Mercedes-Benz CLA (2013-2018)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

4dr Coupe / 5dr Shooting Brake Estate (1.6 petrol [CLA 180] / 2.0 petrol [CLA 250] / 1.8 diesel [CLA 200d] / 2.1 diesel [CLA 220d] / 2.0 petrol [CLA 45 4MATIC]


The CLA, originally launched in ‘C117’-series first generation form back in 2013, was a rather different kind of Mercedes. It was compact and coupe-like, yet offered buyers four doors and a large boot. Or it could be had as a stylised ‘Shooting Brake’ estate. And it could set the neighbours talking far more than if you’d simply bought yet another small German-badged executive saloon. It was a model to challenge your preconceptions, that's for sure. But does it make sense as a used buy?

The History

Never underestimate the power of emotional appeal. It’s brought us cars like this one, the Mercedes CLA, an effortlessly stylish compact saloon (marketed as a ‘four-door coupe’) that back in 2013 brought a fashionable feel to the Stuttgart brand’s growing family of smaller models.

To fully understand it, you need to be familiar with the so-called ‘four-door coupe’ concept, pioneered by Mercedes back in 2004 with their CLS-Class model, the first example of this kind of car and a trendier alternative to their similarly-sized but much more conventional E-Class saloon. The CLS was a huge success – to the point where it seemed only a matter of time before this prestigious German brand extended the concept to offer the same kind of car as an alternative to its smaller, more affordable C-Class saloon.

In fact, it took until the Spring of 2013 for them to do just that and launch this CLA model, initially known as the ‘CLA-Class’ and latterly just as the ‘CLA’. By the time of this ‘C117’-series model’s original launch, the whole idea of the same brand offering the same kind of car in both ‘standard’ and stylised ‘lifestyle’ guises was well established right across the market.

In other words, if you’re target market for a car like this CLA, you’ll be someone who likes the idea of buying a sporty, prestigiously-badged compact saloon but wants to make a bit more of a statement about doing it. As we said, it’s all about emotional appeal. The first generation CLA four-door coupe was joined by a ‘Shooting Brake’ estate version in 2014. High performance Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 4MATIC variants of both body styles followed. All variants then sold until 2019, when they were replaced by second generation models.

What You Get

By any measure, this is a handsome car, whether you choose it in four-door coupe guise or in ‘Shooting Brake’ estate form. Either way, the look is purposeful, with sporting proportions and a potent bonnet powerdome. Hi-tech too, with jewel-like LED daytime running lamps fashioned to create a flare effect around the diamond-shaped grille. The cabin’s virtually identical to that of an A-Class – which by 2013 was a good thing. So you get the same deeply-cowled twin-dial instrument binnacle viewed through a lovely, grippy nappa leather-trimmed three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. There are the same five chrome-trimmed SLS supercar-style air vents decorating the dash. And you get the same iPad-style 5.8-inch free-standing infotainment screen stuck in the middle of it. As for back seat accommodation, well any car that describes itself as a ‘four-door coupe’ clearly isn’t going to have this as a top priority. There’s a large 470-litre boot though. If that’s not enough, then talk to your dealer about the CLA-Class Shooting Brake estate model.

What To Look For

Check for signs of damage to the bodywork and alloy wheels. Even though all CLAs came with parking sensors there may be some and top-spec variants with wide alloy rims are particularly prone to scratches. Check for uneven panel gaps and paint flaws.

There were a number of safety recalls on this MK1 ‘C117’-series CLA. Four relate to airbags that might not deploy correctly and affect some cars produced between August 2016 and March 2017. There was one for a vacuum line on the brake booster on very early CLAs built up to April 2013 where the connection can fail and cause the driver to have to apply extra pressure to the pedal during braking. The recall that concerns most CLAs involves insufficient grounding of the airbag electrical components in the steering column. In extreme cases, the driver’s airbag may go off and cause injury to the driver. This is applicable to cars from the start of production in 2013 to July 2017. Make very sure that all these recalls have been activated on the car you’re looking at.

On The Road

Mercedes marketed this car as a ‘sporty’ alternative to its more conventional C-Class saloon. The mainstream powertrains are all borrowed from A and B-Class models from this era. These include an entry-level 1.8-litre 136bhp CLA 200CDI diesel and a pokey 2.0-litre 211hp CLA 250 petrol model, the latter offered with and without 4MATIC 4WD. Most buyers though, choose to focus on the two mainstream engines that this car was launched with. First up is the 122hp 1.6-litre petrol turbo that’s mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox in the CLA 180, a willing unit that gets to 62mph in 9.3s en route to 130mph. If funds permit though, you’ll probably prefer the CLA 220CDI diesel variant. This gets a 170hp 2.1-litre unit with nearly twice as much pulling power, so you’re treated to a lot more get-up-and-go from low revs, with 62mph from rest taking 8.2s on the way to 143mph. It comes mated solely to a 7-speed 7G-DCT automatic transmission, one of those state-of-the-art double-clutch set-ups that can select the next gear even before you’ve left the last one. At the top of the range, there’s a fire-breathing CLA 45 AMG 4MATIC model with a 360hp turbo petrol 2.0-litre unit and four-wheel drive.


If you’re in the market for a compact, prestigiously-badged saloon and like the look of this one, then nothing we’re going to say here is likely to dissuade you away from CLA motoring. This car was always a bit of a niche product that importantly, freed up the C-Class to be a bit bigger and more luxurious. The kind of car that redefined what its brand stood for in the eyes of many potential buyers. Exactly as it was meant to.