2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sedan (2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo 7-speed Automated Manual)
Driven On 1/28/2014
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a new entry-level sedan that doesn't feel entry level. High quality materials in places where they matter, plus good power and fun handling, set this one apart. A touchy transmission, cramped rear seats and a firm suspension are some of the car's very few faults.
PerformanceThe CLA250 offers enough performance to impress owners of the larger C-Class, with its strong four-cylinder and lightning-fast upshifts from the 7-speed transmission. Unfortunately, that same transmission can be quirky in normal driving.
With 208 horsepower from a turbocharged four-cylinder and a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic, the CLA250 accelerates effortlessly, especially from 20 mph on. From a standstill, we got it to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds.
Even in heavy traffic the CLA's brakes were linear and easy to modulate, never grabby. We recorded a panic-stop distance of 121 feet from 60 mph.
The CLA250's steering is nicely weighted; not too heavy, not too light. Turn-in is sharp and there's enough articulation for easy parking. Actual feedback/feel is on the low side, though.
Though it won't be confused with a sports car, the CLA250 has enough poise and control to feel stable on a mountain road or a fast highway offramp curve.
The CLA's dual-clutch automatic can be slow to react to your commands, like when making a three-point turn. It also allows rollback, and at times its operation makes it feel like the engine is over-revving.
ComfortThe CLA250 falls in between the expectations of a sport sedan and a luxury car. This may be the least expensive Mercedes, but it sure doesn't feel entry-level in terms of its suspension capabilities or the cabin's noise suppression.
The CLA's seats offer nice bolstering, but have a short cushion that lacks thigh support. Mercedes' MBTex faux leather feels exceptional and durable, but lacks ventilation. Prepare to feel sticky.
A mixed bag here. The CLA250 handles potholes and breaks in the pavement with zero drama, but gets jostled by seams in the highway and pulled around by grooved pavement.
In true Mercedes fashion, the CLA250 is quiet at all speeds and does an admirable job blocking out the ambient sounds you'll find on the road.
InteriorA traditional Mercedes-Benz interior design in that it isn't flashy, but it surprises with its ease of use. Limited rear seat access and space, and lackluster visibility, hurt the CLA's score in this category.
The CLA's interior is deceptively simple and remarkably easy to use, with a large infotainment screen, clear gauges and an easy knob/button-based climate control. The gear-selector stalk is love-it or hate-it.
Front seat access is a non-issue with wide door openings and a reasonably high seat. Rear seat access is hugely problematic. Thanks to the sloping roof, there just isn't enough head clearance.
While the CLA250 has a similar footprint to the C-Class, the interior feels tighter. Not unpleasant, but cozy. Rear seats have good legroom but, severely lack headroom.
Our test car was optioned with a rear-view camera, a near-necessity due to the CLA's poor rear visibility. You can thank that sloping roofline. Driving this car definitely requires proper mirror adjustment.
At 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.
ValueIt's hard to argue with a car that looks and feels exactly like a Mercedes-Benz (because it is), yet starts under $30,000.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Meticulous types will be able to find some bits on the CLA that wouldn't make it to the C-Class. But most everything you touch, from steering wheel to stalks, switches, the COMAND controller or the seats, feels like a Mercedes.
Our test car included iPod interface, dual-zone climate control, 5.8-inch navigation screen, rear-view camera, auto-dimming mirrors and heated seats. These are all optional. Automatic lights and Bluetooth come standard.
CLA pricing can be a murky subject. Our test car stickered at a reasonable $35,495, far cheaper than a similarly equipped C-Class. But that price also represents a totally loaded Honda Accord V6.
The EPA rates the CLA250 at 30 mpg Combined (26 City/ 38 Highway). On our 116-mile evaluation route we managed 36.7 mpg. Impressive.
The 2014 CLA250 carries a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.
There is no free scheduled maintenance with the CLA250, but pre-paid maintance and an mbrace emergency notification suite is available for a fee.
Fun To DriveDespite the transmission's inconsistencies at slow speeds, the CLA250 makes good power and has a sporty feel that makes you want to keep driving.
The CLA's overall driving experience is dependent upon your surroundings. It's a little funky at slow speeds and has a slightly firm suspension. But on smooth roads and freeways? The CLA250 is a gem.
How often do you get to tell your friends you just bought a brand new Mercedes-Benz?