Saloon-cum-coupé take on the A-Class gets the hardcore ‘45’ treatment, coming away with only subtle characteristic differences from the hatch

Find Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

The Mercedes-Benz CLA is the four-door saloon version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, although Mercedes likes to call it a coupé because, y’know, marketing. It has the same 2729mm wheelbase as the hatchback and the same body stiffening, so fundamentally it is the same thing – so AMG wants the two to give the same experience. 

There are, though, some subtle differences. The standard CLA already runs marginally wider tracks than the A, so its wings don’t have to be reprofiled as much as the A’s to accommodate the 45’s wider front rack, while its rear track remains a few millimetres wider on the AMG too, because the A’s five-door body can’t be pushed any wider. 

Ultimately, I don’t think you’d smile more or less in one than in the other, and that’s what matters.

The CLA also runs 10mm wider rubber, so 255/35 ZR19s front and rear rather than the A’s 245s, and with wheels that are 9.0in wide rather than 8.5in. More metalwork – this is 4693mm long while the A is 4445mm – means the kerb weight is 50kg more, at 1675kg, and the extra is all located low and to the back. I suspect, although Mercedes hasn’t said, that torsional rigidity is a touch higher on the CLA, too. 

How does the CLA 45 compare to the A 45?

There are differences, but they’re pretty subtle. The driving environment feels the same – the CLA’s overall height is only 5mm lower than the A’s – so there’s the same overwhelming interior and no difference in the powertrain. My go in the CLA on a circuit was brief and they were sighting laps behind a pace car, so I can’t tell you what the extreme handling differences between the two are like. 

Back to top

But if you hop straight from an A45 and into a CLA45 on the very same stretch of twisting road, the differences can be spotted. The ride is a touch less deft and felt like it was a tiny bit more affected by camber and road surface changes and more inclined to hunt a tramline. 

But we’re talking nths of degrees. The 0-62mph time falls by 0.1sec but economy improves (less drag, presumably), but it’s the same thing. On a circuit, have three laps at fast-ish pace in one, wait two hours and do the same again in the other, and I doubt you’ll tell them apart.

How does the CLA 45 perform on the road?

With a direct back-to-back comparison I suspect the differences are as more to do with the increase in tyre and wheel width as the extra weight, which, given that it’s sited low and rearward, should actually be no great hindrance to cornering balance.

In fact, given that it’s a bit lower, probably a bit more rigid and has a bit more rear weight bias, the CLA ought in some ways to feel like the better platform than the hatch from which to create a performance car. It isn’t one, though. If anything, the A feels like the original, from which all of the other styles will be drawn. 

I’d like to have tried the CLA on the A’s narrower wheels and tyres, and vice versa. But then you’d want the same stretch of road, empty, and to run through both with both tyre sets in all different modes until you found the optimum fast A. But it’d take quite a long time and, ultimately, I don’t think you’d smile more or less in one than in the other, and that’s what matters. 

The short of it is, then, that you’ll have the CLA if you prefer the look of it, or like having a 470-litre boot separated from the rest of the cabin rather than a 455-litre one that’s more versatile, and are prepared to spend an extra two grand for it, because the CLA will be around £52,000. You can imagine similar increases again when the Shooting Brake and crossover versions follow on. They’ll be heavier again and taller again, and I although I wouldn’t judge a car before I’ve driven it, something weird will have happened if they’re more capable than the A45.

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

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 First drives