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"SMALL is beautiful" may be a concept more commonly applied to economics or politics, but the phrase also comes to mind when admiring the styling of the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake.
A shooting brake is usually a sporty coupe with estate-like styling. The CLA Shooting Brake actually has a total of five doors, but since the CLA notchback on which it is based is called a four-door coupe, there would appear to be no violation of automotive logic.
Anyway, the car's proportions are too beautiful to be distracted by the number of doors. Mercedes-Benz first unveiled the Shooting Brake badge on the CLS, with its long bonnet, steeply raked windscreen and sensuous bulges.
But while the CLS Shooting Brake is evidently large, the CLA Shooting Brake is delightfully compact, yet shares the same aggressive posture and distinctive profile.
The CLA Shooting Brake has the same dimensions with the four-door CLA Coupe - it is 4.63 metres long with a generous 2,699 mm wheelbase. The front and rear overhangs are identical, and so too the front and rear track.
But because of the elongated roofline, the rear headroom in the Shooting Brake is 42 mm better.
There are a couple of engine options but one stands out for its good combination of price and performance - the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic Shooting Brake.
The CLA250 has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that drives all four wheels.
All Mercedes four-wheel-drive systems are called 4Matic but in the Shooting Brake, 100 per cent torque is usually distributed to the front axle for maximum efficiency. Up to 50 per cent can be directed to the rear axle for increased traction.
This means the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic Shooting Brake can swivel into a tight corner so fast you won't realise there was zero understeer until later.
The steering is heavily wooden however, and the Shooting Brake does not quite convey the agility its technical data infers. The lowered sports suspension also conjures visions of a bouncy castle when travelling on irregular surfaces. But there is no doubt the CLA250 has beefy low-end torque and a delicious exhaust that pops and spits in typical understated Merc style.
The cabin is equally attractive with its AMG Line trim. There are red accents on the sports seats and air vents to match the red seat belts and the interior looks and feels very premium.
At the same time, it is practical, with a spacious rear bench and a deep load area with an electrically operated tailgate.
The CLA Shooting Brake may be small on the outside but it is big in many other ways.
Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic Shooting Brake
Engine: 1,991cc inline-4 turbocharged
Gearbox: 7-speed 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission
Max power: 211 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Max torque: 350 Nm @ 1,200-4,000 rpm
0-100 kmh: 6.9 secs
Top speed: 240 kmh
CO2 emissions: 158 g/km
Average OMV: S$36,000
Price: S$197,888 (with COE)
Distributor: Cycle & Carriage