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First pictures: Sporty Mercedes CLA

This the first full set of pictures of the Mercedes-Benz CLA compact sedan, along with a video clip of its world debut at the Detroit motor show.

Mercedes, of course, call it a four-door coupé, saying its design cues are carried over from the slinky CLS and indeed, the family resemblance is plain to see, but the new 'baby Merc' is still very much its own car, with frameless doors, sports suspension and a class-leading aerodynamic coefficient of only 0.23 - which the makers claim is a record for a production car.

It's compact, yes, but not small, at 4630mm long, 2030mm wide but only 1420mm high, emphasising its sporty persona.

Standard kit includes a new radar-based braking system that warns the driver of obstacles and anticipates braking force when the driver steps on the brake pedal, as well as the ability to fully integrate a smartphone into the car's display and operating system.

THREE ENGINES

The flagship CLA 250 comes with a two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine for which Stuttgart quotes 153kW and 190Nm, driving via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission; idle stop is standard, while a new version of Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel drive, specially adapted for transverse engines, is an option.

Mercedes-Benz will also offer an entry-level CLA 180 with a 1.6-liter turbopetrol engine, which puts out 90kW and 200Nm, and a 126kW/350Nm 2.1-litre turbodiesel will be available in the CLA 220 CDI.

The company is claiming a 6.7-second 0-100km/h sprint time for the CLA 250, while the CLA 180 and CLA 220 take 9.3 and 8.2 seconds respectively.

The power take-off to the rear axle is integrated into the transmission and controlled by an electro-hydraulic, multi-disc clutch, which enables fully variable distribution of drive between the front and rear axles.

SPORTY SUSPENSION

The CLA's running gear features McPherson strut suspension at the front and independent multilink rear suspension, with three control arms and one trailing arm on each of the rear wheels, enabling longitudinal and transverse forces to be handled separately.

The rear sub-frame is flexibly mounted to reduce noise, vibration and harshness, while the wheel mounts and spring guides are made from aluminum to reduce unsprung weight.

The electromechanical power steering works together with the electronic stability programme to provide driver assistance functions such counter-steering in the event of oversteer, corrective steering when braking on road surfaces with differing levels of grip (split-friction braking), minimisation of torque steer and compensation for crosswinds and road gradients.

Both the front-wheel drive and 4Matic variants of the CLA250 come with 17”, five-spoked, two-tone rims and run-flat tyres. 18” AMG rims and perforated front dsics are options.

UPMARKET INTERIOR

As with the new A-Class, the interior stylists have been at pains to let us know that although the CLA is a compact front-wheel drive sedan, it's still a Mercedes-Benz.

Anthracite is the standard surface finish, with burr walnut, black ash and aluminum trim as options. The instrument panel has five air vents, each with a galvanised finish, while the free-standing display is set in black piano-lacquer trim and edged with a flush-fitting silver frame.

A 150mm display with central controller and Bluetooth connectivity are standard equipment; a 180mm sceen is available with the op[tional multimedia package, which includes hard-drive navigation, voice control, an SD card slot, an in-dash six-disc CD/DVD changer, a 10GB music register, and a rearview camera.

Optional driver assistance systems include parking sensors, blind spot assist, lane-keeping assist, and autonomous parking in both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces.

A huge sunroof is available as a standalone option, consisting of a fixed polycarbonate cover at the front, a glass moving panel and side trim elements to match the glass look, giving the visual effect of a glass surface extending all the way from the front to the rear windshield.

The CLA has yet to be confirmed for South African introduction, but we sure have our fingers crossed.

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