Mercedes will inject some practicality into its all-new second-gen CLA with the load-lugging CLA shooting brake model. It’s not difficult to see that, with its tapered, swooping shape, it’s not be the most cavernous wagon on the market, but it certainly offers more space inside than the sedan. It may also appeal to wagon and SUV fans that would otherwise have completely ignored the model, writing it off as being too impractical.

However, this is not merely a rehash of the initial CLA estate’s formula, since this new one has quite a different shape to it. The front it inherited from the new CLA sedan, but the rear end looks quite different compared to that of the previous CLA wagon - it’s even sleeker and has a more steeply raked fastback-like rear screen and it overall looks like a more grown up car; it pulls the mini-CLS trick better than the old CLA, regardless of body style.

Realistically few will buy the CLA wagon for its practicality, though, and most will just want one because it’s a cool, stylish wagon that drives well - they will want to be seen in it specifically and not the sedan that has a different image attached to it. Plus it carries the ultra-desirable Mercedes badge. It’s a head-turner too, as with any CLA (even the older one), it draws lots of looks since it’s quite an unusual shape but also really pleasant to look at too.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Exterior

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Exterior
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The front end of the CLA wagon is obviously identical to that of the sedan but, from the B-pillar back, the vehicle looks like it’s completely new. Merecedes is camouflaging the whole things in the spyshot’s I’ve seen, but the nose won’t be modified in any way.

From the side, though, the fact that this is quite a different vehicle begins to emerge - the rear end doesn’t look like that of a traditional estate (quite far from it, actually).

Firstly, the roofline starts to fall and taper immediately after the B-pillar, but the roof itself is not excessively long because of the rear glass that is angled down - the best vehicle to compare its rear end to is the new Kia ProCeed, which has a very similar design.

Mercedes says the entire greenhouse has been moved back, giving the impression of a longer hood. This does make the CLA and CLA wagon look more like rear-wheel drive cars with longitudinally-mounted engines, even though they aren’t. Mazda is quite successfully pulling the same trick with pretty much all models in its range, from the pint-sized 2 (also known as Demio) all the way to the big CX-9.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Exterior
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The rear light clusters appear to have been lifted straight from the sedan, as does the bumper.

This car’s style and practicality focus becomes very apparent when you actually see the size of the rear hatch - it’s not very big at all and it’s actually even smaller than its outline suggests.

As with the CLA sedan, there is a lot of the new CLS’ design in this CLA wagon, so even though Mercedes isn’t making a load-lugging version of the CLS, you can imagine it would have looked a lot like this CLA. The vehicle will also be a bit bigger than the old CLA wagon by roughly the same margins as the sedan - it is almost 5 cm / 1.9 inches longer, over 5 cm / 2.08 inches wider, and a whisker lower too.

What also seems to have increased is the size of the front and rear overhangs - this makes the CLA look like a bigger car, but with the wheels further from the corners of the car, it also makes it look less sporty or dynamic.

Base models get quite restrained front and rear bumper designs and ride on small 16-inch rims. This makes for a dramatically different look to that of a CLA wagon with the full AMG makeover - it includes much more aggressive front and rear bumpers, larger side skirts and suitably larger wheels too.

The CLA Shooting Brake is, like any modern German premium car, defined and dominated by the way it is specced. You can dramatically change its character depending on which exterior pack you choose, or how you elect to mix and match the available cosmetic extras.

Overall, the load-lugging CLA is going to be a very unique sight out on the road, and I think it might even become cooler than the sedan variant (as was the case, in my view, with the previous generation model) because of the fact that the three-box version will be by far the more conventional and popular choice. And very few people will chose the CLA Shooting Brake over the sedan for practicality-related reasons - most will just buy it as a style statement, because it’s seen as a vehicle that hints at a slightly different

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Interior

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Interior
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While the exterior of the old CLA certainly found fans, they were less impressed when stepping aboard, greeted by so-so materials and a feeling that the car isn’t particularly special. Well, that feeling (of being special) is definitely present in the new CLA interior, a huge leap forward over what the manufacturer did before.

Interestingly, despite the fact that the car is slightly larger than before (3 cm / 1.1-inch longer wheelbase), there’s actually less legroom up front than there was in the old CLA, although legroom in the back is ever so slightly up (by 1 millimeter).

The dash is dominated by the standard 7-inch dual screens where one is a digital gauge cluster and the other handles infotainment and other tasks.

You can opt for larger 10.25-inch screens which you really want in the CLA because they add to the sophistication of the already very nice interior.

What’s really striking about being behind the wheel of a new CLA is the fact that there’s no longer any cowl over the instrument panel. Mercedes has done away with it since the screen it uses for the CLA interior is bright and clear enough that it requires no extra shade from the sun.

left right

The CLA also gets the newly designed Mercedes steering wheel, the same one you get in most models all the way up to the S-Class. It features touch panels to navigate through menus on the two screens, although you can also use the touchpad located on the center console to do the same thing.

Mercedes describes the overall design of the CLA interior as progressive, and it certainly is that, especially if you compare it to what you find in the old CLA.

It’s a big step up, and it makes for less of a gap between this front-wheel drive-biased model and Mercedes’ range of rear-driven cars that starts with the C-Class.

Buyers will be able to customize the interior of their CLA with different material and trim choices, and there’s also mood lighting available (with 64 available colors).

Mercedes points out that the new CLA is both sportier to drive yet more comfortable than its predecessor, thanks to a wider track and a new design multilink rear suspension setup that is said to reduce noise and vibration. Obviously, this comfy character is brought out most in cars equipped with adaptive dampers (especially on examples fitted with large wheels).

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Drivetrain

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Exterior
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At launch, the new CLA wagon is available in the U.S. as the CLA250 only, with either front- or all-wheel drive.

Power for this version comes from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder with 221 horsepower and 221 pound-feet / 300 Nm of torque. No performance numbers have been announced, though, aside from the electronically limited top speed which is 130 mph / 210 km/h.

More gasoline engines will join the North American range later, and in Europe it will also be offered with smaller capacity diesels and maybe even a manual gearbox for the most basic models. Mercedes will also make hot 35 and 45 AMG versions of the CLA and CLA wagon, with over 300 and 400 horsepower respectively, permanent all-wheel drive, and snappy double-clutch gearboxes.

On the move, the driving experience really doesn’t differ noticeably from that of the CLA sedan or any of the A-Class models. It’s a very grippy machine, even without the all-wheel drive system that’s available on some models. The front end goes where you point it with no drama, understeer is kept in check very well and this car has surprisingly communicative steering.

If you’re driving a model equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive, then you will be hard-pressed to tell that it is a front-wheel drive-biased vehicle with a transversally-mounted engine. Some many call this "not a real Mercedes" because of this fact, but it’s engineered sufficiently well to negate that statement.

Any version of it you go for will have quite firm (but well damped) suspension and this will translate into a fun drive on a twisty road, with low body roll and plenty of control. If you happen to drive one equipped with an AMG pack, then there’s even less roll, along with more grip and even more control. Any higher powered CLA variant you may drive will feel like a hot hatch, especially if it’s one of the gasoline burning models.

The sensation of being behind the wheel of something sporty is enhanced by the low driving position that adds to the driver’s confidence and feeling of being in control of the car. The steering is also very quick and you have to apply little lock to make the car change direction - it takes some getting used to, if you’re stepping up from a 10 year-old car as the CLA and A-Class have some of the quickest steering racks in the segment.

Regardless of which engine option you go for, the CLA wagon will surprise you with its spritely performance, great road holding and pin-sharp steering that on the sporty AMG models feels as quick as on current MINIs.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Prices

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Exterior
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In the US, the CLA range starts from just over $33,000 and it’s safe to say opting for the estate over the sedan will incur a few thousand extra - expect to pay probably around $34,000, maybe a bit more for the CLA shooting brake.

The engine range, as well as the range of optional extra features will most likely be identical, although the load-lugger may get additional practicality options focused around its larger cargo area (like extra netting or more clever compartmentation) and factored on top of its slightly higher price it could increase the gap between wagon and sedan.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Competition

Kia ProCeed

2019 Kia ProCeed Exterior
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The only other car out there, regardless of price, premium status and perception is the new Kia ProCeed, the flashy fastback flagship of the Ceed range. It is essentially all Ceed up to around the B-pillar area after which it starts to look a lot like the CLA shooting brake, actually.

Comparing the two side by side, one can’t deny the visual similarity between the two, although they do give off a different and unique vibe each. They are still different enough so as it doesn’t look like Kia took inspiration from Mercedes (it probably didn’t and most likely just came up with this shape on its own).

The new ProCeed is definitely worthy of your consideration if you’re shopping around for a more rakish wagon around its price point. In Europe, you can have one from around €27,000 with the 1.0-liter T-GDi engine with 120 hp - for more eager drivers, Kia also offers the ProCeed as a warmed up GT model with a 1.6-liter T-GDi with 204 metric horsepower and plenty of torque.

Read our full review on the 2019 Kia ProCeed

BMW 2-Series Active Tourer

2014 - 2020 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer High Resolution Exterior
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BMW doesn’t currently sell a direct rival for the Mercedes CLA shooting brake, but there is a vehicle in its range that tries to blend practicality with a quirky and unusual look - the 2-Series Active Tourer.

The 2 AT is a strange looking thing that on the move doesn’t really feel like a BMW to drive, since it’s a front-wheel-drive car that’s a bit top heavy. However, as a practical proposition, it’s actually not that far from the CLA wagon and is probably genuinely roomier and more cavernous inside, therefore better for carrying people.

However, it is quite pricey and even though I’ve driven one and had a lot of time to look at it and around it, I never really enjoyed looking at it. While it may be a good city car for a small family with occasional weekend road trip plans, and a fairly close rival for the CLA load lugger, its awkward look will keep people from wanting one in the same manner they do the rival Mercedes.

Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 2-Series Active Tourer

Volkswagen Golf wagon

2018 Volkswagen Golf Variant High Resolution Exterior
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If you want a wagon around this size that feels premium, drives great, has plenty of badge kudos and a mesmerizingly large array of options and version to pick from, then you need look no further than the VW Golf wagon. The Golf matches the Mercedes for interior fit and finish quality, even though the latter has a more flamboyant design that makes you feel just that little bit more special.

It also matches the CLA when it comes to performance versions, as you can get it with as much as 310 horsepower and all-wheel drive - this would be a perfect match for the CLA 35 AMG. The Golf is not cheap, though, especially if you spec your up with bits you really want. But if you’re careful when ticking the options, you can still get it cheaper than you can the Mercedes.

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf wagon

Conclusion

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exclusive Renderings
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The CLA wagon has few natural rivals that can match it on all fronts - the Kia ProCeed kind of looks like it, but lacks the premium feel and fire breathing all-wheel drive performance option, while the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer does all the practical stuff and has a premium badge, but it looks a bit awkward and ungainly. The VW Golf variant is probably its best match, yet it looks bland and dreary alongside it and it could be perceived as quite expensive for what it is.

It’s therefore in a class of its own, offering a unique blend of features, qualities, and performance. The way it looks is obviously going to be the main driver for sales, especially since, with its tapering shape, it’s not really going to be the most practical wagon out there - like the old CLA shooting brake, it’s more of a style statement with some extra practicality sprinkled on top.

For the right buyer, this will be the only car they want (which doesn’t cost a huge amount) and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be more popular a model than its predecessor, especially since the new CLA on which it’s based is better and more comfortable than the old one whose ride was criticized for being crashy and unsettled.

  • Leave it
    • Not as practical as more traditional wagons
    • You have to go crazy with the options for a really desirable example
    • Only the performance variants are really fun to drive

Further reading

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA.

2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake
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Read our full review on the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake.

2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Spyshots Exterior
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Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45.

2014 Mercedes CLA 45 AMG High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the current 2014 Mercedes-AMG CLA45.

2014 - 2015 Mercedes CLA-Class High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA.

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