2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Comparison Test | Edmunds.com

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

2015 Audi A3 Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo AWD 6-speed Automated Manual)

Small Luxury Cars or Luxurious Small Cars?

  • Comparison Test
  • 2015 Audi A3 Specs and Performance
  • 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Specs and Performance

A pragmatist would dismiss the 2015 Audi A3 and 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 as nonsensical purchases. The $30,000 spent on their most basic trim levels could instead be put toward a much bigger and better-equipped midsize sedan without the fancy badge.

As it is, however, pragmatists rarely dip their sensible-shoe-clad toes into the luxury pool. Perhaps the rest of us are being bamboozled, but there is something to be said for the way that luxury badge makes you feel, and more importantly, the genuinely higher quality of materials, construction and engineering that comes part and parcel with a three-pointed star or four interconnected rings.

Well, at least in theory. This is our first head-to-head comparison of the new entry-level luxury sedan segment, and we were interested to see if the A3 and CLA250 are just compact cars that were given a luxury makeover, or genuine luxury cars shrunk down like a wool sweater in the dryer.

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

An All-New Audi With a Familiar Look
At the very least, it certainly looks like the 2015 Audi A3 could be an A4 that spent too long in one of Maytag's finest. Yet this Russian nesting doll approach to styling has nevertheless produced an undeniably handsome look: one of refinement, class and confidence. It's a perfect companion for an up-and-coming professional.

So how much smaller is the A3? A look at its dimensions will reveal other similarities to an A4 — albeit the original one introduced in 1996. Although its great uncle was a smidge longer and the A3 wider, other dimensions (including weight) are close to equal. In modern terms, it's a tiny bit smaller than an Acura ILX. That translates into a car that's friendly for those up front, but questionable for those in back. On the bright side, it's more manageable when parking and there's less weight for its engine to lug around.

There's a choice of engines in the A3 unlike the CLA250, which offers just one at the moment. The Audi comes standard with a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder and front-wheel drive. Our test car had the optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder that sends 220 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels via Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. A six-speed automated dual-clutch manual transmission known as "S tronic" is standard on all A3 models.

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

Pricing starts at $30,795 for the base A3 1.8T and $33,795 for the 2.0T Quattro. For that you get bi-xenon headlights, a quasi-panoramic sunroof, eight-way-adjustable front seats (power driver, manual passenger), leather upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and the Audi MMI electronics interface with a screen that rises out of the dash. Our $36,645 test car added to the base "Premium" trim the Cold Weather package (heated seats and mirrors), the Aluminum Style package (some aluminum interior trim here and there) and Audi MMI Navigation (a navigation system, a larger display and touchpad controller).

This is a price and equipment level that should be indicative of many A3s that leave Audi dealerships — any more and you'd be stepping on the A4's toes. It also lines it up well with our CLA250.

Mercedes' First Front-Wheel-Drive Sedan for the U.S.
While the A3 is fundamentally similar to its bigger, more expensive siblings in terms of styling and mechanical layout, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is its family's odd duck. Oh, there's a resemblance to the CLS-Class, but under that sleek, coupelike styling is a front-wheel-drive layout that's a first for Mercedes in the U.S.

Its standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder sends 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual. On the outside, the CLA-Class is a few inches longer and wider than the A3. It's actually not that dimensionally different from the current Mercedes-Benz C-Class, albeit in one key area: rear headroom.

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

Pricing starts at $30,825 (that advertised sub-$30,000 price excludes destination) and although it lacks the Audi's standard sunroof, xenon lights and leather, it has a more powerful standard engine and eight-way driver and passenger seats with memory settings. We used our long-term CLA250 for this test — $35,495, equipped with the Premium 1 package (dual-zone climate control, heated seats, an iPod interface and a Harman Kardon sound system) and Multimedia package (rearview camera, Mercedes navigation, a larger display and a six-CD changer).

No matter how much or how little equipment you add, both cars offer a similar quantity of stuff for your money.

2nd Place: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250
If we were to pick cars based on an emotional connection, the nod would go to the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. While the A3 is handsome and professional, the CLA is sleek and slinky.

Once inside, you sit lower amid a high beltline and a raked roof that evokes a sport coupe rather than a junior executive sedan. The standard sport seats hug you in place, the chunky sport steering wheel feels great in your hands and the paddle shifters goad you into having a little extra fun on a whim.

Several folks thought the cabin design had a more premium look to it, appreciating the large swath of patterned metal-look trim to the Audi's über-minimalist aesthetic. And few could tell the MBTex premium vinyl upholstery apart from the genuine cow-sourced stuff in the Audi.

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

Under way, the Mercedes' steering has slightly more weight to it, making it feel sportier and more responsive. Indeed, the CLA250 is far more fun than you'd expect, with a darty, light-on-its-toes feel more akin to a hot hatch than the sophisticated tourer you'd expect from Mercedes-Benz. It went 65.3 mph through our slalom and managed 0.88g on our skid pad. Both numbers are virtually identical to the last Mercedes C350 Sport we tested.

Unfortunately, that nimble feel comes with a firm ride that can border on harsh at times. Again, it feels like a hot hatch in this regard, and indeed, we can only imagine it would get worse when fitted with wheels larger than our test car's standard 17s.

The issues don't end there. The dual-clutch automated manual transmission may provide rapid shifts and deliver better fuel economy than a traditional automatic, but it's clunky in stop-and-go traffic. The hesitation between your foot urging it forward with the accelerator and a clutch actually engaging can seem like an eternity compared to the A3's dual-clutch transmission. The jarring vibration and noise of the automated engine stop-start system doesn't help things. We often turned it off.

The CLA's backseat is ultimately its Achilles' heel. Legroom is actually typical for compact sedans, but that radically raked roof line reduces rear headroom to neck-bending levels for even those of average height. Getting through the door without clonking your head is virtually impossible; we suggest keeping a police officer on hand at all times.

Otherwise, the CLA250 is quite simply outdone by the A3 in most areas, save for its substantially more useful trunk and truly impressive fuel economy. Against EPA ratings of 30 mpg combined (26 city/38 highway), the aerodynamic CLA managed an incredible 36.7 mpg on our 116-mile evaluation route.

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

1st Place: 2015 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro
While the CLA250 proved to be quite polarizing, our editors were universal in their praise of the 2015 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro. Everything about it is more grown-up and sophisticated, and certainly more in keeping with the luxury brand from which it hails.

Its cabin leaves an immediate impression. Though some may have preferred the flashier CLA, the A3's design is beautiful in its simplicity. Yet, when you look deeper beyond its broader, minimalist look, you begin to appreciate its higher-quality materials and intricate details like its ornate, jet-engine-inspired air vents, finely crafted switchgear and the MMI display that rises fluidly out of the dash. The CLA's screen, by comparison, looks as if it was screwed into the dash five years after you bought the car.

From a functionality standpoint, you sit a bit higher in the A3 and its taller greenhouse affords better visibility (although you have to get the pricier Premium Plus trim to get a rearview camera). The bigger advantage, literally, is the backseat. Spacious it is not, as you'll find more leg- and headroom in the Acura ILX, but it's much better than the CLA.

Complaints were few with either car's electronics interface. We appreciated the Mercedes' physical menu and radio preset buttons that provide a degree of user-friendly redundancy the A3 lacks, but Audi's new touchpad MMI controller stands out. Instead of voice controls or painstakingly picking out letters using the control knob (as in the Mercedes and past Audis), you instead write letters on that knob with your finger. It works and it's cool: not unlike the rest of the car.

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

At our test track, the A3 swept the podium. Its 2.0-liter turbo-4 is a real gem, bringing the heavier Audi from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds versus the CLA's 6.5. In an emergency stop, it'll stop from 60-0 in 118 feet, besting the Benz's 122. Both braking numbers are average for the segment and perfectly acceptable, but a win is a win.

The A3 went only slightly quicker through the slalom at 65.9 mph, but rounded the skid pad with an impressive 0.89g: a number that nearly matches a BMW 328i M Sport, which is considered the current benchmark for sport sedans.

Away from the track, the A3 doesn't feel quite as sporty as its numbers would suggest, nor does it initially seem to match the CLA in that unquantifiable realm of "sportiness." Its steering in particular is a little numb on center and feels a bit disconnected relative to the CLA when driving casually. Yet when pushed, the A3 comes alive and proves itself to be a playful little car. It has a handling balance we don't expect from all-wheel-drive cars, while still maintaining the all-weather traction we do. We'd probably opt for the optional sport seats, however, as the standard ones are flat and could use more lateral support.

The A3 was the clear victor on the highway, with a quieter cabin and a more comfortable, composed ride. We wouldn't hesitate to wake up tomorrow and drive to Vermont in the A3, whereas the CLA would give us pause.

2015 Audi A3 vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

Fuel economy certainly wouldn't be the same, though. The EPA estimates the A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro will return 27 mpg combined (24 city/33 highway), while we managed a still-impressive 33.7 mpg on our evaluation loop. The difference can be chalked up to the 2.0 TFSI's mandatory Quattro all-wheel-drive system, as an equally equipped CLA250 4Matic has virtually the same EPA estimates at 27 mpg combined (24 city/32 highway).

The only area where the A3 significantly trails the CLA in practical terms is its rinky-dink 10-cubic-foot trunk. There are coupes that have more cargo space. We couldn't fit a golf bag width-wise or horizontally without removing the longest club, whereas a pair of fully stocked bags fit in the CLA's 13-cubic-foot trunk with room to spare for a pair of suitcases. The Mercedes also boasts a much wider opening.

However, there was no such opening for the Mercedes to take the lead from the 2015 Audi A3 in this comparison test. While the CLA250 offers more performance, prestige and presence than other entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura ILX and Buick Verano, it is the A3 that stands even further ahead. If you're looking for a true luxury sedan in a small package, it's now your best bet.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds the Audi A3 for the purposes of evaluation. The CLA250 was purchased by Edmunds as part of the long-term test fleet.

Model year2015 Audi A3
Year Make Model2015 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Premium Quattro 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6AM)
Vehicle TypeAWD 4dr five-passenger sedan
Base MSRP$33,795
Options on test vehicleAudi MMI Navigation ($1,900 -- includes MMI Navigation Plus, Driver Information System with trip computer, Mmi Navigation High Control Panel); Cold Weather Package ($500 -- includes heated front seats, heated mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles); Aluminum Style Package ($450 -- includes aluminum interior package, aluminum Mistral silver inlays, high gloss window surrounds)
As-tested MSRP$36,645
Assembly locationGyor, Hungary
North American parts content (%)0
ConfigurationTransverse, front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,984/121
Block/head materialIron/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)9.6
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,050
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)220 @ 4,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)258 @ 1,600
Fuel typePremium unleaded (recommended)
Transmission typeSix-speed auto-clutch manual with console shifter and Sport/Competition modes
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=2.923; II=1.792; III=1.143; IV=0.778; V=0.800; VI=0.639; R=3.990
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.444
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric speed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)15.3
Tire make and modelContinental ContiProContact
Tire typeAll-season front and rear
Tire size225/45R17 91H
Wheel size17-by-7.5 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, front12.3-inch one-piece ventilated rotors with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear10.7-inch solid rotors with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.3
0-45 mph (sec.)3.8
0-60 mph (sec.)5.8
0-75 mph (sec.)8.4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)14.1 @ 98.0
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)5.4
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.7
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.4
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.6
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)9.2
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)14.7 @ 96.6
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)6.3
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)30
60-0 mph (ft.)118
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)65.9
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON63.6
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.89
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.85
Sound level @ idle (dB)40
@ Full throttle (dB)71.1
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)63.3
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsAs always, a fantastic little turbo-4 from Audi: smooth, willing and hard-revving. There's some definite hesitation off the line with ESC on and when not using any throttle/brake overlap. I think it's a combination of minor turbo lag plus dual-clutch transmission laziness. What was interesting is that the car will go into some kind of a launch control mode if you do the brake/throttle overlap with the transmission in Sport or Manual. Floor the throttle with your left foot on the brake and it will raise and hold the revs to 3,000 rpm. After you release the brake, things stay stationary for what seems like a second or so, which is strange, and then it feels like there's still quite a bit of clutch slip, as it's not as hard of a launch as you might think (especially since it has perfect traction from the Quattro AWD). The transmission shifts quickly in any mode, but especially so in this launch mode. Manual shifting is via the console lever (pull back for downshifts). It does blip the throttle on downshifts but it does not hold gears to the rev limiter in Manual mode.
Braking commentsNice firm pedal, normal amount of travel. Well-controlled stops, minimal nosedive, minimal ABS commotion. First stop was 120 feet. Second stop was shortest at 118 feet. As a testament to the braking consistency, the fifth stop (out of six) was the longest at 122 feet.
Handling commentsSlalom: An agile handler for sure. Intuitive steering that's just quick enough. Other than feeling a bit "springy," the suspension is well-tuned for aggressive handling maneuvers. The stability control system is appropriate as well, the Sport mode allowing for extra aggressive driving before it cuts in. Overall, the A3 gives good feedback to the driver and never does anything that surprises you. Skid pad: What becomes immediately obvious here, whether with the stability control switched on, in Sport or fully off, is that the A3 is a playful little car. Feeding the throttle in and out almost immediately changes the car's attitude from understeer to slight oversteer. And this, in an all-wheel-drive car, which are usually known for their steady-state understeer. These are nicely grippy all-season tires.
Testing Conditions
Test date2/18/2014
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)71.44
Relative humidity (%)37.56
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.78
Wind (mph, direction)1.69, head
Odometer (mi.)909
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)36/33
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)27 combined (24 city/33 highway)
Edmunds observed (mpg)21.5
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)14.5
Driving range (mi.)0
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo description10-speaker with CD player
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard iPod via proprietary cable SD card
Satellite radioStandard Sirius
Hard-drive music storage capacity (Gb)Not available
Rear seat video and entertainmentNot available
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemOptional 7-inch display screen (measured diagonally)
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Not available
Smart entry/StartOptional ignition doors trunk/hatch
Parking aidsOptional parking sonar, front and rear back-up camera
Blind-spot detectionOptional
Adaptive cruise controlOptional
Lane-departure monitoringOptional departure warning with active correction
Collision warning/avoidanceOptional
Night VisionNot available
Driver coaching displayNot available
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,362
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,338
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)58.6/41.4
Length (in.)175.4
Width (in.)77.2
Height (in.)55.7
Wheelbase (in.)103.8
Track, front (in.)61.2
Track, rear (in.)60.1
Turning circle (ft.)36.1
Legroom, front (in.)41.2
Legroom, rear (in.)35.1
Headroom, front (in.)36.5
Headroom, rear (in.)36.1
Shoulder room, front (in.)54.8
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.0
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)10
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance1 year/5,000 miles
Model year2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250
Year Make Model2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 7AM)
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 5-passenger sedan
Base MSRP$30,825
Options on test vehicleCirrus White, Multimedia Package ($2,370 -- includes COMAND system with hard drive navigation; rearview camera, 7-inch high-resolution screen with 3D map views, enhanced voice control system, 10GB music register, six-disc DVD changer, Gracenote album information including cover art, SD card slot, SiriusXM traffic and weather); Premium Package ($2,300 -- includes universal garage door opener, compass, auto-dimming mirrors, iPod/MP3 interface, SiriusXM satellite radio, dual-zone climate control; Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound system with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 12 speakers, heated front seats).
As-tested MSRP$35,495
Assembly locationKecskemet, Hungary
North American parts content (%)0
ConfigurationTransverse, front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4, gasoline with auto stop-start
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,991/121
Block/head materialAluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)9.8
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,300
Fuel cutoff/rev limiter (rpm)6,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)208 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)258 @ 1,250
Fuel typePremium unleaded (recommended)
Transmission typeSeven-speed auto-double-clutch manual, column shifter and steering-mounted paddles with sport/competition modes
Transmission ratios (x:1)1st - 3.86; 2nd - 2.43; 3rd - 2.67; 4th - 1.05; 5th - 0.78; 6th - 1.05; 7th - 0.84
Final-drive ratio (x:1)4.133 (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, reverse); 2.385 (3rd, 6th, 7th)
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, monotube dampers, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric speed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)14.4
Tire make and modelPirelli Cinturato P7
Tire typeAsymmetrical all-season
Tire size225/45R17
Wheel size17-by-7.5 inches front and rear
Wheel materialPainted alloy
Brakes, frontOne-piece ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rearOne-piece solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.7
0-45 mph (sec.)4.4
0-60 mph (sec.)6.5
0-75 mph (sec.)9.4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)14.6 @ 95.8
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)6.1
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.7
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.4
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.6
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)9.6
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)14.7 @ 95.1
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)6.2
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)31
60-0 mph (ft.)122
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)65.3
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON63.9
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.86
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.88
Sound level @ idle (dB)41.7
@ Full throttle (dB)76.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)65.5
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsKind of an odd car to launch. The power band of the turbo means it doesn't start spinning the front tires until it's well off the line. And then, in Drive or Sport, it upshifts early due to tire spin, which hurts the times. Even in Manual mode it still upshifts for itself. Our best run was achieved when the Manual mode let it rev out to 6,000 rpm in each gear, but strangely on all other Manual runs it upshifted earlier than that, and as such those runs were slower. That said, this car has enough power to get just a bit of front wheelspin when it shifts into 2nd gear, too. Manual shifting is via paddles only (the shift lever is steering-column-mounted). It does not hold gears to the rev limiter (shifts around 6,000 rpm) but it does blip the throttle on manual downshifts.
Braking commentsUltra-firm pedal but still with appropriate amount of travel. Lots of ABS commotion. Just a minor amount of side-to-side tire squirm on the last few runs. The first stop was shortest at 122 feet. The fourth stop was a bit anomalous at 134 feet, while the sixth and final stop was 127 feet.
Handling commentsSlalom: Not really a fan of the way this car handles. The suspension is quite stiff and it has nicely quick turn-in, yet it starts understeering around the cones way too early. This requires significant throttle lift to get the front tires to regain their grip. There's not a lot of feedback to the driver so each run becomes its own little adventure, because of playing with the throttle to control the front-end push while also trying to keep the tail in line so as to not invoke the stability control system. And the stability control isn't afraid to slam on the brakes at a moment's notice. Skid pad: Not much feedback here to the driver, and it's nowhere near as responsive to drop-throttle as the Audi A3.
Testing Conditions
Test date2/18/2014
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)67.12
Relative humidity (%)40.88
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.78
Wind (mph, direction)3.19, head
Odometer (mi.)3516
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)36/32
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)30 combined/26 city/38 highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)24.7
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)13.1
Driving range (mi.)497.8
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionHarman Kardon
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard generic aux jack and Bluetooth audio, option iPod interface via proprietary cable
Satellite radioOptional
Hard-drive music storage capacity (Gb)Optional
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemOptional
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Standard
Smart entry/StartOptional ignition doors
Parking aidsOptional perimeter + back-up camera system, optional automated self-parking system
Blind-spot detectionOptional
Lane-departure monitoringOptional departure warning
Collision warning/avoidanceStandard
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,262
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,278
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)61.6/38.4
Length (in.)182.3
Width (in.)70.0
Height (in.)56.6
Wheelbase (in.)106.3
Track, front (in.)60.9
Track, rear (in.)60.8
Turning circle (ft.)36.0
Legroom, front (in.)40.2
Legroom, rear (in.)27.1
Headroom, front (in.)38.2
Headroom, rear (in.)35.4
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.0
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.2
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)13.1
GVWR (lbs.)4,334
Payload, mfr. max claim (lbs.)1,070
Ground clearance (in.)3.9
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion4 years/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance4 years/50,000 miles


  • hank39 hank39 Posts:

    I'll take the Audi.

  • rwatson rwatson Posts:

    I'm with you, hank. While I'm a "traditionalist," and don't appreciate the round air vents, the Audi's cabin does seem familiar and easy to get along with. It's also nice to know that I can opt out of some of the extra "tech" in the Audi, because this is a car I could probably enjoy on its own, basic merits. Great job on the article too, guys.

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    Interesting comparison. I do not doubt the A3 is the better all around car, but I will be shocked if the CLA does not outsell it. The 3 pointed star carries a lot of appeal, at least in the USA anyway.

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    Nav screen aside, I like the interior design of the CLA more than the dour Audi and the steering wheel is just beautiful, but the wannabe 4-door coupe body style cannot die soon enough. Something about the tall, blocky nose of the Mercedes combined with the squatting butt makes it look like a bulldog. Just can't take it seriously, too much of a cartoon on wheels. Combined with the Edmunds driving impressions, the Audi looks like a clear win for me.

  • fortstring fortstring Posts:

    @throwback: Personally I'd pony up the change to step up to the C-Class instead of the CLA, for the full, genuine Mercedes experience.

  • Both cars are very nice, each with its own good attributes. The A3 looks tastefully executed both inside and out and would be my pick among these two. I've always thought the CLA looked like a somewhat "strained" cartoon caricature of the larger CLS. With that said, I would first take a long hard look at an Acura ILX 2.5/manual first and foremost. It has competitive roominess (especially in the back seat), the characteristic silky smooth Honda/Acura engine, slick shifting manual, Honda/Acura driving dynamics and reliability. Just my preference. To each his own.

  • hank39 hank39 Posts:

    I didn't really expound on why I picked the Audi. But a couple of major things are the front end of the two. The Mercedes' flat front-end just doesn't do it for me. It looks disporportioned to me compared to the rear. I also prefer a traditional shifter locale as opposed to the column one. And another minor/subtle thing is the arrangement of the cup holders. Not many car manufacturers these days place them in front of the shifter. I have that in my P5 as well and really prefer the convenience of the natural reach. When they're behind the shifter, I feel like I have to constrict my arm to pick up the drink...or even worse: having someone else's elbows touch the straw of your drink.

  • vroom2 vroom2 Posts:

    Buying either of these cars is like shopping at an outlet mall: It may have the right badge but you know its not the real thing. The A3 is a VW made up to look like an Audi and the Merc is an economy car in CLS clothing.

  • lions208487 lions208487 Posts:

    For the mere aesthetic reasoning, I would pick the A3. However, I would honestly decide on neither, and pay a little more for a slightly larger 2015 C-Class. In that decision, I would pay 40K for a nicely equip, larger 2.0 ATS instead.

  • robs249_ robs249_ Posts:

    I really love the A3 and would consider purchasing one. But, then I pause and think to myself "I could save a lot by opting for the Mazda3 S GT with all the bells and whistles." It's hard to consider the Audi (or any of these entry level luxury cars) to the Mazda aside from it having quattro.

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    I still don't get this class of car. It would seem to me that if you really wanted a luxury-branded vehicle for ~$35k you would be much better off just getting a 2-year old CPO entry luxury car like an A4 or C-Class. Having said that, if you absolutely must buy new the A3 makes a lot more sense. At least you get a car whose ride somewhat resembles that of a luxury car.

  • syslog syslog Posts:

    The Audi is probably the more sensible purchase and it still looks decent. But that MB looks so much prettier...

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Can you buy a 2 liter A3 WITHOUT the sunroof? Didn't read that way. If the sunroof is mandatory it's no sale to me. As for the Mercedes, I just don't like it on looks and practicality grounds. Looks like both of these are fails for me.

  • kizashi368 kizashi368 Posts:

    Both German cars both made in Hungary, CHEAP!

  • cbrandi_ cbrandi_ Posts:

    It's hard to consider either a luxury car. Perhaps the names connote status, but they are not luxury cars. They are entry level cars targeted for the ever poorer American market and the up and coming Chinese market. I'd save my money and get something as nice for far less.

  • cbrandi_ cbrandi_ Posts:

    In this market appearances matter. The CLA looks upmarket, the Audi looks like an econo-box.

  • dfelix70 dfelix70 Posts:

    I just don't see these two being "direct" competitors. I would imagine that most buyers in this segment need or want rear seat room. In the CLA, they're nearly non-existent, almost like the old booster seats that used to be in the Lexus SC430. The A3 has a very commodious rear seat, which is great packaging. But, the CLA is going to attract buyers looking for a coupe, i.e., niche buyers. A3 buyers will be those looking for traditional sedan qualities. At the same time, they will find that in a Jetta or Passat for less money. Or will see the A3 as a less expensive alternative to the similarly sized A4.

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