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Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake review

2019 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 2.6 out of 52.6
” Sporty looks mask a spacious family estate, with compromises “

At a glance

Price new £35,545 - £52,130
Used prices £17,022 - £51,574
Road tax cost £180 - £570
Insurance group 23 - 45
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Fuel economy 31.4 - 55.4 mpg
Range 348 - 596 miles
Miles per pound 4.6 - 7.1
View full specs for a specific version

Available fuel types




Pros & cons

  • Safe, predictable handling
  • Sleek, but subtle, premium style
  • Usefully large boot area
  • Fit and finish could be better
  • Boot opening limits versatility
  • Ground clearance too low for speed bumps

Written by Richard Kilpatrick Published: 9 February 2021 Updated: 14 April 2023


The Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake is a sleek-looking family car that’s not without its compromises. As with other cars from the firm, it spells out exactly what it is. CL means ‘coupe’ – the sportier body style, these days, rather than ‘two doors and a boot with a sloping roof’. A means A-Class. As the smallest Mercedes, it’s a premium rival to the VW Golf, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series or Ford Focus.

Finally, Shooting Brake means it’s an estate based on a sporty car. And it’s the ‘sporty’ part of that which defines this car’s reason for existence, as it’s only a little smaller than the C-Class Estate.

Unlike its key rivals, the Ford Focus Estate, Volkswagen Golf Estate and Audi A3 Sportback, it has frameless doors, a sleek profile and a fastback-style tailgate. It also gets sportier suspension and a wider, lower stance than the A-Class.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake review (2023)
Low and sleek, the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake is more hatch than estate.

Unless you’re looking at the high-performance Mercedes-AMG models, the Kia Proceed offers similar style (if you squint a bit) and usability for a lower budget, and you could also be tempted by a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe at the upper end of the price-range if you really want a premium badge.

Externally, the CLA Shooting Brake has smoother flanks and a sharper front compared with its predecessor; there are enough detail alterations that you won’t mistake it for the hatchback even face-on.

The most striking change is to the droopy waterfall rear lights, which are now more aggressive, with horizontal signatures evoking the C-, E- and S-Class coupes. It’s cleaner and sharper, trading the outgoing CLA’s distinctive look for a more mature, aggressive style on the road.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake review (2023)
Mercedes-Benz CLA interior is a high point, thanks to excellent design and infotainment.

What’s it like inside?

Interiors are generally Mercedes-Benz’s greatest showcase. Supportive seats, solid controls and usually class-leading instruments and tech, the CLA Shooting Brake is no different. Some of the shine is lost when you realise there’s nothing unique to the ‘posh’ version here – your comparably-trimmed A-Class is the same – but it’s all good stuff.

The dual-screen wide display – best with the largest panels, of course – contains Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment with augmented reality satnav and intuitive ‘Hi Mercedes’ voice control of many features.

The high-tech feel in the AMG Premium trim is highlighted, literally, by the ambient lighting with colour themes and animation. Do you like gentle lighting that you can change the colour of? This is the car for you. They can be turned off, leaving just the instrument display, for a subdued environment at night.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake review (2023)
Digital instrumentation is pleasing to look at and configurable.

Connectivity and smart features are, if not cutting-edge, certainly above average. Your Mercedes becomes more connected to you with the smartphone app and driver profiles.

Despite the sleek profile, rear passengers get to enjoy the frameless doors with windows that roll fully down, and more headroom than you’d expect, too – a sneaky side-effect of the longer CLA Shooting Brake roofline which is actually slightly taller than the hatchback over the rear seats.

What’s it like to drive?

Given the CLA Shooting Brake’s position as a ‘luxury item’, the range of engines is less diverse than in the A-Class (there is a 1.3-litre petrol, but no 1.5-litre diesel) and inevitably the most tempting non-AMG model is the 2.0-litre diesel CLA 220d. It’s swift and economical, yet lacks refinement at low speeds. There’s a petrol plug-in hybrid, and all-wheel drive Mercedes-AMG models, though the 2.0-litre petrol CLA 250 is probably fast enough for most drivers.

Crucially, all models of CLA Shooting Brake benefit from sophisticated multi-link suspension, even the CLA 180, where the A-Class only offers this on the most powerful models. That upgrade, plus a squat, planted stance from the wide-spaced wheels (accentuated by slightly flared arches) and lower driving position give the CLA a secure, sporting feel behind the wheel.

It corners confidently and with little bodyroll, to the extent that it only really gets exciting to drive on more challenging roads near the legal limit – most of the time it does everything needed with no drama at all, and rides well on most smooth surfaces too. However, the lowered suspension does struggle with uneven road surfaces and it’s prone to catching the front bumper on more aggressive speed bumps, even when driven very slowly.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake review (2023)
Mercedes-Benz CLA has excellent road manners with low levels of bodyroll in corners.

What models and trims are available?

In typical Mercedes-Benz style, the only trims are sporting – AMG-Line is your starting point, and the appearance is all focused on Mercedes’ sportier side, rather than the classic elegance of larger models.

None of the trim levels are particularly spartan, but you need Premium to get the full-size instrument display – without which the car looks decidedly under-specced. At least the CLA Shooting Brake has the larger infotainment panel in all models.

Perhaps reflecting a niche market, the choice of trims is AMG-Line, AMG-Line Premium and AMG-Line Premium Plus, which the biggest upgrades of value being the panoramic sunroof and adaptive LED headlights. Even the options list is quite limited, with an upgraded driver assistance package the only item of note.

With a muted range of colours, the CLA Shooting Brake is a very simple car to specify – though you do get a choice of four interiors to liven things up. Mercedes-AMG models get more – but then, they are high-performance, bespoke cars with a very different character, all-wheel drive and a rather more extrovert image.

What else should I know?

While the term Shooting Brake has becoming marketing-speak for ‘the estate car version, we just made it less boxy’, the CLA Shooting Brake does have a few touches that genuinely make it a sportier choice than the default A-Class. However, unless you go for the Mercedes-AMG models, it’s a case of looks first, then practicality, then driver involvement.

Continue reading to find out how we rate this highly stylish five-door, and whether we’d take one over more conventional rivals.

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