Based on the underpinnings of the MB (Mercedes-Benz) A-Class, the new CLA is a striking coupe-like four-door. CLA, despite sounding like an intelligence organisation, will clearly help lower MB’s owner age profile with its aggressive, youthful styling. There are even hints of Merc’s F1 car thrown in for good measure.

CLA’s exterior pays homage to the bigger CLS four-door coupe and hugely expensive two-door CL - much loved by hospital consultants. There are enough creases, dips and bulges in CLA’s skin to give panel-beaters nightmares, but it is this very curvaceousness that makes CLA a great looking car. The strong and prominent nose and grille sit proudly, while you can also see hints of an F1 car’s front wing in the bumper. The flanks have very defined crease lines that take your eye back to the rear wheel arch and the CLS-like rear end. If you opt for the ‘Urban’ equipment line you get 18-inch alloys and two exhaust pipes that sit either side of a diffuser. If you want a more aggressive, sporty look there is an ‘AMG Line’ too.

Inside the cabin you’ll find a fresh and modern layout although don’t expect CL trim quality. There are some hard plastics and fairly average surface materials that demonstrate how MB has delivered the car at such a competitive price. Up front there is good space and the overall feel is good. Surprisingly, rear passengers get reasonable space, despite the sloping roofline and coupe-like body. The boot is reasonable too and this again for a heavily styled coupe body is a good thing.

On the road, power is delivered to the front wheels in an unexciting manner. The CLA looks the part but is not quite the driver’s dream machine in its standard form. Progress in our diesel test car was swift - when provoked and economical. Generally the ride quality was acceptable. While the actual driving experience might fall short of ‘interesting’ for enthusiasts, CLA’s styling makes up for this. Overall when you’re behind the wheel, CLA will make you feel confident and even a little smug. The reason for this confidence is simple - CLA is such a handsome machine at a fraction of the cost of bigger coupe Mercs!

The engine range starts with the petrol powered, tax band B1, CLA 180 – a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder unit with 122hp/200nm. There is a greener version of the 180 in the CLA 180 ‘BlueEFFICIENCY’. The CLA 200 gets more power from its 1.6-litre unit with 156hp/250nm. There is a fire-breathing AMG version but in the real world the range topper petrol version is the CLA250. It uses a 2-litre four-cylinder engine with 211hp/350nm. The entry-level petrol CLA (€29,900) is the one to go for as it is five grand cheaper than the entry diesel; the CLA 200 CDI (1.8-litre). The entry oil burner comes with 136hp. The 2.2-litre CLA 220 CDI diesel range topper with 170hp starts at €38,975. Both diesel are in tax band A4 and 6-speed manual and 7-speed automatic gearboxes feature.

CLA, is good news for buyers and a great addition to the Mercedes-Benz family.

Michael Sheridan