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Mercedes CLA distills luxury model safety and style into compact coupe

Mercedes CLA distills luxury model safety and style into compact coupe Mercedes CLA frontal crash test Mercedes CLA side impact test
Tristan Honeywill

The Mercedes-Benz CLA takes the style, comfort and safety of a large Mercedes and condenses it into a small, premium coupe. With Euro NCAP’s assessment now published, the CLA marks a return to Mercedes’ five-star form – the manufacturer had let standards slip with the Citan people carrier.

The CLA’s five-star Euro NCAP rating means that the car delivers solid protection in the types of crash it is most likely to encounter in Europe. The passenger compartment was stable in the main 64km/h crash, suggesting that it could withstand more severe collisions as well. The CLA also scored maximum points in the side impact test. In the event of being hit from behind, the car’s tall sport seats provide good whiplash protection.

The CLA’s protection for young children is also good. Euro NCAP gave the car maximum points scored for the 18-month dummy and protection for the three-year old dummy in a forward facing seat was OK too. It’s worth noting that the only way to disable the front seat airbag is if you use one of Mercedes’ own rear-facing child seats. These contain a transponder that lets the car know that there’s a baby in front of the airbag. Without one of these “CPOD” child seats, infants must travel on the rear seats.

It’s a good sign when the manufacturer also pays attention to protection for pedestrians as well. Mercedes also impresses here. The car has an active hood that pops up when the car detects a collision with a pedestrian, protecting heads well. The CLA’s bumper and front edge are also designed in a way to limit injuries to a pedestrian’s legs and pelvis.

The high standards continue when it comes to driver assist technologies. The CLA features technologies that help anticipate dangers and improve safety in the event of a crash. Attention Assist, particularly useful on long journeys, comes as standard. It uses an array of sensors to detect if the driver is starting to become fatigued. The driver then gets a gentle reminder to take a break.

Collision Prevention Assist, also standard, works at speeds above 20mph. The technology spots if you’re too close to the vehicle or an object in front, whether it’s moving or stationary. You then get visual and acoustic alerts and if you brake, Adaptive Brake Assist applies exactly the right brake force to ensure a collision is avoided.

Option-wise, Distronic Plus takes this idea further, using radar to scan the road ahead. You need to have the seven-speed automatic gearbox fitted, but then Distronic will help you always keep a safe distance from the car ahead. It makes stop-and-go traffic more relaxing and if emergency braking is needed, it alerts the driver.

The CLA has a good selection of driver assist systems as standard: it lets you know when you need to take a break from driving and warns you if a collision is imminent. The options list offers even more technologies to help keep driver and passengers safe

An optional intelligent light system helps to put the optimum amount of light on the road. Different modes cover driving on country roads and motorways as well when cornering and in fog. The lighting package also includes LED tail lights and daytime running lights that make you more visible in dull conditions.

Mercedes’ Pre-Safe system is also an option worth considering. If it detects an accident is probable, it starts to prepare the vehicles’ occupants for impact. The front seat belts tension, the windows close and the front passenger seat moves into the best position for the airbags to work.

If there is a crash – and the COMAND online system is fitted – the CLA has an emergency call function that uses a synched mobile phone to call the emergency services. The GPS data is also sent to a Mercedes emergency call centre, where an operator will attempt to contact you by phone to check if everything’s OK.

The CLA is often described as a small version of the larger, more expensive CLS. In terms of safety technologies, the two are quite similar. The only real differences are that the CLS offers Night Vision Assist and active head restraints to improve whiplash protection. It would be great to see these available in smaller cars. Nonetheless both a standard-spec and a fully equipped CLA will offer impressive protection to families and company car drivers.


Buyer’s guide
  • Prices for the CLA start at £24,355
  • The Intelligent Light Package costs either £1430 or £570, depending on whether you are equipping a CLA Sport or the more expensive AMG Sport model
  • If you do a lot of motorway miles, consider the Lane-Tracking Package, which costs £770. It includes Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keep Assist
  • Side airbags for the rear seats are optional and cost £390
  • The Distronic Plus system costs £880, but is only available with the seven-speed automatic gearbox
  • The Pre-Safe system costs £340
  • The COMAND Online system costs £2100 and gives you Speed Limit Assist



  1. JA

    Only 6.5 points in pole test though… Should be better than that.

    • Good point. The standard A-Class did offer better protection, scoring 7.3 points. I wonder why there’s a difference

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