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Tested: Merc’s CLA 200 is a delight

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The CLA 200 is a delightful car as an everyday drive with comfortable seating, top-end technology and a sweeping design.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 Coupe.

PRETORIA – Same, same you may think at a cursory glance, which is what a couple of friends thought when I tested the Mercedes-Benz A200 and CLA 200 back-to-back.

On closer inspection though, there are a number of differences almost exclusively limited to the exterior design.

The CLA on test is marketed as a four-door coupé while the A200 is considered to be a four-door sedan and once you take a walk around it, it becomes a lot clearer.

Its lines are smoother and for some more pleasing to the eye with a stretched bonnet, wider track with exposed wheel arches and a rear that looks a lot like a GT version. Its front-end with a shark-like nose, diamond grille, flat headlamps, narrow tail lamps and the number plate housed in the bumper certainly makes the CLA worth a second glance when stationary.

That sloping rear does, however, mean there’s some compromise in rear headroom space. I managed to squeeze in but any sudden jolts would certainly have caused a bump or two on my pip.

Under that extended hood is the same 1.3 litre engine that pushes out 120kW and 250Nm of torque coupled to a seven-speed DCT dual-clutch transmission driving the front wheels.

Older generation Merc owners are probably shaking their heads in disbelief but it’s not a bad little engine at all. Sure, it takes a while to get used to the idea but once you forget about that it’s actually a plucky little engine with enough oomph to get a bit of a smile when you give it some right foot in the sport setting.

Initially, there’s some turbo lag but once it’s spooled up the CLA gets up to speed quickly and will gladly pass slower vehicles by smoothly gearing down a gear or two, and if that’s not to your liking there’s always the paddles.

Driving around town, now that traffic patterns are almost back to normal, the car felt light and manoeuvrable and in comfort mode, the suspension had no issues with pock-marked suburban roads.

One thing I did notice though was that the CLA had a sportier driving position and around the corners, because it has a wider front and rear track handling dynamics, felt slightly better. With its aerodynamic design wind noise was also minimal.

The cabin fittings and finishes give an air of sophistication and it is also fitted with Mercedes-Benz’ latest MBUX infotainment system which includes the “Hey Mercedes” voice command control. The dual-screen set-up adds to the look and feel of the cabin with clear graphics even in direct sunlight.

The CLA 200 is a delightful car as an everyday drive with comfortable seating, top-end technology and a sweeping design and if it was me, I’d choose this over an SUV all day.