PREMIUM eloquence calls it a "compact car offensive". But really Mercedes-Benz is going for the jugular.
The new CLA coupe has arrived priced from under $50 grand and has placed a silk-lined foot on the throat of Audi and BMW.
Only the CLA 200 and the raucous range-topping AMG derivative have arrived, but already there is a queue.
This svelte four-door shares underpinnings with its A-Class sibling and both are dragging new customers into three-pointed star showrooms in unprecedented numbers. Seventy-five per cent of A-Class buyers are new to the brand…and that will extend further with the CLA.
Another two derivatives will arrive next year, including a diesel version for $50,400 in February while the 250 Sport ($63,400) is scheduled to touch down in April.
This is the slipperiest production car in the world. With a coefficient drag of 0.23 (anything under 0.3 is usually pretty good nowadays) it helps deliver a whisper quiet cabin.
There is no wind noise, which makes the tyre rumble more pronounced. However, despite the run-flats on the CLA200 and the performance-focused suspension on the AMG, it cruises smoothly for a serene ride.
Actually longer than a C-Class but with slightly less head room, the CLA has a sporty persona, yet it can still carry four adults.
Swooping lines at the rear impede space for those in the back seat though and those taller than 170cm will find their hair skimming the roofline. From the back vantage point the view is hindered by a small window and a large rear pillar.
One issue is the dash reflection on the windscreen, especially prominent with yellow stitching from the Edition One pack, while the colour screen looks a bit like a late add-on sticking out from the dash and it is unable to be folded.
On the road
This pairing are two vastly different beasts.
The CLA45 is literally an animal.
Using the same vicious 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder as the hatch derivative, massaged by the magical fingers of an AMG engineer, it too is outstanding.
Rally-car-like tunes emanate from the pipes from start up and it bangs and crackles with downshifts and burbles under acceleration. You'd never get sick of blipping the throttle…although it doesn't sound quite as mean as its hatch brethren.
The CLA45 runs in front-wheel drive for the majority of the time and torque is only sent to the rear wheels when loss of traction is detected.
And you'll want to test its mettle - a lot.
It can cruise without much fanfare or noise, but put the hammer down and let the fun begin.
Tight twists and turns are embraced and it takes monumental effort to lose any grip.
Of course, the entry-level CLA200 is a more subdued performer.
Those getting into this derivative won't be disappointed though.
Smooth and powerful enough for most drivers, it answers the call around town and on the highway. In comfort mode acceleration response can be restrained, yet, press the drive mode button and select Sport and a more rapid retort is easily found.
What do you get?
Basic CLA200 kit incorporates nine airbags, 18-inch alloys, man-made leather trim, active park assist, automatic climate control, blind spot warning system, sat nav and a reversing camera.
The CLA45 gets the AMG makeover, complete with red cut leather (you can see the colouring within the perforations), performance exhaust and suspension, lane keep assist, 19-inch alloys with low-profile rubber, radar cruise control and a twin-blade radiator grille.
There are some packages worth considering on the 200, including the night pack for $490 which comes with black alloys and window tinting. Then there's the AMG line which gets the sporty body styling, lowered stance and the night pack gear for $1490.
Available up until December, there is also a special Edition One derivative which gains some funky sports seats with matching stitching on the dash and the full AMG external get-up.
Fuel consumption won't break the budget, the CLA200 will achieve about six litres for every 100km while the AMG has an official average about one litre more - but with serious driving expect more than 10L/100km.
It's backed by a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 20,000km or 12 months.
While it has coupe proportions, the CLA has a reasonable size boot and the rear seats have a 60-40 split fold functionality.
Having the gear shifter stalk on the steering column creates space in the console for two cup holders and some useful storage spots.
It looks every bit the Mercedes-Benz classy coupe…just smaller than traditional saloon proportions.
Beautiful lines and the big three-pointed star up front tick all the right boxes.
Mercedes-Benz has set the small car benchmark. It looks expensive, but the CLA200 is within reach of many Australian households.
Graceful and sexy, it's a coupe worthy of adoration.
The cacophony of noise which emanates from the CLA45 is intoxicating, and to have another AMG available for under $100 grand is astounding. It wasn't so long ago driving ability like this was limited to the likes of Ferrari and Porsche at quadruple the coin.
Getting your hands on one may take some patience but it will be worth the wait.
Model: Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG.
Details: Four-door all-wheel drive performance coupe.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 265kW @ 6000rm and peak torque of 450Nm @ 2250-5000rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.0 litres/100km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.6 seconds; top speed 270kmh (electronically limited).
Bottom line (plus on-roads): $86,900
Model: Mercedes-Benz CLA200.
Details: Four-door front-wheel drive luxury compact coupe.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 115kW @ 5300rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 1250-4000rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
Performance: 0-100kmh 8.6 seconds; top speed 210kmh.
Bottom line (plus on-roads): $49,900.