to slow down as it will start this year with the launch of the CLA. This is a very important launch considering the compact luxury segment has huge growth potential- not just in India but all over the world.

Chew on this, since its worldwide introduction Mercedes has sold over 100,000 units of the CLA with a majority of the customers being first time Merc buyers. In India after its 22nd Jan launch, the CLA would be expected to do the same so to get up close and personal we drove the car in Goa. Read on.

Looks great right?

Yup and let me tell you it looks even better in the flesh. The MFA platform has produced some pretty cars like the A-Class but the CLA takes the mantle of being the best looking of the lot. Remember Mercedes invented this four coupe thingy with the CLS and the CLA takes inspiration from big brother here. No bad thing this.

While the front resembles the A-Class with its attractive grille and headlamps it is the side and rear view that gives the CLA a large dose of uniqueness. This is not a subtle looking design with its riot of curves and slashes plus add in details like frameless doors, 17 inch alloys (which fill nicely despite increased height for India), LED tail-lamps, coupe like roofline and you have a car that turns heads everywhere unlike anything else in its class.

How is life on the inside?

The same design philosophy has been carried over here and no doubt we love the cabin for its sense of occasion and design. So you get the swoopy cabin architecture dominated by a sporty steering wheel, lovely SLS AMG style vents and super cool dials. It is a great place to be and quality is brilliant.

Features wise Mercedes will be giving the CLA a whole host of features to give it a clear edge over its closest rivals. For example the CLA gets the latest telematics gen 5 infotainment system with many features. Speaking of which you have navigation, Harman Kardon Audio system, reverse camera, sports seats, panoramic sunroof, accessing internet etc. The interior comes in either black colour (our choice) or in dual-tone spec.

What about space?

Ah, yes the rather important bit of the CLA interior and here it is good news. While the front seats not only look good they are very supportive the rear offers good legroom and just about enough headroom with the coupe like roofline eating into it. Still headroom aside there are features like rear ac vents and rear centre armrest. When it comes to practicality you have a 470 litre boot though mind you the spare wheel takes away some of it.

How does it drive?

The CLA gets a 2.0 turbo petrol with 181bhp and 300Nm of torque while the diesel has a 2.1-litre 134 bhp turbo with 300Nm of torque. You have a 7-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox with paddle shifters. While the punchy petrol is fun and quite fast with being the drivers choice the diesel would be potentially the best seller so we will concentrate on that here.

Start driving and the refinement levels befit the Mercedes tag and it is hard to say whether you are in a diesel- it is only when at high revs do you hear the engine. Cruising in the diesel CLA revealed the engines healthy torque spread which gives a relaxed trip and the direct steering, responsive gearbox (especially in Sport mode) plus the excellent ride really helped matters. Yes while the CLA is billed as a sports sedan its ride brilliantly and much better than the A-Class.

The suspension has been tuned to suit Indian roads and that has worked wonders as the CLA soaks up potholes with ease and you do not have slow down at every pothole or fear for your spine being crushed. However the updated suspension has not spoiled the dynamics as the CLA also has excellent body control. High speed stability and brakes are fantastic as we had tested the car on some excellent and empty Goan roads where the CLA giving good grip and having immense stopping power. There is only a smidgen of understeer here as the CLA is front-wheel drive but as we have said in the A-Class road test also, the handling is very good and the CLA is one of the most entertaining front-wheel drive cars around. When it comes to fuel efficiency the diesel CLA delivers 17.9 kmpl (official figure).

Final thoughts?

Buying a luxury car seems like a wallet emptying process but with the CLA Mercedes claims otherwise as the cost of ownership would be Rs 1.99 rs per kilometre. So should you buy the CLA? Well we can't find a reason not to. Once past the stunning looks you will appreciate the feature rich interior which just feels special plus it drives very well. Then the CLA does the sensible stuff well with the good ride, efficiency plus lowest in class ownership costs.

With a starting price of Rs 31.5 lakh for the CLA 200 CDI Style it seems the compact luxury sedan battle has heated up with the CLA-Class. Don't bet against it.

Photography- Somnath Chatterjee

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