Mercedes A200 CDI: A-Class vs CLA

  • We pit our A-Class against its closest relative: the CLA
  • Petrol vs diesel battle closer than you may think
  • Looks split opinion, ride surprises

I’ve been driving around in a relative of my A-Class for a weekend, so I thought it sensible to compare the two cars a bit more closely.

The CLA is based on the A-Class platform but apes the firm's sleek CLS model. It’s styled like a regular coupe with a sweeping roofline but has four doors and a boot, just like a saloon car. So that’s a saloon styled like a coupe and based on a hatchback. Confused yet?

Although using the same basic platform, there are quite a few differences between the cars when you start to examine them properly. The ride quality is one of the most notable – although on ‘Comfort’ suspension, the ride on the CLA isn’t as good as my ‘Sports’ suspension-equipped A-Class. It’s a question of body control, the CLA moving around quite a lot more meaning you feel the bumps more prominently.

Another difference is the engine. The CLA has a 1.6-litre petrol engine with 120bhp, and frankly it feels very sluggish when compared to the 134bhp 1.8-litre diesel in my long-term A-Class. It’s probably more a matter of torque than power; the diesel car has 100Nm more than the petrol one at 300Nm. Surprisingly though, the 0-62mph time is exactly the same with both cars at 9.3 seconds. Driving them back-to-back, that seems quite incredible.

Fuel economy is one thing both cars are fairly good at. The petrol car’s trip computer said that it was returning 44.1mpg on a long run back from the airport, which is very nearly as much as my A-Class’s 49mpg over combined driving. And the CLA emits 130g/km - not too far off our car's 121g/km CO2 figure - which means they're both in tax bracket D for annual road tax.  

Considering petrol cars are often less efficient than diesels, the Merc CLA impresses. It goes some way towards making up for that performance deficit, anyway.

In terms of looks, the CLA definitely takes top honours in my opinion. That’s exactly what it is though, an opinion. My wife prefers the A-Class because it’s more muscular, but I’d say that’s more to do with the AMG bodykit and wheels you get with AMG Sport models. I suspect she’d change her mind if the CLA was the same spec as my A-Class because it looks great in a bodykit.

You can read the Parkers first drive of the Mercedes CLA 180 Sport here

Current mileage: 4,734

Average mpg: 49.0mpg (ind.)