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Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sport 4matic 2014 Review

EXPERT RATING
9
Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sport, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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A few months after offering an exclusive AMG iPad to quell the impatience of customers to the neck-snapping CLA 45 AMG, Mercedes-Benz Australia has delivered a similarly-styled sedan with all its pizzaz but without the hefty price tag.

DESIGN

The CLA 250 Sport 4Matic combines nearly all the engineering talent of the 45 AMG but softens the go with 155kW/350Nm (down from the 45’s 265kW/450Nm) and gets it to the bitumen through the same 4Matic on-demand all-wheel drive system. But rather than the 45’s $86,900, the 250 Sport 4Matic is a relatively modest $64,900.

Most buyers will be smiling. The new sedan not only saves on purchase price but is arguably more tractable when commuting and has a (slightly) softer, more family-friendly ride.

Of course, they may share the body shell and the core drivetrain, but they’re not the same.

VALUE

The 250 Sport 4Matic gets a strong standard feature list, from its single-bar diamond grille to big 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, Becker sat-nav, body-hugging soft leather seats, red-coloured stitching and seat belts (it.s okay if you don’t love them - black belts are a free option),  sports suspension, sharper steering and the deletion of a centre exhaust silencer.

But there’s another thing in the 250 Sport 4Matic’s favour - it’s on sale now. Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy says the wait for the CLA 45 AMG has pushed out until late next year. Though the wait time is reducing - because of increased production and a drop-off in the queue - it’s still a long haul for buyers and the reason for the iPad sweetener.

The $64,900 entry price buys a pretty sharp machine. The sports-oriented grille, big wheels (though only 18, they look a lot bigger on the car), a cabin with black leather and red stitching, the polished metal look of the instrument panel and dash accoutrements, the bright central monitor and the black paint finish of the test car all create a high-end appeal topped by that Mercedes badge.

The sedan is in good company. It’s priced and feature-focused with the Audi S3 and BMW M135i and even the bottom end BMW 3-Series models. Yes, even the hatchback Golf R is in the mix.

The proof of the leap Mercedes has made from its traditional big-car fleet to the budget (and I use that word loosely) end of the Australian car market is in the driving.

DRIVING

The seat hugs, the biggish-steering wheel looks over bright-rimmed gauges and the stitched red of the dash top and seats presents this as a sports sedan.

More mature buyers will see it differently. The CLA seats four adults or two adults and two children. The boot is big, the access is easy and there’s a strong sense that this car has been built Mercedes quality in mind.

The 2-litre four-cylinder engine may sound piddling in a car of this size - and status - but it starts with such a purposeful growl that it’s clearly no shrinking violet.

The seven-speed dual-clutch box suits the engine and, specifically, I mean it’s a strong marriage. There’s less of the lag and confidence-sapping hesitation with which one of its rivals - with a similar gearbox type - continues to frustrate.

There’s three driving modes - economy, sport and manual - with steering-wheel mounted paddles available for flicking up and down the cogs. Believe me, it’s worth the finger exercise.

The engine can be sedate and yet always feels poised to shout, like a caged animal with one broken link on its collar chain that’s seconds away from breaking.

Push it hard and the engine develops a deep roar, spitting occasionally as it automatically blips the throttle between gearchanges.

The steering is firm but sharp and great effort has been made to reduce that artificial feel of an electric-assist system.

The brakes are strong with excellent feel and that just makes you want to push harder into the corners. Which you do because the handling is simply superb.

At the same time, the run-flat tyres (there’s no spare) absorb enough of the road irregularities to offer a surprisingly compliant ride. It’s firm and hard knocks will find their way into the cabin, but overall it’s one of the best compromises for an enthusiastic driver who just happens to have a family.

Pricing guides

$41,990
Based on 88 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$25,888
Highest Price
$58,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
CLA200 1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $20,400 – 27,720 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class 2014 CLA200 Pricing and Specs
CLA45 AMG 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $37,100 – 47,960 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class 2014 CLA45 AMG Pricing and Specs
CLA200 CDI 1.8L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $19,700 – 27,390 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class 2014 CLA200 CDI Pricing and Specs
CLA200 Edition ONE 1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $22,000 – 29,810 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class 2014 CLA200 Edition ONE Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
9
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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