What is it like on the inside?
Where else to start than with the dashboard, shared with the A-Class hatch, which means two 10.25-inch glossy widescreen displays (now standard fit in the UK) and a very un-car-like look and feel. It immediately impresses, no doubt.
However, where pre-facelift you controlled the driver’s instrument cluster using a simple thumb-operated touchpad on the steering wheel and various physical buttons (and the infotainment display by touching the screen itself or with a trackpad on the centre console), the redesigned steering wheel now has small and fiddly touchpad controls and the trackpad has gone completely. Bummer.
What’s it done that for?
Well, Mercedes would say that this is because voice control is the system’s party piece: say “Hey Mercedes” followed by a command, and we’re told it ought to be able to decipher and answer pretty much any car-based query. Not quite true, but as far as these systems go it’s pretty good. It's especially adept at changing radio stations, changing the colour of the ambient lighting and entering sat nav destinations. But it’s a bit hit and miss, especially if you have a regional accent.
Once your fingers learn the system, your brain gets to grips with the latest ‘MBUX’ infotainment. It's very customisable, so you can choose how you want it to look and behave. Good graphics, good functionality and enough processing power for swift and smooth operation, whatever the input.
Mercedes has also retained the climate controls, by way of a row of physical switchgear underneath central air vents. Ten house points there.
Is it a pleasant place to be?
The driving position and seats are comfortable, and for the most part everything looks and feels nice and expensive. A notable exception is the indicator stalk, which feels cheap and poorly damped. Probe deeper and you will find more cheap-feeling and -looking plastics, but mostly they’re in places you seldom have cause to look at our touch. Ambient lighting is cool though.
Surprisingly you can fit real people in the CLA’s rear seats. Not overly tall ones, admittedly, but actual people all the same. There’s certainly enough legroom to sit behind a driver of similar height for anyone under 6ft. Not so much headroom though, as you’d expect from a car with so much rake. Kids will be fine back there, but with adults you’re better off treating it as a 2+2 instead of a proper four-seater.
Boot capacity is only 440 litres in the standard petrol and diesels, and 395 litres in the PHEV on account of the battery. That’s more than you get in a regular A-Class hatch and saloon, and crucially, also slightly more than its biggest rival, the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe.