And it’ll set the neighbours talking far more than if you simply bought yet another small German-badged executive saloon. It’s a model to challenge your preconceptions, that's for sure.
Never underestimate the power of emotional appeal. It’s brought us cars like this one, the Mercedes CLA-Class, an effortlessly stylish compact saloon that brings a fashionable feel to the Stuttgart brand’s growing family of smaller models.
The CLS was a huge success – to the point where it seemed only a matter of time before this prestigious German brand extended the concept to offer the same kind of car as an alternative to its smaller, more affordable C-Class saloon.
In fact, it didn’t take long for them to do just that and launch this CLA-Class model. By then, the whole idea of the same brand offering the same kind of car in both ‘standard’ and stylised ‘lifestyle’ guises was well established right across the market. In other words, if you’re target market for a car like this CLA, you’ll be someone who likes the idea of buying a sporty, prestigiously-badged compact saloon but wants to make a bit more of a statement about doing it.
This car shares its chassis, steering and braking architecture with A and B-Class models, it does get its own suspension set-up, with various changes made to improve comfort and make it a bit less crashy over poorer surfaces. The brakes are great, the gearchange is accurate and the driving position is spot on. But what you really remember after a spirited drive isn’t any of that. No, what sticks in your mind is the way that you can really lean on this car as you enter a corner, confident in the knowledge that there’ll be grip and turn in of quite astonishing tenaciousness and body control that’s unsurpassed by anything else in the class.
The torque vectoring that’s built into the stability control system helps here, seamlessly applying slight brake pressure to the outside rear wheel during tight cornering to help get the power down where it’s needed through the bends.
By any measure, this is a handsome car. Purposeful, with sporting proportions and a potent bonnet powerdome. Hi-tech too, with jewel-like LED daytime running lamps fashioned to create a flare effect around the diamond-shaped grille.
The cabin’s virtually identical to that of an A-Class – which these days is a very good thing indeed. So you get the same deeply-cowled twin-dial instrument binnacle viewed through a lovely, grippy nappa leather-trimmed three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. There are the same five chrome-trimmed SLS supercar-style air vents decorating the dash. And you get the same iPad-style 5. 8-inch free-standing infotainment screen in the middle of it, controlled by a little rotary dial positioned where the handbrake would normally be if it hadn’t been replaced by an electronic one with a switch hidden away beneath the dash.
As for back seat accommodation, well any car that describes itself as a ‘four-door coupe’ clearly isn’t going to have this as a top priority. Fashion is the keynote here – which is why you’re provided with lovely frameless doors. The boot room is spacious albeit there is quite a high lip to lump your packages over, but once you do, there’s a generous 470-litres on offer.
If you’re in the market for a compact, prestigiously-badged saloon and like the look of this one then this design really is a breath of fresh air in what had become rather a staid market sector.
Which is why it’s very likely to sell as intended – to people who never intended to drive a Mercedes.