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AS no one has contradicted my guesstimate price of the new Mercedes compact CLA 4dr Coupe from Mercedes which gets to Ireland next month, I reckon it’s safe to say it will start around €34,000.

The CLA slots between the A-Class (on whose platform it is built) and the C-Class saloon and, with its larger dimensions, is now viewed more as an Audi A4/BMW 3-series competitor.

As I’ve already outlined its non-driving details I won’t repeat them. All that was left to report on, due to a specific embargo, was the driving impressions; the handling and ride.

I’ve just driven the 200 Coupe (1.3-litre 4cyl petrol, 163hp), the 180d (4cyl, 1.5, 116hp diesel) and the 2-litre 4cyl 250 4MATIC.

While driving characteristics varied somewhat between the three there was sufficient evidence, especially with the small petrol, to believe they’ve got a right good chassis underpinning this stylish new frame.

Yes, I agree, they’ll need it if they are going to pitch it against the lower-end models of the 3-series.

But there is no doubting how well the smaller-engined models handled over a variety of roads out here.

The steering was firmly precise and there was plenty of feedback from the car when cornering or accelerating.

It is far more of a driver’s motor now.

The multi-link rear axle did as it was expected: cut noise, vibration and body roll.

By the way, the active adaptive damping system is optional.

A real surprise was how sweetly the smaller petrol engine performed. It may be a ‘baby’, but it hums to a lot of power. I can see it being something of a favourite.

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