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7

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The Top Gear car review:

Mercedes Benz CLA 220d

R740 715

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A better version of the A-Class?

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OVERALL
VERDICT

For:

Gutsy diesel engine, show-off interior and sleek looks.

Against:

Looks are pricey.

What is it?

This is the CLA to have if you’re considering any of them, its diesel engine and transmission combo a sweet spot ofperformance and efficiency. Its sleek profile commands attention, a mini CLS of sorts and whilst it straddles that niche line of sedan-coupé, it still could be described as practical and capable of all adult occupancy on long journeys. So, if it’s style and attention you’re after,then you’ve poked your nose into the right car.

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Layout, finish and space

I was never a fan of the previous generation A-Class’s interior. It was a flawed space marred by the use of some poor quality plastics and a proclivity to rattles and squeaks and scuffed switchgear after a short while. This new generation of Benz interior is leaps ahead, evenin this the smallest entrant into the brand next to the A-Class of course.

Mercedes new interior design carries aquality and finesse that few can match. Seat support and driving position is spot on, the gateway to the Mercedes User Experience (MBUX). The MBUX infotainment system can be as dramatic as it is configurable. It offers a plethora of connectivity options, car settings selection as well as concert-like ambient lighting. Night time driving can be quite colourful should you choose.

The layout from the 10,25” screen as well as how it integrates into the instrument binnacle communicates what is an easy-to-use system particularly considering it from a driver’s perspective. With small touchpads on the steering wheel, the left touch pad operates what is the left, infotainment screen where the right touch pad operates the multi-function display.

Popularised by a number of social media ‘tests’ the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant is a new and intuitive function. Add the use of the central touchpad in the centre console, this tech-strewn CLA offers it all. The system is fast and uncomplicated.

Small as it may seem, the CLA offers adequate legroom for two adults in the back and with boot space of 460-litres, itaccommodates more than you’d expect when looking at it from the outside.

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What is it like on the road?

The CLA-Class is built on the same MFA-2 architecture as the A-Class. In most respects, the two cars are pretty similar under the metal except in the suspension set up. The CLA-benefits from a multi-link suspension at the rear and it is in keeping with the more sportylook of the CLA. Mercedes needed to differentiate the two cars in more than just style and name, and this really is one of the key differences. Will you notice it? If you drove the two back-to-back, something that I’ve had the privilege of doing, you do notice the difference in overall comfort and dynamic ability. The drivability on the CLA is decidedly more compliant with a quick steering and confident front end as well as more comfortable ride.

Steering and balance aside, it’s the diesel motor that impressed me most. The 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbodiesel deliver sits 140kW and 400Nm strongly and smoothly as soon as a touch of turbo-lag is dealt with. I found the motor to be absolutely and adequately powerful for the CLA, delivering sportiness and frugality in equal measure. Coupled to the dual-clutch 8-speed transmission, I was able to achieve a sub 5,9l/100km fuel efficiency figure, not too far off from the claimed 4,9l/100km from the manufacturer.

The base price of the petrol-powered CLA200 is R620 000, R46 000 shy of the more powerful and decidedly more enjoyable CLA220d. If you can, then you must.

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Running costs and reliability

Where many cars can look like sad dods without decent specification, the CLA is a sleek and striking car even without the options. But this is South Africa and here we like the best looking car we can have. For an additional R50 115, you can bolt on the AMG-Line. This will throw in sports seats, AMG-line floor mats and the multi-function steering with shifter paddles among a few others. On the outside, the CLA is adorned with 18-inch 5-spoke alloys, lowered suspension and an AMG body styling upgrade with side skirts and revised spoilers.

There are other lines such as the most sporty black-themed Edition 1 that will set you back R101 600. Or the slightly more understated Progressive line for R25 800, there are a number ofoptions available. And that could set you back a few ZAR more than the base price of R666 000.

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Final thoughts

South African buyers are spoiled for choice when it comes to A-B segment premium products. This car as niche as it may seem, plays in a space and price bracket where it still is competing with premium hatchbacks, Audi Sportback models for instance as well as the recently launch BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe which is priced right in the same ballpark. But buyers of this car would also be considering Mini Cooper Countryman or Clubman models –these cars are more about  image and style-consciousness than anything else.

The CLA is a beautiful addition to the range, and I’d hazard a guess it will be a more popular buy than it’s flatter-arsed A-Class sibling. This diesel is the one to have if you’re considering one, but watch the options ticking.

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The rugged zūmo XT motorcycle navigator is built for adventure. Its ultrabright 5.5-inch display is glove-friendly, rain-resistant and shows you the adventurous way — on and off the beaten path. GARMINPorsche GT2RS

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