This ‘mid-strength’ CLA250 Sport 4matic is a quirky niche-carver, plugging a gap between the humble CLA200 and the herculean CLA45 AMG while sharing much of its oily make-up with the A250 Sport.
It’s good, but at $64,900 – $14,500 more than the handy A-Class – it would want to be.
Two other critical numbers are 155kW and 350Nm – modest outputs for such big coin. Yep, you’d want to really like its Honey-I-Shrunk-The-CLS styling. But unlike the front-drive A-Class, the CLA, in ‘250’ trim, is currently all-wheel drive only.
Crucially, the CLA strikes the same neat balance that makes the A-Class a sweetie; it’s a keen performer that’s comfortable to live with. There’s plenty of fizz while foregoing the 45’s manic nature and spine-fusing ride, but at 6.5sec 0-100km/h – two seconds slower – it’s nowhere near as quick either.
The 60kg-heavier CLA 4matic is only 0.1sec swifter to 100 than the front-driven 250 Sport and, frankly, the benefits of the front-drive-bias system, which engages the rear axle in 100ms on demand, seem, on initial impression, to be equally negligible when punted through corners.
The CLA points accurately, its grip levels handy rather than heroic. And while the AMG-developed dynamic package – 15mm lower, more aggressive front geometry, thicker anti-roll bars – helps it hustle through apexes at decent pace, an understeer-to-neutral balance is inevitable.
There are no torque vectoring smarts, and once the rear multi-clutch system fires a maximum of 50 per cent of torque rearward, you’re left with a safe, swift and predictable device, but not a terribly playful one.
Ride comfort is generally nice and disciplined, though a little choppy on poor surfaces. Road noise is apparent but far from annoying. In fact, the CLA is a pleasant place to clock up long distances. The turbocharged 2.0-litre and seven-speed dual-clutch marriage is sweet in Sport or Manual drive modes; a little too lazy in Comfort and Eco.
The cabin area is suitably sporty and well-appointed though you’d be hard pressed to find improved richness over the A-Class version, which kind of typifies the package as a whole.
For the price – particularly price-to-performance quotient – the middle-weight CLA should be a little more special beyond its exterior, especially with more affordable and quicker German all-wheel drive heroes, such as the Audi S3 and VW Golf R, now available.
Engine 1991cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power 155kW @ 5500rpm
Torque 350Nm @ 1200-4000rpm
0-100km/h 6.5sec (claimed)