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Mercedes-Benz is rolling out PHEV power across its compact car range and this CLA might be the pick of the bunch.
Keyless entry, 64-colour ambient lighting, rear armrest with two cup holders, 10.25in digital instrument display, 18in alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated front seats, MBUK multimedia system, wireless phone charging, MBUX augmented reality navigation
218hp 1.3 petrol plus electric motor
AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus
Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
During the past 12 months, Mercedes-Benz has accelerated its deployment of plug-in hybrid power across its range and, in some sectors, it has set benchmarks for how far cars can travel in pure EV mode.
We were impressed in early summer 2020 with our first experience of the A 250e hatchback, which offered more than 40 miles of plug-in range, plus a combined power output with engine and electric motor of 218hp.
The EV range comfortably exceeded the 40-mile benchmark set for lower BIK tax, giving it a substantial advantage over other premium hatchbacks. Hybrid power is also offered in the A-Class saloon.
The GLA compact SUV has also received the same powertrain and it has been rolled out to the CLA in four-door Coupé and Shooting Brake estate body styles.
We took a drive in the Shooting Brake, which is a little more practical than the Coupé and perhaps more tempting for drivers looking for a premium alternative to their upper-medium mainstream car.
The CLA is more upmarket than the A-Class, and equipment grades start at the higher AMG Line level. For the plug-in hybrid, it's even more elevated, adding the Premium pack at the entry level and offering the Plus pack for those who are seeking more equipment.
But the AMG Line Premium is already well equipped, coming with 18in AMG-designed alloy wheels, digital instrument display and other high-end cabin features. It also comes with Mercedes-Benz's augmented reality feature in the navigation, which shows exits on the screen in live camera view and large arrow graphics, helping reduce incidents of missed turns.
The power unit combines a turbocharged 1.3-litre engine with a powerful electric motor, both powering the front wheels and producing a maximum of 218hp. Of course, there's the benefit of the electric motor's instantaneous torque initially, but for extended periods of acceleration, the engine then picks up the pace.
It doesn't feel like a sports car, with some numbness in the steering, but most people won't expect it to. And it would certainly live up to the aspirations of most user-choosers able to select a car in this category.
Also, many people would live with any shortfall in engagement for the low BIK tax. From April 2021, the car will be in the 7% bracket for BIK tax, meaning £70 a month for a 40% taxpayer.
We're still at compact car levels of boot space, with 440 litres up to window height, but it doesn't seem much of a compromise. PHEV alternatives for this money would be medium SUVs, such as the Peugeot 3008. But none yet are so impressive on BIK tax.
If you don't need any more than a compact family car with a premium badge, and your allowance permits the CLA hybrid, it's hard to see how you could want any more.