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Mercedes is pursuing a style-led approach to fleet appeal with the new CLA in an ongoing bid to woo younger drivers. The four-door coupe, based on the underpinnings of the new A-class hatchback, offers great proportions, sleek lines and an upmarket but easy-to-use interior.
With no direct competitors right now, this compact four-door coupe, stands apart as a buying proposition. A fraction shorter than the Mercedes C-class Coupe, but taller and wider, it's more practical than most two-door coupes but better-looking than conventional four-door saloons. And while many coupes don't fall on fleet policy lists, the four doors will ensure this isn't a problem.
The car also drives really well. Only two engine variants bound for the UK were available at launch.
The 211hp CLA 250 petrol (with all-wheel drive 4Matic option) was huge and grippy fun, but it's the 170hp CLA 220 CDI that will please business drivers most. Using a paddle-shift seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (there's no manual on this unit), the power is easy to extract, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering, which is firm enough to feel comfortable and in control, but not stiff. Of the two suspension settings - comfort and sport - comfort should be the better all-round bet for roads in this country, given that it still also offers a Sport mode from a button on the dashboard, to sharpen things up when required (plus Eco mode too). Front seats are suitable for all sizes, although rear-seat passengers need to be sub-6ft to feel comfortable for longer journeys. Anyone above that height will get their hair combed by the headliner, although knee room is good. The boot's a fair-sized 470 litres too, and will swallow a few suitcases.
Lastly, and crucially for business drivers, running costs appear to stack up well. Despite its sporty stance, the CLA 220 CDI offers fuel economy of 62.8mpg and 117g/km of CO2 (18% benefit-in-kind tax from April 2013), helped by a suite of aerodynamic details that make it the most streamlined mainstream car on sale with a 0.23Cd drag co-efficient (a Prius is 0.25Cd). The only other engine from its June launch, the 122hp CLA 180 petrol, has a tidy 50.4mpg and 130g/km, but further engines - a more frugal 200 CDI diesel and the go-faster 250 petrol - follow in September, plus a range-topping CLA 45 AMG after that. The starting price of £24,355 for the 180 Sport petrol manual is competitive, although be careful with those options. Standard spec on the £29,355 220 CDI is fine, but we suspect it will be easy to bump that price north of £35k.