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After our road test of the CLA 220 d saloon granted a chance to get to know the car in higher-output diesel form and on lowered springs, we now have a chance for a more pragmatic combination to demonstrate its mettle.

The CLA 200 d uses a detuned version of the same 2.1-litre diesel engine, and it betrays that relationship the instant you start it up through equally poor mechanical refinement.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
It would take a long time to get used to the Merc’s 7G-DCT gearbox - it’s as if first and second hardly exist

Clattery from the outside and unusually gravelly and uncouth from behind the wheel, the Shooting Brake’s engine fails to make the sophisticated first impression that owners may be expecting of it.

In that respect, opting for a lower specific output than in the C 220 d gets you nowhere with this car. And for us, the diesel’s coarseness only serves to underline the need for Mercedes to invest in an all-new family of compact and economical four-cylinder diesel engines as soon as possible, in order to keep pace with its German and British-built rivals.

Move off and your perception of the car improves. However noisy that engine seems, it is at least decently smooth, with little in the way of vibration in evidence through the seat and controls.

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Outright performance levels are respectable, with our 10.1sec 0-60mph time recorded in wet conditions and Mercedes’ 9.9sec 0-62mph claim, however undistinguished, looking achievable in the dry.

The car’s diesel engine offers a broad tranche of peak torque and, although it doesn’t rev as keenly as some, is flexible and potent enough at high revs for comfortable overtaking.

But Mercedes’ optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox seems an unflattering fit for it, just as it seemed two years ago for the C 220 d saloon. Although adequate and functional under modest throttle openings, it flounders once you ask it to operate briskly, being slow to engage at initial step-off, slow at times to kick down and managing its clutches quite abruptly.

The gearbox is better in manual mode, although even here the unintuitive spacing of its ratios can trip you up, while it can be downright trying with its hesitancy when manoeuvring.

It wastes few opportunities to remind you that it’s incapable of changing gears as smoothly as you could yourself – which is surely the cardinal sin of any two-pedal transmission.

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