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Mercedes_CLA180_Sport
For style and presence, the CLA takes some beating with the CLS’ looks downsized to fit in the company car park

Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 Sport

What is it?

Mercedes has created a real buzz with the CLA, its compact, sexy, four-door coupe which packs the hi-fashion looks and attitude to leave others trailing.

The CLA is something new: a car that takes the bold, designer looks of Mercedes’ hit CLS and downsizes it into the business car-friendly sector currently occupied by the likes of Audi’s A3 and the BMW 1 Series.

Mercedes_CLA180
The petrol version on test here is the entry level to the range as it stands

That’s a pretty enticing recipe and with the prestigious Mercedes badge up front, the CLA will tempt more than a few in the company car park this year.

As it arrives in the UK, the front-drive CLA comes with both petrol and diesel power.

In the former camp is this 180 Sport, with a 1.6-litre turbo engine, 122hp output and combined economy of 50.4mpg. CO2 emissions are 130g/km (so a basic rate taxpayer will pay company car tax at 18%).

The 180 Sport is an interesting alternative to the diesel 220 CDI. It’s cheaper to buy yet it’s slower for performance and well behind when it comes to the green numbers (the CDI has 62.8mpg and 117g/km to its name).

Because the petrol version reviewed here is cheaper than the entry level diesel, and doesn’t attract the 3% diesel supplement, company car tax is less than for the diesel.

While both cars are lavishly specified, for an extra £2200, there’s the AMG Sport package to consider with lowered suspension and a host of cosmetic goodies. As things stand, however, this 180 Sport is effectively the gateway into the hot new CLA world and it kicks off with a P11D of £24,300

 

Mercedes_CLA180_Sport
Performance is smooth and refined – and 50.4mpg is pretty good for a petrol engine

What’s hot?

  • Style. Thereís no getting away from the fact that the CLA with its sexily sculpted body is a genuine head tuner. For those that wanted a CLS but in a smaller, more convenient package, visually, this is it.
  • Inside, the CLA looks stunning, with classy dashboard, instruments and high quality overall presentation. It really does look and feel special.
    Mercedes_CLA180_Sport
    Stunning inside too, and well equipped with a package of business-friendly kit and driver assist tools
  • Lavish standard equipment list includes 18-inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, sports seats, sports steering wheel in nappa leather, cruise control, Audio 20 CD/radio with 5.8-inch tablet-style dash display, Collision Prevention Assist, Active Bonnet and Active Park Assist.
  • The CLA’s 1.6-litre petrol engine is spirited, smooth and refined and links to a standard 6-speed manual transmission. With 50.4mpg combined economy, it’s efficient too and comes with standard ECO stop/start.
  • The front-drive CLA (the platform is derived from the A-Class and B-Class) is well balanced through bends and cruises well, while ride quality on 18-inch run flat tyres is firm, its still comfortable enough.
  • Though you wouldn’t necessarily expect this with an overtly design-led car like the CLA, you do get a decent-sized, practical boot spanning 470 litres

 

Mercedes_CLA180
It’s a safe rather than an entertaining performer round the curves

What’s not?

  • Despite the Sport badge, this CLA 180 gets Mercedes’ front-drive Comfort suspension which lacks the incisive wheel control you would expect from a car that looks like this. While it is safe, it is not fun.
  • 6-speed manual transmission has a curious long-throw action and is the only transmission available with this 1.8 engine.
  • One corollary of that swoopy CLA rear roofline is that access to and from the rear seats is not as straightforward as per a C-Class. Head and kneeroom in the back is, overall, a bit marginal.
  • Mercedes is already adding to the CLA model line up with the racy CLA 45 AMG and a peppier petrol CLA 250 is also on the way. So this 180 Sport may soon get overshadowed.

 

Mercedes_CLA180
Glamorous looks, the size of a C-Class and the running costs of an A-Class build a powerful business car case for the CLA

Business Car Manager Verdict

We raved about the CLA when we first met and tested it back in March and our conclusion then, that it’s hard to argue with the proposition offered by the Mercedes CLA, still stands, The petrol version isn’t as quick or as economical as the diesel, but it’s cheaper, and you’ll shave your company car tax bill.

This is a car with Hollywood looks and the lure of the Three Pointed Star that’s half the price of the glamorous CLS it’s styled after. Throw in A-Class running costs in a car the size of a C-Class, and the CLA looks a truly compelling proposition.

Is there a ‘but?’ There is. As presented in the UK, the front-drive 180 Sport is not the crisp drivers’ car that, say, a BMW owner might expect. The chassis feels flat and uninvolving. There again, in a car that looks like this, how many will care?

This of course is just the start of the CLA journey so while the CLA 180 Sport has the right kind of business car numbers, the keen driver might want to hold off for future versions, or spec up to the AMG Sport with its sharper dynamics.

Read our car review of the Mercedes CLA 220 CDI Sport.

 

The Low Down…

Doors and body style  4-door sports saloon
Engine/gearbox  1.6 litre, 4 cyl petrol turbo/6-speed manual
CO2 Emissions  130g/km
Economy  50.4mpg
Power/torque  122hp/200Nm
0-62mph/top speed  9.3secs/130mph
Insurance group  24

…and what it costs

P11D Value  £24,300
Monthly business rental (ex VAT)  From £335 (3 yrs/30,000 miles)
Road tax (VED)  Band D
Company Car Tax Bands 2013/14 to 2015/16 18%, 19%, 21% 
Benefit in kind 2013/14 to 2015/16  £4374, £4617, £5103
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (20%)  £760/£63
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (40%)  ££1519/£127
Annual/monthly company car tax (20%)  £875/£73
Annual/monthly company car tax (40%)  £1750/£146
Figures correct at time of posting 
For latest figures Use our company car tax calculator

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