Test Drives

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 Progressive Review: Class Act



One of Singapore’s most popular Mercs makes a comeback for its second round, and the new CLA delivers a true class act, at a price

Photos: Jonathan Lim & Ben Chia

SINGAPORE

When Mercedes-Benz launched the first-generation CLA back in 2013, its intention was to expand its customer base to attract a younger crowd, and pull them into the brand so that they’ll perhaps stick around once it’s time to upgrade.

Judging by the sales success it has had since then, and from the crowd that showed up for this new model’s launch party (which apparently numbered 500 strong), it’s probably safe to say that they’ve achieved that goal with some ease.

Despite its success, the CLA was not beyond criticism. Its swoopy styling certainly looked good, and made the CLA the perfect accessory for the fashionable set, but it came at the expense of rear passenger space. The ride quality also left much to be desired, and the introduction of the underwhelming 122bhp CLA 180 variant here was a good move for sales, though it drove only half as good as it looked. 


Old CLA: Flawed


Mercedes-Benz hopes to address some of those issues with the new second-generation CLA here, while still retaining all the good stuff that made it such an appealing choice for its target market. Certainly a tough order, but for the most part it seems to have pulled it off.

For starters, the new CLA has grown in size from before, both in length (48mm) and width (53mm). The wheelbase has also been extended by 30mm, and the increased dimensions go a long way towards addressing concerns about the cramped cabin.

Having said that, three adults in the back will still find the rear a bit of a tight squeeze. Also, the CLA still has its swoopy roofline, which means that rear headroom remains a scarce commodity. Regular-sized people should be fine, but our 1.8-metre tall office giant Jon Lim found himself hitting his head on the roof liner whenever he got in the back.

It’s the price to pay for looking good however, and the new CLA does indeed turn heads. Perhaps the best compliment the car received was that it looks like a mini-CLS, which is certainly fairly high praise, and not too far off the mark. The two siblings certainly share many similarities, such as the slim-looking rear lights, while the sharp and sporty front end is shared with the CLA’s hatchback brother, the A-Class.

And like the A-Class, the CLA also uses the same drivetrain, with the CLA 200 model here featuring a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that produces a handy 163bhp and 250Nm of torque. It’s a unit that has already impressed us in the A 200 and B 200 models, and it’s the same story here in the CLA. The engine offers quite a decent punch, and displays a real sense of eagerness, always ready to sprint forward on demand, helped by the super-quick seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Despite the engine’s lively character, the CLA also manages to be a supremely refined ride. The car is noticeably less noisy than its equivalent A and B-Class siblings, and the ride quality feels nicely-sorted and really rather comfortable, which should be good news for current owners looking to make the switch to this new one.

And they’ll be delighted too with the way this new CLA drives, with handling manners that would impress even the toughest of critics. The car corners with great poise and composure, with the light and accurate steering matching well with a really capable chassis. There’s a remarkable amount of stability, almost akin to a bigger-sized car, and the CLA strikes a great balance between cruiser and sports sedan.

More common elements with the A-Class can be found inside, with the dashboard effectively shared between the siblings. That means the dual 10.25-inch high definition display screens, the fancy switchable interior ambient lighting, and the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system with intelligent voice recognition technology are all present here. It all makes for a very premium-feeling interior, a welcome trait for a car in this class.

For all of the new CLA’s talents and improvements however, there remains one drawback: price. The CLA 200 Progressive, the sole variant available in Singapore for now, retails for $181,888, inclusive of COE. That’s a fairly hefty price tag, and one which is not far off from an entry-level Audi A4, a car that’s one class above the CLA.

Style does come at a price though, and certainly the CLA is a very capable car underneath its sleek body, but is it a price worth paying? Going by the reception the car got at its launch, it won’t be a surprise if the answer leans towards positive.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 Progressive

Engine 1,332cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 163hp at 5500rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1620-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h 8.2 seconds
Top Speed 229km/h
Fuel Efficiency 5.7L/100km
VES Band / CO2 B / 125g/km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Price S$181,988 with COE
Availability Now

Verdict: Sleek and slick inside and out, the new CLA is an extremely compelling package, with a rather large price tag

about the author

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Ben Chia
He once belonged here, and then he went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world.