The station wagon is underrated by most car buyers in Singapore, probably because it is seen as a car that tradesmen from yesteryear used to drive. There are others who also think that it resembles a hearse.
Both views, however, are unfair. Anyway, if you happen to be one of the few people considering a station wagon, the CLA Shooting Brake is bound to catch your eye.
There is nothing hearse-like about it. In fact, it is probably too pretty to be used as a tradesman's car.
The Shooting Brake's curvy design makes its notchback sibling, the CLA saloon, look almost square. To my eyes, the wagon's rear end looks more elegant than the notchback's rump.
In the cockpit, there are no differences between the Shooting Brake and its saloon counterpart. The CLA250 Sport variant tested here comes with sports seats. They are comfortable, but lack the lateral support demanded by more "dynamically inclined" drivers.
SPECS/MERCEDES-BENZ CLA250 SHOOTING BRAKE
Price: $200,888 with COE
Engine: 1,991cc 16-valve inline-4 turbo charged
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with manual override
Power: 211bhp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,200-4,000rpm
0-100kmh: 6.9 seconds
Top speed: 240kmh
Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/100km
Agent: Cycle & Carriage
Given this estate's swankiness, I had thought that the car would be specified with digitised climate controls. The test car, however, is equipped with analogue controls and a single climate zone instead of two.
While the current infotainment system is intuitive, the display atop the dashboard seems like an afterthought because it resembles a tablet that is placed on its side. It would have been neater to have a screen integrated with the dashboard.
The CLA Shooting Brake claws back points by offering more headroom in the rear than the CLA saloon.
A buddy of mine, who is 1.9m tall, was able to settle into the back seat without his head bumping against the ceiling. He would have been nursing a lump if he tried sitting in the rear of the saloon.
Also impressive is the Shooting Brake's load-hauling ability. It might not seem voluminous from the outside, but there is 495 litres of boot space, expandable to 1,354 litres with the rear seats folded. The CLA saloon's boot, on the other hand, offers 470 litres of space.
Powering the CLA250 is a turbocharged 2-litre four-pot that produces 211bhp and 350Nm. Those figures are good for a century dash time of 6.9 seconds - just 0.2 of a second slower than the CLA250 notchback. This probably has to do with the added weight of 4Matic, Mercedes' all-wheel-drive system.
There is palpable turbo lag when moving off, but once that is overcome, the Shooting Brake accelerates smoothly, with its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox doing its job seamlessly.
As an added bonus, the exhaust system will even "bark" during upshifts (with the drivetrain in "S" mode) if you step hard on the throttle pedal. It is an unexpected but pleasant bonus, since such vocalisations are usually reserved for the hotter AMG models.
The Shooting Brake's ride quality is biased towards comfort, but the suspension delivers decent body control when cornering. There is plenty of grip and the handling, which is complemented by the accurate helm, is tidy. You cannot really tell the difference between this model and the notchback in this regard.
This compact station wagon is good-looking, practical and delivers reasonably quick performance.
If it can sway premium segment buyers who were never keen on an estate in the first place, then this "shooting star" would bring the German carmaker plenty of luck with sales too.
•The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.