2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250: Is It a Luxury Bargain or a Cut-Rate Compromise?
September 23, 2014
I can't decide whether or not I like our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Sometimes I get in and I feel like a proud 20/30-something working my way up the corporate ladder. If this were my first luxury purchase, I'd be happy to tell my friends all about it. I'd get it washed and waxed on the weekends, and take it on road trips for no reason. Other times, I look closer and notice compromises in materials quality, seemingly made to keep the starting price of this Merc under $30,000.
Here's a few things I notice almost every time I drive the CLA250 that make it feel common, as well as a list of things that make it feel pretty snazzy.
Things that make it feel cheap:
1. The transmission selector switch feels like a flimsy windshield wiper stalk. It saves center-console space, and some people think it's the wave of the future, but to me, it's just annoying.
2. The Auto stop-start system is intrusive, every time it kicks the engine to life. None of these systems are perfect (the system in our long-term 2014 BMW 328i is better), but connected to the four-cylinder in the CLA250, it's particularly noticeable.
3. The touchy throttle and poorly tuned transmission. They either launch you away from stoplights with whiplash-inducing speed, or it doesn't respond to inputs at all.
4. Cramped rear headroom. You may be able to live with this, but there are several sedans in this price range that have more space in back and when your tall friends have to bend down to get in, it's awkward.
5. The stripy silver panel (also known as Anthracite Trim) across the center of the dashboard is awful. Two different kinds of wood can be equipped here, but they're a $325 option.
Things that make it feel like luxurious:
1. The Mercedes badge on the steering wheel. The three-pointed start just makes me feel important, I can't help it.
2. It has excellent front seats. They fit editors of all sizes and they're remarkably comfortable.
3. Mercedes MMI system is lightning quick, easy to navigate and has great graphics. Even in the CLA, it's one of the best systems on the market, for the confused novice and the tech-savvy expert alike.
4. It looks good. The CLS-Inspired styling makes it stand out in a parking lot.
5. The optional Harman Kardon sound system has impressive sound quality, especially for an entry-level luxury car.
So is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 a luxury bargain or a compromise for those who can't afford more? We got the $2,300 Premium package (heated seats, satellite radio, the aforementioned Harman Kardon sound system) and the $2,370 Multimedia package (a bigger 7-inch COMAND display, rear-view camera, Mercedes navigation) on our long-term Merc, so it's hard to recommend it for shoppers with a $30,000 budget. But there are still a lot of upsides.
The CLA will probably impress your coworkers and neighbors when they see it in your parking spot, but it may not be the luxury experience you're looking for if you leave the options list unchecked. The CLA can provide a luxury experience, but not for $29,900.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 15,166 miles