‘Oh lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz…’ I can’t get the tune out of my head, and following quite possibly the worst night’s sleep of my life, thanks to my 16 month old daughter… bless her… my phone pings notifying me that a CLA Shooting Brake is being imminently delivered. So I may not have been in the best frame of mind to receive the quick run through of the controls. Thankfully, they are straightforward, not too many bells and whistles to come to terms with, it’s not a Tesla!
This all took place in November and the Gloucester Christmas lights were being turned on, so the kids were excited – especially as Santa was leading the procession. Making an afternoon of it, we opted for a nice refreshing (read: freezing) walk along the canal, followed by a bite to eat in Gloucester before the big switch on.
So, after the tune had finally played out in my head, I gave the car my full attention… the much-fabled 3-pointed star. The CLA at first glance is a relatively small estate, even when you walk up to it, the sleek coupe-style lines however hide quite a spacious interior. (In case you were wondering, the term shooting brake dates from the early 19th century, used to describe a vehicle that transported shooting parties and their equipment around.)
If I’m completely honest, the CLA didn’t immediately make a huge impact on me – possibly due to my initial tiredness, possibly not. But the key fact is it did grow on me, eventually. It handles well, and has a very comfortable driving position. The chassis is responsive with good visibility all round, but the gearbox is not quite as good as I would have expected. The delay in gear change when you push the throttle is a little more than ever so slightly annoying – because it could be so much better, and with that small improvement, I could have forgiven the other small – very small to be fair – niggles I found.
These really are nit-picking, but the settings for the driving mode (eco, sport and manual) don’t hold their position when you turn the ignition off. I know that’s a small thing, but it gets to you after a while. And while I’m at it, the navigation behaves likewise. You have to select whether you want the map displayed, the stereo set-up or the car status every time you turn the engine on. But that is pretty much it for the niggles… actually not quite – some of the materials used in the interior are not quite as ‘quality’ as you would expect for a £31,000+ car.
So niggles aside, the drive was actually very good. Once you have the car set up how you want and you’re on the road, everything is where you want it. The switch gear is clear and easy to hit without distraction, the steering wheel feels good under your hands, and the gearbox for cruising is actually pretty good – it’s not great in eco or manual, but put it in sport and you’ll be pretty happy. And the looks are great – this is a seriously sleek looking estate (sorry, shooting brake…), Mercedes-Benz has tried to stay true to the coupe style of the original CLA and they’ve done a pretty good job.
The family verdict? Mixed – my son liked it… but he likes most of the cars I test, I liked it – in the end, aside from a couple of things, but my wife was not impressed, and to be fair I can understand that. As I say, it’s not perfect, but if you need an estate for practical purposes, but still want a good looking car, then give the CLA a try, but give it time – it’s not an instant love affair.