This is Merc’s sporty version of the front-drive CLA range, upping power and goodies but slipping under the $88,400 flagship AMG A45. It takes on similar hot sedans from Audi, BMW and Lexus.

PRICE: $64,900. Modest value for Merc’s all-wheel-drive sports sedan and compares favourably with its rivals. Glass’s Guide quotes a three-year resale at 51 per cent. It has a three-year, unlimited-distance warranty with roadside assist. Servicing is at 12 months or 25,000km. There’s a discounted pre-paid service offer.

GRACE: The CLA shares its half-melted body style with the bigger CLS. It is distinctive, aided by a subtle bodykit, unique grille and big 18-inch wheels. Right-side gearshifter takes a lot of practice. Standard kit is excellent — sat nav, six-speaker sound, electric sunroof, heated leather seats — and the safety list is best in class, topped by anti-collision systems, blind-spot warning, driver- fatigue and tyre-pressure alert (but there’s no spare wheel).

SPACE: Sloping roof reduces rear headroom so it’s best for two adults and two children. The boot is a reasonable 470 litres, expanding thanks to split-fold rear seats. Driver space is compact, enhancing the sporty theme. The low roof and low seat height amplify the car’s driving dynamics but it might be an awkward car to enter for some owners.

PACE: It’s a very civilised performance car, easy to drive and aside from its exhaust growl, has no wild mannerisms — until you flick into the sport mode which unleashes more engine response. The CLA sounds fast but never fully transfers that into reality. Merc says it uses 6 litres/100km. Handling is great — flat and secure — but steering feel is dull. The ride is very supple but noise suppression is poor and that can annoy occupants.


The Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sport. Picture:


There are now three S3 body shapes, this one being the most conventional. Based on the A3, it gets a lot more power and all-wheel-drive but not much else to make it stand apart from its less-gifted and cheaper siblings. Only the upcoming RS3 eclipses this version in price and performance.

PRICE: $62,200. Line-ball pricing puts it in the prestige-sports, small-car buyer’s basket. Its three-year retained value is 56 per cent. The three-year warranty is now an industry base point — even Kia has seven years. There is an annual service schedule.

GRACE: The S3 shares its conventional body with the A3. The cabin is sombre in grey and black hues but the choice of materials, the quality of the fit and finish and the way everything works is first class. Standard stuff includes a 10-speaker audio, sat nav, camera, park sensors and quilted-leather sports seats but safety gear doesn’t match the Merc. It has seven airbags, tyre-pressure monitor (also, no spare), LED daytime running lights but no anti-collision systems.

SPACE: The silhouette may be bland but it affords good cabin dimensions, with accommodation for four adults. The boot isn’t as big as the Merc at 425 litres but the rear seats also fold. Drivers feel moulded into their position, wrapped in body-hugging seats and ahead of a small, flat-bottomed steering wheel It’s a less awkward car to get into. Controls are much easier to operate and locate.

PACE: This feels like a rabid dog straining at the leash. Untethered, the S3 barks and will rush forward. It feels more lively — it has a 0-100km/h time of 5sec, 1.1sec faster than the Merc. Handling is on par, though the S3’s steering feel is more precise. Claimed fuel use is 6.9 litres/100km. The Audi’s ride is a bit firmer but it is adept at high grip through bumpy corners. Plus it’s much, much quieter.


The Audi S3 Sedan. Pictrure:

VERDICT: The CLA is more civilised, more city-friendly and cheaper than its A45 sister. The Audi S3 is visually a bit bland while its five-door sibling is more stylish. But here, though the Merc is better value for money, the Audi is a more refined, more rewarding and less imposing drive.


© The West Australian

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