Were it not for the CLA45 AMG's thrilling performance capabilities, this harsh-riding, somewhat expensive and cramped compact sedan would have earned a C rating from us. Still worth serious consideration as an entry-level AMG performance experience, but perhaps not as a daily driver.
PerformanceThere's no other compact sedan available that can come close to the performance of the CLA45 AMG. Benchmark acceleration, stellar brakes and inspired handling.
Because of the auto-clutch manual transmission, the CLA45 leaves a little soft. Then it takes off, using all 355 turbocharged horses and AWD for a breathtaking 4.7-sec 0-60 time.
Powerful, steady and highly fade-resistant brakes in testing, however, touchy pedal and abrupt engagement require steep learning curve. Difficult to achieve perfect "limo stop."
Steering is direct and ultra-precise, yet doesn't offer what we'd categorize as "feel" but rather "resistance" as speed increases. Standard AMG-issue wheel is terrific in hand.
One of the most sure-footed sedans available, with loads of grip and true athleticism. Practically unflappable cornering behavior that can actually make use of its sorted AWD.
Stiff suspension is always busy, and at speeds below 30 mph the confluence of high-performance transmission programming and touchy brakes make it a chore to drive and park.
ComfortYour tolerance for its stiff-legged suspension will be tested daily. Your rear-seat passengers can be no taller than 5'8". Otherwise the CLA45 is comfortable and appealing.
Superb front sport seats (optional heating), but forward-canted and fixed head restraints might be a problem for some. Rear is cramped in both head- and legroom.
There's an obvious price for the CLA45's on-rails handling: poor ride comfort. It's extremely busy and we can't recommend the optional sport suspension that's even stiffer/firmer.
There's a distinctive sound to the exhaust that we like. It's especially evident in sport mode under hard acceleration, but otherwise it's as quiet as a Mercedes should be.
InteriorBeing a Mercedes-Benz, especially an AMG, carries some high expectations, but the CLA45 offers a merely acceptable combination of interior practicality and convenience for a compact sedan.
M-B's multi-controller and optional infotainment upgrade with hi-res screen are intuitive. Standard Bluetooth supplements are well-placed and buttons and gauges are clearly labeled.
Despite deeply bolstered sport seats, access up front is easy. Rear ingress/egress, however, is tight due to smallish doors and a steeply sloped roof.
This is a compact sedan in both definition and practice, with the lion's share of space and room afforded to the front passengers. Adult passengers will feel confined in the back.
Due to the CLA's thick A- and C-pillars, plus a sloping roofline, we recommend the optional parking aids, blind-spot monitor and rearview camera. Mirrors can help only so much.
At just 13.1 cu-ft, the trunk is decently proportioned, with a large opening and shrouded hinges. Standard split-fold rear seats will help when things get tight.
ValueThe CLA45 represents an okay value with its AMG-fortified performance and exclusivity, surprisingly decent fuel consumption and competitive warranty.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The CLA walks that fine line Mercedes-Benz has been reluctant to approach in the past. Historically high expectations are met, but not exceeded, in this new entry-level Benz.
The base $48,000 CLA45 includes a tremendous turbocharged engine and AWD, but not much else above the standard $30K CLA250. Not included: dual-zone climate control, heated seats, premium audio, etc.
In raw terms, you will find few cars with this much performance for this car's $55,265 as-tested price. Part of this car's cost is also owed to AMG exclusivity, which does have its value.
It's rated by the EPA at 26 mpg Combined (23 City/31 Highway). We found those values to be dead-on with our own 26.4 mpg on Edmunds' evaluation loop and precisely 23 mpg in the city.
The 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty that includes roadside assistance is competitive, especially considering the high-performance nature of the CLA45 itself.
Prepaid Mercedes maintenance is offered at additional cost, but BMW offers it for free. 24-hr roadside assistance is included, as is six months of mbrace emergency telematics.
Fun To DriveThe CLA45 is tremendously fun to drive about 10 percent of the time and tolerable for the remainder. Of course, those values reverse if you happen to live at the top of a smooth, serpentine mountain road.
Because of its performance-tuned ride, transmission and brakes, you'll grit your teeth most of the time driving the CLA45. But drive it hard on the right road, and all is forgiven.
Driving the CLA45 is sort of like keeping a juicy secret to yourself. You know what the car can do, but most other drivers/passengers will probably be shocked.