The CLA 220d will be the big seller. Its 2.1-litre engine is flexible and punchy until the rev needle passes the 4000rpm mark. It records an adequate 8.2sec 0-62mph time and a 143mph top speed.

Its punchy nature makes short work of overtaking, aided by its standard smooth-shifting 7G-DGT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with software derived from the SLS AMG supercar. The engine's gratifyingly economical too; Mercedes claims 62.8mpg on the combined cycle with emissions rated at 117g/km.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Performance fans should look to the CLA 45 AMG

The 2.1-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel seems a little better isolated than it is in the equivalent A-Class, but it’s also considerably more clattery than that which powers, say, a four-cylinder diesel Jaguar XF or even a Volkswagen Golf GTD – both available at a similar price point and with similar specific outputs.

The CLA 180 is powered by a 120bhp engine developed in partnership with Renault, and offers a slightly less than impressive 9.2sec 0-62mph time. Official figures rate the CLA 180 at 50.4mpg combined with 126g/km of CO2.

The hotter CLA 250 is the fastest model in the standard range. It records a 6.7sec 0-62mph time, but never really feels as quick. The engine lacks the rorty soundtrack expected of the hotter models in Mercedes' more attractive model line-ups.

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In the 250, the same seven-speed automatic feels markedly more ponderous than the diesel. This engine records a claimed 46.3mpg and emits 142g/km, with a small penalty for 4Matic models.

As we’ve written several times before, Mercedes’ seven-speed dual-clutch automatic isn’t the most obedient transmission of its kind. Leave it to its own devices and it’ll shift away quickly and smoothly on part-throttle, while even at full noise it is quick-witted enough to get the CLA 220d to 60mph in a pretty competitive 8.3sec. 

Put your foot down and the first three ratios pass by in the kind of blur that might kid you into believing you’re going faster than you really are. But it’s also a blur that’s slightly alienating to a keen driver. The early intermediate ratios are so short that, in manual mode, and allowing for the slight delay between pulling a paddle and the actual gearchange, it’s a struggle to time your shifts with much accuracy.

The gearbox won’t let you career into the rev limiter, either, as it happens – even in Sport mode. Regardless, the driver is left feeling a bit disenfranchised and disconnected from the driving experience as a whole – and for anything with the words ‘AMG Line’ in its name, that can’t be considered a good thing.

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