Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Review
Mercedes-Benz essentially kickstarted the four-door coupe craze back in 2004 with the CLS, an E-Class-based four-door fastback. Fast forward 17 years and there are now four-door coupe versions of everything, including the AMG GT, the GLE, the GLC and indeed this model, a swoopy version of the A-Class.
The CLA has been around for almost a decade, first appearing in 2013. The Shooting Brake variant – which is an estate version of the four-door version of the coupe version of the A-Class hatchback – has only been around since 2015 and, despite the confusion about what it actually is, remains a popular model.
So popular has it been, it’s now on its second-generation model, taking all the benefits of the latest A-Class and wrapping them in a stylish and reasonably practical body.
Select's rating score* - 3.3 / 5
At a Glance
It’s a curious thing. Not unattractive but it does slightly leave you wondering what it’s for. Despite its coupe-like style, there’s a bigger boot in the back than you’ll find in the more traditional (and larger) C-Class estate, while that swept roofline hasn’t hindered interior proportions. It’s more of an estate car than it pretends to be.
If the regular A-Class is perceived as a posh rival to the Volkswagen Golf, then consider this a more upmarket option to the Golf Estate, one that would feel a touch more comfortable in the car park of the Dorchester Hotel.
While the first-generation CLA was a bit of an awkward thing – not quite detached enough from the A-Class to be its own thing - this latest one steps a bit further away, leaving clear space between it and its sensible cousin.
It’s still got some sense, though. Engines range from a steady 1.3-litre petrol, through thoroughly sensible diesel options, and top out with a manic AMG CLA 45 model with 420 odd horsepower and a price tag to match.
One thing will sell the CLA Shooting Brake above anything else: Style. It’s a great looking car that highlights what you can do if you don’t follow the crowd and design another me-too copycat estate car.
But, at this level, there needs to be a lot more substance under the skin, with many CLA Shooting Brake users being company drivers pounding the nation’s roads. Happily, Mercedes hasn’t forgotten that and has created something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Yes, there’s an actual wolf in wolf’s clothing, if you pick the AMG models, but most of us will want something tax-efficient and cost-effective. With super-frugal diesel engine options for high-mileage users, and a plug-in hybrid choice for those covering fewer miles but still looking after their tax bill, the CLA Shooting Brake allows you to cover off sensible motoring without giving up your social life.
It’s not the key feature you might be hoping for, but it’s the one that highlights how good the CLA Shooting Brake is the best.
Performance & Drive
We’ve got the CLA 220d to test, with the latest 20-litre turbodiesel engine from Mercedes. It’s the same unit that you’ll find throughout the Mercedes range and, while it’s not the very smoothest unit out there, it’s a solid engine with plenty of performance, refinement and, crucially, economy.
The similarly priced CLA 250 does much the same, but with petrol power rather than diesel. The result is a smoother and quieter engine, but you pay a penalty at the pumps. Still, in the current anti-diesel climate, you might find that it avoids more of the incoming low-emission zone limits than a diesel model might.
Performance from both is impressive. The diesel model hits 62mph from a standstill in 7.1 seconds, while the petrol CLA 250 is a little quicker at 6.3 seconds. It’s certainly enough to keep up with all but the quickest of traffic.
If speed is needed, then AMG-tuned models can get you into supercar territory, with the 421hp AMG CLA 45 needing only four seconds to reach motorway speeds. Four-wheel drive helps get them off the line smartly, and aids stability on the open road.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox is smooth, as is the eight-speed unit you’ll find on diesel or plug-in hybrid models. Changes are virtually imperceptible and make progress easy and relaxed, which is especially handy around town. City streets are a breeze thanks to light and tight steering, which gets firmer as the speed increases, providing confidence on country roads.
As with many Mercedes cars, it’s a thoroughly nice place when pressing on at sensible speeds, but it does suffer when wanting to go that little bit quicker, running out of grip surprisingly early. Relax a little and it’s wonderful, especially on the motorway.
Running Costs & Emissions
By sitting higher in the market than, say, the Volkswagen Golf, the CLA Shooting Brake attracts a little more car tax. With a list price starting at more than £32,000, it doesn’t take long for higher-spec models - or ticking boxes on the options list - creep over the £40k mark, which means car tax shoots up. If that’s included in your lease then it’s all good, but do check.
Happily, Mercedes has in its lineup some of the least polluting engines in the world, including hybrids, which helps to keep company car tax bills in check. The CLA Shooting Brake PHEV, with its 26g/km of CO2 emissions, will be a boon for those concerned by BIK rates, sitting at six per cent. It’ll also get a quoted 256mpg and go over 40 miles on nothing but electric power when charged up.
Everything else sits between 135 and 160g’km of CO2, bar the fire-breathing AMGs. Even range-topping supercar-slaying AMG CLA 45, with over 420hp, only just edges over 200g/km.
Sure, the CLA Shooting Brake won’t match some of the smaller-engined Golfs on emissions, but then those Golfs won’t match any of the CLAs on power. Performance and premium do in this case, go hand-in-hand.
Interior & Technology
Mercedes scored a bit of an own goal back in 2018 when the A-Class was launched. The impressive digital cockpit, complete with monitors that ran across more than half the width of the car, was cutting edge, innovative and impressive. It was also amusing that the entry-level model range got the tech while the six-figure S-Class missed out.
That’s all been fixed now, but the CLA Shooting Brake, related as it is to the A-Class, still benefits from the so-called MBUX system. An abundance of crisp displays that don’t overwhelm the look of the cabin strike a nice balance between tech and relaxation.
Voice control is rather hit and miss but improving. It recognises natural speech, meaning you don’t have to remember complex commands and instead can simply say out loud what it is that you want. Calling out “Hey Mercedes, I’m cold” will, for example, get the heating turned up.
The perception of quality is strong, with some glossy materials and sparkly air vents highlighting a cabin that’s gone heavy on design but without sacrificing usability.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are, in contrast to some six-figure supercars, standard-fit, as is cruise control, voice activation in the user interface, navigation, wireless smartphone charging and much more. Some of the fancier semi-autonomous cruise features, nicer lights, keyless start and an augmented reality feature for the user interface are optional, but not strictly necessary.
Practicality & Boot Space
However, it’s not all good news. The boot opening is an odd shape, with a small gap between the rear lights, so loading and unloading aren’t easy. It’ll be impossible to get larger items in there, too. The rear seats do split and fold in various combinations, so there’s some flexibility for longer loads.
As with so many cars, front-seat passengers will have no cause for complaint. There’s lots of headroom and elbow room, and you’ll find countless places to hide water bottles, phones or sandwiches.
The rear seats are less accommodating, but will still seat six-footers without too many issues. Choosing the optional panoramic sunroof eats into the headroom though, and will upset taller passengers.
There’s no Euro NCAP testing data for the Shooting Brake, but the coupe variant gets a superb five-star rating. It performed particularly well in adult occupant safety, scoring an impressive 96 per cent. It scored 91 per cent for child occupant and pedestrian safety but was a bit lower when it came to assistance systems, scoring 75 per cent. Why is that? NCAP said, “the lane assistance system performed marginally, with adequate performance for lane-keeping assistance and emergency lane keeping but lacking a blind-spot monitoring system.”
Things like traffic sign assist and adaptive lighting come with Premium and Premium Plus packages, which, if you get the latter, will set you back £3,000. The Driving Assistance Package, encompassing a more advanced semi-autonomous driving system, is an extra £1,495.
As far as tech goes, you’re more or less covered with the Premium Plus and Driving Assistance Package which, granted, adds another £4,500 to the price tag. Happily, that will be somewhat absorbed by your monthly lease payments.
The regular Premium pack (no Plus here) comes as standard with the PHEV, so you get a nice stereo, but the Premium Plus pack adds a panoramic sliding sunroof, multibeam LED lights, adaptive lights and more. Metallic paints are £595, while the three standard cabin specs are no-cost choices.
All in, a healthily-specced PHEV goes up to £43,000 from its £39,000 opener. Not too bad...
This is a curious one. The CLA Shooting Brake is on appearances, a car with very little direct opposition. There’s no ‘Shooting Brake’ version of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe. There’s not even a low-laying coupe-ish Audi A3, let alone a wagon variant. Strictly speaking, a Kia Proceed is as close as you can get but, as much as we love the Kia, it’s not quite targetting the same buyer.
We’d say a Golf R Estate would be a tidy alternative, but it’s a little less exclusive and a lot more boring. Likewise, the Cupra Leon Estate e-Hybrid offers an electrified estate lifestyle for very similar money. The Cupra’s innards can be had in a more commodious Skoda Octavia VRS iV for a bit less, too. They’re all great-looking cars, but none of them has the swoopy styling of the CLA Shooting Brake.
The only question is where do your priorities lay? Are you a brand person or luxury person, or are you more about performance and substance? All, including the Mercedes, are highly competent options, whichever way you swing.
Verdict & Next Steps
The Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake is an unusual car, not just because it’s tried to fuse coupe styling with estate car practicality, but also because it offers performance options, low-emission options and sensible long-range cruising options. It’s spacious but relatively compact, but compromised in quite a few areas.
There’s ultimately no justification for opting for the CLA Shooting Brake beyond style. Countless cars are more practical and cheaper that don’t sacrifice performance or ambience - including from Mercedes themselves - so the only reason to opt for one is that it looks good.
But it does look REALLY good.
Where to next?
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake
**Correct as of 14/10/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,626.99 - Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.