Style Over Substance
The smallest and one of the sexiest saloons in Mercedes-Benz line-up arguably possesses a lot of presence and style. Not exactly a new model, having received a facelift last year, the CLA is in fact just an A-Class with a boot and extremely sexy lines, more like a baby CLS-Class. It really looks the business, or from what kids call it nowadays, it looks lit! It has a lot more character than one might think.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 is an entry level “four door coupè” thing that the Germans are fond of nowadays. Basically, it’s a 4-door sedan with a sloping roofline, frameless doors, and less headroom inside due the aforementioned sloping roofline. Designed to appeal to younger buyers, aka the “millennials”, the cheapest variant in the CLA range possesses plenty of youthful style and a bold presence.
The interior is nicely designed, with a beautiful dash layout and the cool looking air vents that are straight out of the Mercedes-AMG GT parts bin. You do get a decent amount of kit for you money, with features such as a power adjustable drive and passenger seat, (faux) leather interior that manager to feel on par with real leather, full LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, and Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system, albeit in its less powerful, entry-level form. It’s nice and easy to use, though it has large bezels around the screen, making it look less attractive than it could be. What’s less amazing is the practicality aspects, namely, the door bins, or the lack thereof. All four doors in this car aren’t big enough to store a large water bottle in it.
Mercedes has worked really hard to make the CLA look captivating, and that wonderfully sleek exterior also serves another purpose; aerodynamics. With a drag coefficient of 0.23 cd, it’s one of the slipperiest cars in its class, and among all cars as a whole. In perspective, the Toyota Prius, which is designed mainly for saving fuel, has a drag coefficient of 0.26 cd. This enables it to have less wind noise around the cabin, and make it consume less fuel as it is able to cut through the wind easier.
Powering this compact sedan is a 1.6-litre turbocharged inline-4 petrol engine, which is co-developed with Renault. It produces 120 hp @ 5,000 rpm and 200 Nm of torque @ 1,250-4,000 rpm, and is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. 0-100 kph is achieved in 9.3 seconds, but the car feels faster than what the papers suggest due to the strong torque that the turbo engine provides in a wide rev range.
Driving around the city, I can definitely say the Mercedes-Benz is quite a pleasant car to be in. Driving it gets you this sense of feeling that you’re someone special, because, well, you’re in a Merc. That three-pointed star badge up front does draw a lot of attention. The good news about driving the CLA is that under normal driving conditions, it feels very much like a traditional Mercedes. First impressions when driving it around town suggests that the 1.6 turbo engine is a bit flat, but the turbo four pot does start to wake up higher in the rev range once the turbos spool.
Grip is quite good, playing with the CLA on mountain roads was a pleasant experience, though understeer is present, it’s was easily countered by the throttle and steering combo. The chassis is nicely balanced, with huge grip levels from the 225/40 R18 tyres. The mild understeer makes the CLA a safe and capable handler, but could never be described as a driver’s car. Dammit for Isaac Atienza his picture here driving the CLA.
However, there are a few problems. One is quite minor, while the other is something that you’ll notice all the time. In terms of refinement, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 is rather okay in that regard. It’s not as hushed as a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but it’s something that of course can be counteracted with some music through the great sounding speakers. What you’ll notice all the time is the optional AMG sport suspension fitted to our test car. Sitting 20mm lower than the standard set-up, its ride is firm to say the least, even bordering on harsh depending on the situation. The ride is busy, feeling unsettled even when driving the CLA 180 in just the slightest of rough surfaces.
As a whole, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 is a good entry point to the Mercedes-Benz brand. It’s got loads of character, loads of presence, and loads of style that at often times, you’d never think of it as an entry-level Mercedes-Benz, especially one that’s priced at P2,550,000, which is well on par with its chief rival, the Audi A3 Sedan.
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★☆☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4 out of 5