The Art of Looking Expensive
September 30, 2013
The Mercedes CLA is an example of how to produce a car that looks more expensive than it really is.
Due to similar external dimensions, the car can be easily confused with the more expensive Mercedes C-Class. It appears to be just a different—perhaps sports—version of the C-Class. Nothing could be further from the truth. The CLA was built on the basis of the bottom-of-the-range A-Class and uses many of its components and features. Even the dashboard is borrowed from the A-Class.
The four-door sedan looks a bit like a coupe. It is 4,630 mm long, 1,780 mm wide and 1,430 mm high. Its 2,700 mm wheelbase is 60 mm smaller than in the C-Class.
This is an attractive car. Its sloping roof gives it the air of a coupe, while its heavy molding, large grille and curiously shaped headlights and rear lights are striking. The design brings to mind the Mercedes CLS. The resemblance is intentional. The Mercedes CLA takes full advantage of the success of the larger and more prestigious model.
However, the attractive body means the interior is not spacious enough. While there is plenty of legroom on the front seats, passengers in the back are not necessarily comfortable. Due to the sloping roof, even getting in is difficult. Even though the trunk offers a satisfactory 470 liters of capacity, it is shallow and has a narrow opening. In fact, given the body shape, the designers did well—there could have been even less room. It’s just a shame that the trunk lid closes with a cheap-sounding metallic clang.
The vehicle comes with one of two turbocharged gasoline engines, a 1.6l or a 2.0l unit. Two models, the CLA 180/123 hp and the CLA 200/157 hp, are fitted with the 1.6l unit, while the CLA 250/211 hp.i is fitted with a factory-tuned 2.0l/360 hp unit. Two Common Rail turbodiesels are also available, a 1.6l/143 hp unit in the CLA 200 CDI model and a 2.2l/170 hp unit in the 220 CDI model.
The car is a front-wheel drive with a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission—the 7G DCT. The test-drive model was equipped with the latter. And although it worked smoothly, it offered nothing special. According to the producer’s technical data, a Mercedes fitted with this engine accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in 8.5 seconds and hits a top speed of 230 kph. Not bad, but, to be honest, I would prefer a Mercedes with a manual transmission, which is theoretically less responsive—by a mere 0.1 seconds, but almost zl.9,000 cheaper.
The entry-level version of the Mercedes CLA 180 can be bought for under zl.119,000. The most powerful all-wheel-drive CLA 45 AMG 4 Matic version, which goes from standstill to 100 kph in a brisk 4.6 seconds, costs zl.220,000. I can assure you that many people, on seeing this Mercedes, will be convinced that it costs much, much more. And that’s exactly the point because, after all, part of buying a new car is looking good in front of the neighbors...