Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • CLA comes with a wide variety of engines
  • Diesel powered 220 d is impressively quick
  • Plug-in hybrid due for UK deliveries summer 2020

The Mercedes-Benz CLA is powered by a range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, all of which have been renovated for the new car, offering more power and better efficiency.

Plug-in hybrid version

Available to order from April 2020, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250e is the company's latest car to boast plug-in hybrid technology. The new models use the same Mercedes EQ Power setup as found in the A-Class using the same 1.3-litre petrol engine and combining it with a 103hp electric motor.

Claimed performance is strong, with a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 149mph. More impressively, the 250e will drive up to 87mph on battery alone. We'll report back when we drive this car, which is due to hit UK showrooms in the summer of 2020.

Petrol engines

Here you can choose from a 1.3 or 2.0-litre engine and either two- or all-wheel drive. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is standard, although a manual CLA 180 will follow.

The smaller engine powers both the CLA 180 and CLA 200, offering either 136hp or 163hp and 200Nm or 250Nm of torque. This features active cylinder shut-off technology, powering down half the engine when not needed to save fuel.

While the lower-powered car takes nine seconds to crack 0-62mph, the beefier CLA 200 takes 8.2 seconds. This engines is quiet at low revs but needs stoking up a bit to achieve its peak performance, at which point it gets quite rough and unrefined.

Moving up to the 2.0-litre range unlocks 190hp and 300Nm in the CLA 220 and 224hp and 350Nm in the CLA 250. The former is available with all-wheel drive, but takes seven seconds to complete the benchmark 0-62mph sprint either way, while the CLA 250 wades in with a (standard) range-topping 6.3 seconds.

This engine also features some clever efficiency tech, namely variable valve timing and something called ‘trumpet-honing’, which we decided not to ask about for politeness’ sake.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35

At the top of the performance tree however is the petrol powered, AMG-tweaked CLA 35, featuring a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 306hp, 4Matic all-wheel drive and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

This promises a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds and plenty of mid-range power for swift overtaking.

Diesel engines

Arriving after the petrols launched in the UK was the CLA 220 d, a 2.0-litre diesel with 140hp and 400Nm of torque that should prove to be the most popular car in the whole range. We’ll report back when we’ve driven this punchy variant in the UK.

Mercedes-Benz CLA handling

  • Based on A-Class technology
  • Comprehensive chassis tweaks
  • Resulting car is more fun to drive

Largely based on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hatchback, the CLA has undergone some specific chassis tweaks to give it a sportier handling edge to suit its looks.

The five-door A-Class is already a step above the old car, and the CLA builds on that improvement even further with some well-targeted tweaks.

It’s been given a wider track (the width of each axle) and a lower centre of gravity to improve stability. You also get thicker anti-roll bars to reduce body movements in faster corners, and the more sophisticated multi-link rear axles on all models, unlike the hatchback, which makes do with a solid beam on cheaper cars.

Optional adaptive dampers

We’ve so far only driven cars with the extra-cost active suspension, which works out what type of surface you’re on and the type of driving you’re doing in order to set up the chassis accordingly.

As such the CLA handled with a bit more flair than the A-Class Hatchback, itself already an improvement on the last five-door car, with even less body roll and the sensation of more grip in corners too.

It’d be a stretch to claim these changes have transformed the CLA into a rewarding driver’s car but it’s competent enough to call fun, and more than appropriate for those enhanced athletic looks.