Call it a wagon. Call it an estate. Call it a tourer. Or you could be different and call it something daft, like this: the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake.
Now, in the most traditional sense of the name, a Shooting Brake should have two doors and a wagon body.
But hey, Benz (and other premium brands) appear to lack any grasp of the word ‘coupe’, and that hasn’t stopped them labelling four-door models as such, so a Shooting Brake with five doors isn’t unprecedented. Oh yeah, now that we think of it, Mercedes-Benz did that with the CLS Shooting Brake, too…
On that topic, the new and considerably smaller CLA Shooting Brake looks like a shrunken version of Benz’s larger swoopy luxury wagon. And, while we don’t judge cars on their appearance, almost all members of the CarAdvice team said they thought the wagon was the best looking vehicle in Benz’s small car range, which also includes the A-Class, B-Class, CLA Coupe and GLA compact SUV.
Some of the praise for the CLA Shooting Brake probably comes down to the fact that it doesn’t look affordable. It looks expensive. And it is.
If Shooting Brake wasn't silly enough, the model name of the car we have here is the CLA250 Sport 4Matic. That name means it is sportier than, say, the CLA200 models, and the 4Matic refers to the fact this car has all-wheel drive. We'll get to that later.
It costs $66,400 plus on-road costs, and is set to be the bulk-seller in the CLA Shooting Brake range. The vehicle you see here features a number of optional extras that lift its price to $72,670 plus costs.
The options include the Cosmos Black Metallic paint ($1290), the Comand Package which includes an upgraded media menu and navigation system with digital radio and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo ($2490) and the Driving Assistance Package which consists of radar cruise control and lane-keeping assistance ($2490).
As for standard gear, the CLA250 Sport has items such as 18-inch alloy wheels, “intelligent light” system with LED lighting and high-beam assistance, a panoramic electric sunroof, keyless entry and push-button start. There’s a Garmin nav system standard, too.
Amazingly, the CLA250 Sport gets the stunning Black Red Cut Leather trim interior as standard. It is seriously pretty inside.
The seats offer great levels of comfort and support, not to mention good adjustment, and the presentation of the cabin is of a high standard.
The dash-top media screen is controlled either by using the array of buttons below (including the old-school numbers like a mobile phone with buttons … remember them?), but the rotary dial Comand controller is easy to get used to. And, having seen how juvenile the Garmin mapping system looks in other models, the Comand APS - with better graphics and a quicker interface - is an improvement.
All CLA models get a reverse-view camera system and front and rear parking sensors, as well as blind-spot assistance: and that’s a good thing, because this little swoopy wagon's thick rear pillars make it hard to see out the back.
In terms of other safety highlights, the CLA Shooting Brake has an autonomous emergency braking system with Pre-Safe seatbelt tensioning, attention assist drowsiness monitoring, and nine airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee).
Not only that, it’s fairly functional, too. The boot, for instance, is the most spacious of all the Benz small car models, with 495 litres of capacity. For reference, the B-Class has 488L, the GLA has 421L and the A has 341L.
The rear seat space isn’t nearly as good in the CLA Shooting Brake as it is in the B-Class, but it is better than in the CLA Coupe (that’s the one with four doors and a stupid – I mean, swoopy – roof). It is usable enough for parents with young kids, or for adults on shorter trips.
While the related A250 Sport is front-wheel drive (for now), the CLA version has all-wheel drive, though it shares the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engine producing 155kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
The CLA comes as standard with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and city-friendly stop-start, which helps keeps fuel use at a reasonable 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres.
It is a lively engine, offering a wealth of mid-range grunt – although you’ll need to flick the drive mode to S (Sport) rather than leaving it in Eco if you want to get the most out of the engine.
In the most fuel-friendly drive mode the engine is set up to amble at low revs, and the gearbox is ever eager to go for the highest gear ratio possible. Sport mode makes the whole package more conducive to fun driving, allowing the willingness of the engine to shine, and the decisiveness of the gearbox to ensure rapid progress.
At lower speeds, however – not matter what drive mode the car is in – the gearbox can stumble, particularly in slow-moving traffic. There’s a lurchiness at low speeds that could be frustrating if that’s where you spend a lot of time with your car.
Similarly, the lowered sports suspension (which drops the body of the car 15mm closer to the road surface when compared to more affordable CLA Shooting Brake models) is better at higher speeds, dealing more comfortably with bumps and lumps. Around town the ride is sharp, and we noticed some jarring through the front-end over harsh surfaces.
The firmness of the suspension and the fitment of all-wheel-drive does reward when it comes to twisty roads. This is an involving little thing to drive fast, with a nice amount of grip and good steering feel when you’re pushing it.
That all-wheel drive system can split torque between the front and rear axles, with up to 50 per cent at the rear, and there’s a thicker anti-roll bar when you compare it to the models that don’t have the Sport suffix. In short, it can move at good pace through corners, and it feels more at home there than anywhere else.
As with all Mercedes-Benz products there’s a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and buyers can choose between a range of different service plans (Silver or Platinum, the latter with more standard inclusions such as brake pads, and a higher cost) for varied durations (two years/50,000km; three years/75,000km, four years/100,000km, five years/125,000km).
While it isn’t the most comfortable car to live with around town, the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Shooting Brake is a stylish and sporty small wagon, one that rewards the driver when the going gets twisty.
The fact it looks so good is almost enough for us to forgive its’ silly name.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Christian Barbeitos.