Of all the smallish new cars with which, over the past couple of decades, Mercedes has pumped up its global sales volume and lowered the average age of its customer, the CLA four-door coupé might not spring to your mind as the most transformative of the bunch.

Were you a North American car buyer, though, it might well spring absolutely front and centre as such. Because while the last-generation, original CLA wasn’t the most common sight on UK roads compared with the A-Class or even the GLA crossover SUV, it was the very first compact front-wheel-drive Mercedes to hit the American market when it landed there in 2013. Not so long after it had, it was described by Mercedes’ regional bosses as the firm’s most successful product launch in 20 years. Over a six-year life cycle, the CLA racked up an impressive production run of some 750,000 global units.

Mercedes will quite reasonably be expecting equally big things of this second-generation CLA, then: with ‘big’ becoming a word you can apply to the car in more ways than one. Having grown between the axles and in overall terms, this car is now longer than a current C-Class saloon and also has a bigger boot than its better-established saloon relation.

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Like the original CLA, it seeks to reproduce the design appeal of the bigger CLS four-door coupé at a more affordable price and, using Mercedes’ latest MFA2 platform as a basis, shares engines, cabin architecture, suspension hardware and more with the current A-Class and B-Class.

Unlike the last CLA, the car gets off to the right kind of start by more clearly differentiating itself visually from its hatchback relations and drawing more effective design parallels with the current CLS. But what is there, if anything, beneath the skin to lift the car above the level of an A-Class to drive? Let’s find out.

The Mercedes CLA range at a glance

The CLA range is extensive even after Mercedes UK chose not to include the entry-level 180d diesel and the four-wheel-drive 250 4Matic available elsewhere.

There are three AMG performance versions – counting both tunes of the forthcoming 45 versions, prices for which have yet to be confirmed. A shooting brake bodystyle will cost you £1000 more than a coupé.

Price £36,630 Power 221bhp Torque 258lb ft 0-60mph 6.8sec 30-70mph in fourth 8.2sec Fuel economy 33.6mpg CO2 139g/km 70-0mph 49.2m (damp)

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Mercedes-Benz CLA

Mercedes-Benz CLA

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