The Comfortable Compact- 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 Review

I’m so used to driving Peroduas and Protons that everytime I get into more luxurious cars, I have to prep my mindset a little bit. Buying a car just so you can get from point A to point B and buying a car because it is a marque of luxury (or a reward for yourself) are totally different experiences.

What we have here is the Mercedes CLA 180 which is basically an A-Class with a boot. It’s not big, and it doesn’t come from a long line of predecessors. So, there are no high expectations here with exception for the Mercedes badge.

 



How much does a CLA cost?

Well, in Malaysia you can only get the CLA200, and that would set you at about RM240,000.

 

I wasn’t expecting great driving experience or punchy performance from the CLA180, and I wasn’t disappointed. What do you get with the CLA180? Here’s a little overview…



Engine: 1.6 L M270 I4  (Turbocharged)

Transmission: 7-Speed Automatic

Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive

Tyres: Bridgestone Turanza T001 225/40R18

Price (2018): ~RM240,000

 

 

Let’s take a look inside


The CLA180 comes with a rather hefty price tag. And the truth is, there are some of you who can very well afford it. At around RM240,000, there are a variety of options besides the CLA, but we’ll talk about that later. So, what are you getting for that amount of money with this little Mercedes? Upon entering the car, you are greeted with a very comfortable set of seats. Both the driver and front passenger seats are electronically adjustable with 3 memory settings. The steering wheel has good girth, the dashboard is well done, and the attention to detail is good. Upon first impression, no corners have been cut to compromise your comfort. No knobs or buttons look cheap or rushed in the CLA180.

    


What might require a little of getting used to is the electronic gear column on the right side of the steering wheel. I believe this is a common configuration in Mercedes cars with exception for the performance models. The electronic parking brake control is reminiscent of a lot of older Mercedes cars where it used to be a “pull and twist type”. Again, this configuration requires some getting used to, but it is a nice tip of the hat to the older Mercedes cars.



 Left: Electronic parking brake on the CLA180; Right: Mechanical parking brake on the W126 (Link to article)



The back seats would sit two adults comfortably. It’s not the biggest back seat space out there, but the seats are very well done. Even the back-seat passengers get nice headrests. Nice contours and nice material. I don’t imagine these seats to be fully utilised, but they are there for the occasional lunch with your corporate colleagues. I can really only imagine this car being used by a single woman with a rather successful career. Or a rich wife who wouldn’t settle for anything less than a Mercedes. The seats seem to be too nice for you to put a baby or a child in there, but you could.



 



The Drive

 



What is it like to drive? Well, It’s not amazing. I’ll tell you that. At over RM200,000, you do expect great ride quality. It does live up to the expectation nonetheless. It is decently quiet on the inside, even when both the engine and the air-cond compressor are working hard to give you the best ride experience.






The CLA180 does come with several modes including comfort and sport. But even in comfort, it’s not that comfortable (to me, at least). It felt a little hard and it might just be because of the low-profile tyres with the 18-inch wheels. We did take this through some older roads, and it wasn’t very relaxing. Granted this is not a massive grand tourer, we shouldn’t expect so much. But I did expect a little more from the CLA180, especially in terms of comfort. Not to worry, I do believe this is an issue you can solve with some proper aftermarket adjustments.

 

The Engine



This is the last place you’d look when buying the CLA180. You don’t even have to bother looking here, actually. You’re not going to do self-maintenance and you don’t give a crap about the engine configuration. This is a Mercedes-Benz. Briefly, this is a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The car is a front-wheel-drive. Is it great? It is the lower end of the CLA really, but it’s enough for a compact Mercedes-Benz. The extra gears do make long drives more relaxing and less strenuous for the 1.6L turbocharged M270. There’s a sport mode that will delay upshifts but leaving it in normal mode is already sufficient.

 

 

 

 


What are you really paying for? 

This is the CLA180. The CLA200 comes with more features.

Comfort – nice seats, well made dashboard, electronically adjustable seats (driver and front passenger), compact but still comfortable for backseat passengers, wide tyres, very low cabin noise

Safety – Collision warning (in case you get close to the car in front), All round disc brakes, full airbags

Good finish – good attention to detail, good premium feel

Good looks? – Subjective matter, Interesting curves nonetheless

 

 

Alternatives

What else might interest you?

A BMW 318i, Citroen DS5, Mini Cooper 5 Door, Volkswagen Golf R Line, Mazda 3 Sedan, or a brand-new Honda Civic. Foreign brands are generally more expensive in Malaysia, so I’ll leave the Mazda 3 and the Civic in this list since they are quite pricey in our country. They also have rather decent and comfortable interior design. If it’s style you’re looking for, the BMW, Citroen, Mini, and Volkswagen are sort of “upper echelon” cars here, with the Citroen DS5 offering the most bizarre design. Before you decide on the CLA, have some fun looking at these alternatives.



Verdict

 


Mercedes luxury in a compact package. Satisfying cabin design. Quiet (on the inside), luxurious, and considerably good looking. I believe it could be more comfortable with some adjustments. The CLA is something in between the A-Class and the C-Class. Personally, I’d go for the C-Class over the CLA (The C-Class is rear-wheel-drive and bigger). The CLA is the second car for the well-to-do family, or the compact saloon for the professional woman.


 




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