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Mercedes CLA-Class

As car manufacturers devote significant funds from their research and development budgets to develop new platforms, consumers can expect to see ever more variations on a theme. Carmakers want to squeeze as much out of those investments as possible, so building multiple models on a single platform allows them to take advantage of an increasing number of new niches - which also appeals to buyers who want something out of the automotive ordinary.
So it is why Mercedes-Benz has added another model to its portfolio, based on the same platform as the A-, B- and CLA-Class. The CLA Shooting Brake, as the name suggests, is an estate car that retains some of the sporty character of its four-door sister car. It's available with a choice of a pair of 2.1-litre diesel engines, a 134bhp CLA 200 CDI and 174bhp CLA 220 CDI.
We tested the latter and found it slightly disappointing. True, it's not short of pace, the low-down torque helping it to accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds, but it's a noisy unit that lacks the refinement of some of its rivals, especially when under load. In comparison with the petrol-engined cars we also tested, the diesel felt lumpy and almost cumbersome on the road, the steering feeling lifeless and the body control a touch sloppy, with an excess amount of body roll. The ride also felt fidgety when faced with poor road surfaces. The interior is comfortable enough, but the switchgear on the dashboard just doesn't have the involving haptics of an Audi or BMW.
Unsurprisingly for a sloping-roofed shooting brake, the rear space feels a little limited, the headroom for taller passengers in short supply and legroom only really suitable for shorter trips by adults. Again, the shooting brake nature does mean it's slightly compromised in the boot space department, and it isn't as capacious as more conventional estates. But 495 litres is still pretty good - a load compartment package also allows owners to add an extra 100 litres - and with the 60:40 split folding seats tumbled down, there's 1,354 litres of space on offer. There are three available trim levels with diesel engines - entry-level Sport, AMG Sport, and a funky OrangeArt edition as seen here.
All versions are decently kitted out with parking sensors, an electric rear tailgate, cruise control, rain sensor, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and 18-inch alloy wheels, though disappointingly, DAB digital radio costs an extra £420. Costs-wise, the CLA 220 CDI shouldn't be too expensive to run: an official fuel consumption figure of 67.3mpg on the combined cycle is pretty competitive, and CO2 emissions of 108g/km places it in the £20 per year bracket for vehicle excise duty, while company car benefit-in-kind tax is payable at the rate of 17 per cent. It's been placed in group 30 for insurance, which is a similar grouping to comparable models. Not that there really are any directly comparable cars in this sector, though.
The closest rivals are likely to be the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant, but they're more conventional estates, and lack some of the visual drama that the CLA Shooting Brake delivers, especially in this eyecatchingly different OrangeArt edition.

Model tested CLA 220 CDI OrangeArt Automatic
Price £34,825
Made in Kecskemet, Hungary
Configuration 5-door estate, 5-seats, front-wheel-drive
Drivetrain 2143cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel with stop-start
Transmission 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
Power output 174bhp @ 3,400-4,000rpm
Maximum torque 258lb ft @ 1,400-3,400rpm
Top speed/0-62mph 142mph/8.3 secs
CO2 emissions (tax band) 108g/km (B) Euro 6
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 57.7/74.3/67.3mpg
Fuel tank size/range 50 litres/740 miles
Insurance group/BIK rate 30/17%
Size (length/width with mirrors) 4,630/2,032mm
Boot space (minimum/maximum) 495/1,354 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,555/1,500kg

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