Is this a bad brake for Mercedes?
Chris Knapman has a spell with the new CLA estate and, semantics aside, is somewhat underwhelmed
Alittle while ago my colleague, the esteemed Andrew English, caused controversy by describing the Ferrari FF as a “shooting break”. “No, no, no!” shouted readers. “It’s brake, not break.” Mr English insists to this day that the terms are interchangeable (and let’s face it, with that surname, he should know), but I’m afraid he’s now also up against the might of Mercedes, and specifically its latest model, the CLA Shooting Brake. This is an estate version of the four-door coupé version of the mildly disappointing A-class hatchback. Basically, what Mercedes has done is shoehorn the styling of the big and beautiful CLS Shooting Brake on to its little brother. But it hasn’t really worked because all those complex droops, sweeps and curves require a big car as their canvas. On something compact like the CLA, what you end up with is overcomplicated, pinched in width and with a rear threequarter that only (obscure reference alert) a SsangYong Rodius could love. Things take an even more baffling turn when Mercedes boasts that at 495 litres the Shooting Brake’s boot is bigger than a C-class Estate’s. Yes, provided you stop measuring when you get to the window line. But as anyone who has driven down the A303 on a bank Chris Knapman tries the BMW X4, an SUV with rakish styling and sporty handing. Is it a recipe for disaster? Find out by watching our video review Watch at: tgr.ph/1zpfGOf holiday weekend will know, people with estate cars don’t load them only to the window line; they load them to the gunwales, at which point the CLA’s coupé-like sloping roof is a huge hindrance. To compound matters, accessing said boot isn’t particularly easy, because the opening is narrow, the lip high and the bumper so chunky that you just know you’re going to ruin your trousers leaning over it. As for the back seats, well they’re just claustrophobic on account of how the bodywork swoops in around the rear edge of the doors, in turn creating the illusion that you’re sitting in the boot. This isn’t going well, is it? The front is standard A-class, which is to say not a match for a BMW or Audi. The plastics feel a bit cheap and the central tablet-style screen looks naff, but the dials are clear, storage is acceptable and, important this, there’s a Mercedes badge on the steering wheel. Oh, I should also mention visibility is poor. By this point you’d be hoping the Shooting Brake could redeem itself when it came to the business of driving. And if it weren’t for the noisy diesel engine and poor ride quality it might. But those are damning flaws in any car, let alone one wearing the three-pointed star. On the plus side, even though the test cars were wearing winter tyres, road roar wasn’t too intrusive and the CLA’s shape is at least very aerodynamic, which keeps wind noise to a minimum. To be fair, under moderate load the engine also quietens down, so this is a perfectly acceptable motorway cruiser, not to mention an economical one. But still the compromises are too great and, at almost £33,000 as tested, the price is too high. If you want space, a Golf Estate is superior in almost every way. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it. Mercedes CLA 220 CDI Shooting Brake Price as tested: £32,825 Power: 175bhp 0-62mph: 8.3sec Average mpg: 67.3 Rating: