Mercedes-Benz is continuing its assault on the new car market with the launch of its third compact car in 18 months.
First came the new B-Class in spring 2012, then the A-Class in December, and now its dealers are taking orders for a compact four-door coupé, the CLA, for first deliveries in June. All share the same platform, and a compact SUV is expected to be the fourth model to join them in 2014.
Why a compact coupé?
For years Mercedes has enjoyed strong demand for the CLS, its large, elegant four-door coupé that sparked a new niche and offers a stylish alternative to a large executive saloon.
So it hopes to replicate that success with the CLA.
Mercedes-Benz UK would not reveal its annual sales ambitions for the CLA, but AM expects it to easily be treble the CLS’s 2,942 annual sales.
There are plenty of reasons: the entry point is £24,335, which is little more than Audi A4 money and it looks sleek and sporty with its best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.22Cd.
Plus its practicality as a four-door five-seater with a boot bigger than a Nissan Qashqai’s means it won’t be barred from company car drivers.
It’s a car that has no predecessor.
That naturally means some of its buyers may migrate from other Mercedes entry models.
However, the carmaker is confident the front-wheel driven CLA will encourage new customers to leave their BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 or A5 models behind.
Daimler chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dr Dieter Zetsche told AM: “There is a perception that people get a Mercedes-Benz when they’ve made it in life, but there’s no reason they cannot have a Mercedes when they’re still getting there.”
He said the CLA is designed to attract younger, Generation Y consumers in their 20s to 40s who often already know the Mercedes brand, but haven’t connected with it until now.
Mercedes wants this sporty styled, inexpensive car to indicate to these people that Mercedes-Benz is not just a brand for wealthy middle-aged people. “CLA is a great car.
It is definitely unlike anything Mercedes-Benz has done before,” Zetsche added.
Equipment levels across the two trims available – Sport and AMG Sport – live up to the premium billing, with large alloys, artificial leather sports seats, dual zone climate control, colour centre display screen, active park assist and radar-based emergency braking fitted across the range.
All models have electromechanical power steering and will be offered with two suspension set-ups – comfort or sport, which is rather firm and lowers the car for a more aggressive poise.
AMG Sport models have upgraded equipment including AMG bodystyling and privacy glass.
The launch line-up will consist of two engine offerings: the Renault-engined 120bhp CLA180 petrol and the 168bhp CLA220 CDI turbodiesel, from £29,355, which will be the volume seller due to its 62.8mpg combined economy and 117g/km CO2 emissions appealing to company car drivers.
The CLA180 is ideal for private buyers, however, who’ll be happy with its lower price, 50mpg official fuel economy and modest turn of speed.
A more frugal CLA200 CDI will join the range in September, alongside a CLA250 and four-wheel drive CL A250 4Matic.
The ultimate version will be the 350bhp CLA 45 AMG, to follow in the autumn.