2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Review

Type:
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
List price range
$10,995 - $20,000
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

Pros & Cons

  • Luxury-car quality and status for a relatively low price
  • commendable power and handling
  • premium interior materials
  • fiery performance from AMG model.
  • Cramped rear seat
  • overly firm ride quality
  • dash-top navigation display looks down-market.
Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class years
2014
Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class for Sale

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class distills the posh trappings of a proper Benz into a competitive entry-level luxury sedan.

Vehicle overview

The all-new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class exists for one simple reason: A great many consumers desire the elegance and prestige associated with the Mercedes brand, but simply can't afford the high price of admission. The C-Class sedan has long been the company's entry-level model in the United States, but these days, a nicely equipped one runs well past $40,000. The 2014 CLA-Class marks a departure for the German automaker: It's a front-wheel-drive sedan infused with the premium furnishings of a traditional Mercedes-Benz, but priced far lower than the rear-drive C-Class.

The CLA is actually longer and wider than the current C-Class sedan (which is due for a redesign). Its sleek, aerodynamic shape brings to mind the larger CLS four-door "coupe" and Mercedes says that the CLA is more aerodynamic than a Toyota Prius, which should benefit fuel economy. The CLA-Class sedan's curvy roof line does impede on passenger space, however. Anyone over 6 feet tall shouldn't bother trying to get comfortable in the backseat.

Of course, the big question surrounding the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class sedan is whether you'll see it as a genuine Mercedes-Benz or a half-hearted budget alternative. The CLA certainly feels like the real thing from the cockpit, as premium materials and a suite of safety and multimedia features check all the boxes for Benzness. With a strong turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a quick-shifting transmission and sure-footed handling, the CLA drives like a proper Mercedes, too. Meanwhile, the rip-snorting CLA45 AMG should right most of the base CLA250's wrongs with its incredibly swift straight-line performance.

With the launch of the 2014 CLA-Class, Mercedes brings an early offense to a budding class of compact luxury sedans. The 2015 Audi A3 is its closest rival in terms of price and design. The A3 offers more rear seat space and a more polished and comfortable ride quality. We ranked it ahead of the CLA in a comparison test, but you'll definitely want to cross-shop these two.

The CLA is also an interesting alternative to a wide range of competitors. The 2014 Acura ILX and 2014 Buick Verano cost considerably less, but unless it's equipped with a manual gearbox, the Acura can't keep up with the CLA250 in any contest of speed, while the Buick lacks the Benz's overall interior refinement. The 355-horsepower CLA45, on the other hand, has few peers. The new two-door BMW M235i comes close, but if you want something with four doors, you'll have to look at disparate models like the Chrysler 300C SRT8 or Subaru WRX STI.

Given the selection in this price range, you're wise to do some research before making a decision, but there's no doubt the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a compelling choice for a compact entry-level luxury sedan.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class models

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is available in CLA250, CLA250 4Matic and CLA45 AMG trim levels.

The CLA250 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, cruise control, eight-way power front seats, driver memory settings, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. Electronics features include a 5.8-inch central display, the COMAND interface, mbrace2 telematics/smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a sound system with a CD player.

The CLA250 4Matic is the same but has all-wheel drive. The CLA45 AMG is also equipped similarly. It has all-wheel drive as standard along with 18-inch wheels, a more powerful engine, larger brakes and firmer suspension tuning.

All CLAs are eligible for the optional Premium 1 package, which provides auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and a Harman Kardon audio system with satellite radio and an iPod interface. The Multimedia package adds a larger 7-inch central infotainment screen with Mercedes' COMAND interface, a rearview camera, a 10-gigabyte music server, a six-disc CD changer and a navigation system with voice commands. Additional safety aids including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, and blind spot warning are available via the Driver Assistance package.

The Sport package for the CLA250 adds 18-inch wheels, a more aggressive-looking front fascia and grille, and upgraded brakes. Stand-alone options for both models include summer performance tires, bi-xenon headlamps, a rear spoiler, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, heated seats, wood interior trim, a lower-cost navigation system for cars with the standard 5.8-inch display, and parking sensors combined with an automated parking system. Exclusive options for the CLA45 include 19-inch wheels, interior and exterior carbon fiber trim, sport seats, an AMG steering wheel and red-painted brake calipers.

2014 Highlights

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is an all-new entry-level luxury sedan. It slots in below the C-Class in the Mercedes lineup.

Performance & mpg

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 208 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automated manual transmission (with shift paddles) routes power to the front wheels, but all-wheel drive is available on the CLA250 4Matic. In Edmunds testing, a CLA250 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 6.4 seconds. EPA estimates for fuel economy are 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city/38 mpg highway) for the front-wheel drive version and 27 mpg combined (24 mpg city/32 mpg highway) for all-wheel drive.

The CLA45 AMG has an upgraded version of this 2.0-liter engine that features a twin-scroll turbocharger and fortified internal components. The result is an amazing 355 hp and 332 lb-ft. A quicker-shifting version of the seven-speed transmission drives all four wheels. Launch control is also included. At the Edmunds test track, the CLA45 AMG accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a scant 4.7 seconds, making it one of the quickest compact sedans available. EPA fuel estimates are 26 mpg combined (23 mpg city/31 mpg highway).

Both the CLA250 and CLA45 AMG feature an automatic stop-start function that, if engaged, turns off the engine when the car stops to save fuel.

Safety

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, a driver knee airbag, front seat side thorax airbags, front seat side pelvic airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. The CLA45 AMG has a three-mode stability control system that allows drivers to tailor the level of intervention.

In Edmunds.com's simulated panic stop from 60 mph, the CLA250 required 121 feet, while the CLA45 needed just 111 feet, both about average for their respective segments.

Mercedes-Benz mbrace2 emergency telematics is standard, as are Collision Prevention Assist, which uses radar to identify potential collision situations and intervenes with braking as necessary, and Attention Assist, which monitors the driver for signs of drowsiness and inattention. Rear seat side airbags are optional. Other safety-oriented options include a rearview camera, parking sensors bundled with an automated parking system and the Lane Tracking package, which adds a blind-spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system.

Driving

Most consumers will find the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 quite agreeable to drive on their daily commutes. Even if you've owned rear-wheel-drive Mercedes sedans in the past, you'll be hard-pressed to tell that the CLA250 is front-wheel drive, as it accelerates and steers with the precision of more elite Benz models. Part of the CLA's athletic character comes from the quick-shifting automated manual transmission, which offers driver-adjustable shift patterns and a manual shift mode via its steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

There are other aspects to the CLA, however, that serve as unfortunate reminders that you're driving an entry-level Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes has effectively equipped its U.S.-sold cars with a standard sport-tuned suspension, and while that choice does contribute to the car's sporty handling, it also results in a rather firm ride quality. We suspect drivers expecting typical levels of luxury comfort when driving over broken pavement will be dismayed by the harsh and occasionally noisy impacts transmitted into the cabin. Other drivers might be put off by the workaday sounds of the base CLA's four-cylinder engine and the slow responses of the transmission when shifting in and out of Drive and Reverse.

Meanwhile, the 355-hp CLA45 AMG is far from a base Benz. In addition to its sizzling acceleration, the CLA45 has plenty of personality. Select Sport mode and you'll hear crackles and pops from the exhaust during both up- and downshifts. Around turns, the CLA45 offers tenacious grip and guided-missile determination. But the cost of this handling prowess is an even firmer ride quality that might be too much for even dedicated drivers. Also, its performance-oriented brakes are very sensitive and grab with the slightest touch of the pedal, and the transmission's shift quality can be overly aggressive for daily driving.

Interior

Even though this is the bargain Benz, the CLA-Class sedan's interior largely escapes the cost-cutting knife. Quite simply, the cabin looks and feels like a traditional Mercedes. Big analog gauges, a clean center stack design, and tight fit and finish impart the same classic, premium feel shared across the Mercedes lineup.

One of the few exceptions is the optional navigation system's display, which looks like an aftermarket addition as it's perched high on the dash. On the upside, the screen is easy to read. It also takes some time to get used to selecting gears with a column-mounted stalk rather than a traditional console shifter. Various trim options, including walnut, ash, aluminum and carbon fiber (CLA45 only) allow you to create a cabin aesthetic that's either cool and modern, or classic and refined.

Unfortunately, the CLA's rear quarters aren't nearly as luxurious. Although the rear seats are well-shaped and supportive, the sloping roof line that gives the CLA its distinctive character also translates to tight headroom for 6-footers, and the knee room situation isn't much better. The CLA is also ill-equipped for small children; the rear seat's non-removable headrests can make safety seat fitment tricky, and those small rear doors make it tough to get little ones in and out, too.

You might assume the CLA sedan also has a small trunk, but in reality it offers a respectable 13.1 cubic feet of trunk capacity.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class.

Trending topics in reviews

Most helpful consumer reviews

Much more fun than expected...
markcla,11/05/2014
CLA250 4MATIC 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 7AM)
After reading various car magazine reviews on the CLA250 4Matic, I was a little nervous about taking delivery of my Mountain Gray/Brown leather specially ordered vehicle. After almost two years I still love driving this car every day! The power is great especially in sports mode, but driving in the city, I don't need to gun it from stop light to stop light. Mileage on the road is close to 35mpg! Comfortable, safe and a blast to drive. I'll get another after this lease ends!
Awesome
pothmer,06/17/2014
Happiness is AMG. Love this car. Never had an AMG before, so can't compare it to other AMG's. Had a BMW M3 (sweet car) and this is better. (RWD super cars are undriveable in snow. Unless you get high-performance snow tires--then they are tanks...except that one time when you hit throttle on a wintry turn, rear wheels slide out, plant themselves into a curb and the axle breaks). But Mercedes has 4matic (which is a technical term 4magic; or "hand of God" if you don't believe in magic). The CLA45 has 4matic, 4 doors, 355hp and 332 lb ft. Torque.
The AMG working people can afford
abndoc73,07/06/2014
This car is great to drive and brings a smile to my face every time I start it up. Yes, the ride is firm and with 355 hp you need to feel that. But, driving on the autobahn at 140mph you have no issues taking turns.
Best Compact Luxary Car in its Class.
Free88,08/04/2015
CLA250 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 7AM)
A lot of what you read out there is this car versus another car that is not in its class. You cannot fairly compare this car to, say, a BMW 320 or a Mercedes C300. This is a compact luxury coupe that happens to have 4 doors. It is not a closer to mid-sized sedan like the ones mentioned above. Keep that in mind when you read peoples reviews. The CLA250 is in a niche (test) market. The only real direct competitors at this time are the Acura ILX, BMW 228, and Audi A3. The BMW 228 is a 2 door, so that isn't exactly the same class. Nevertheless, these cars are aimed at people that want a lower price point luxury vehicle with great fuel economy and smaller dimensions. Lexus, Infiniti, etc., don't make a competitor vehicle. Maybe you could throw in maxed out Altima's, Camry's, and Accord's, but that would be a stretch to call those luxury vehicles. Having said all that, the CLA 250 is a fantastic car in its class. The interior feels very premium at this price point. The console layout is great and feels like modern premium. Its well thought out and has all the right touches one would expect in a luxury vehicle. The BMW feels antiquated by comparison, while the Audi is just plain terrible. The Acura ILX actually has the next best console/cockpit layout and feel after the CLA250. The front seating on all four cars are what one would expect in a compact luxury car. If you are much taller than average, you will feel cramped. For people of average height and lower, there is plenty of comfort and room to be had. None are the clear winner in this respect. You will just have to experience each of them and judge for yourself. In our opinion, the MB power seating controls, seat heating, and other minor nuances, are what place it at the top. The rear seating on all four cars is cramped, even for a compact car. Again, there isn't a clear winner here. Taller adults will struggle to get comfortable back there. MB does give the back seating some nice touches, though, that are absent or just not as nice on others. Overall, MB gives the rear seating more of the premium treatment than others. Performance is best on the BMW. It is the sportiest, quickest, turns the best, and so on. This may not be supported by test reports, but that is how it feels compared to the others. MB has the best ride, although, it is not great by any measure. Your best bet is the get the 17 inch wheels if comfort is on your mind, and then just deflate them a little bit to the mid-upper 30's. The 18 inch wheels do make it sportier and handle better, but you get more road feedback and slight deflation is not as effective. The CLA 250 gets top marks in the economy battle outside of the Audi A3 Diesel (which is a $3000 option). Nothing much to say here. 26 city / 38 highway is just outstanding for a gas, non-hybrid car that also can do 0-60mph in about 6 or so seconds. "Pro" reviews seem to largely overlook the fact that the CLA250 is ground-breaking in this respect. The MSRP price of the CLA250 was the second best after the Acura ILX when compared to similarly equipped vehicles. We found that MB was the most willing to negotiate savings off the MSRP (during the Summer), though, and also gave the most for our trade. Acura and BMW wouldn't budge below 4% under MSRP, and that was on their loaner cars. Audi wasn't willing to go more than 6% under MSRP. MB was offering 10% off MSRP without even trying on any in stock brand new car. MB offered us at least $1000 more for the trade, too. The overall deal was clearly the best amongst these four cars. Overall, you just cant beat what Mercedes put together on the CLA250. It really comes down to preference, though. Some would rather sacrifice the premium for more sport. Some would rather sacrifice economy for more rear seat room. It really is in the eye of the beholder. For everything we valued, the CLA250 was the runaway winner, with no real close second. If we had to rank them, it would be MB CLA250 in front, followed by Acura ILX, BMW 228 and Audi A3. The Acura is perhaps the bang for your buck leader after the CLA250. If you can find the right dealer at the right time, you may be able to get a better deal on it versus the CLA250. BMW is the clear sport luxury leader, where the emphasis is on sport. The performance is outstanding for a vehicle in this class. Audi is dead last. It is not a very good vehicle at all. The console/cockpit is atrocious. That alone is enough to walk on by. The ride is bad, the economy is sub-par, and the list goes on. I would be happy to own the CLA250, ILX or 228, as they are all great vehicles in their own way. I would pass on the Audi A3.

Features & Specs

MPG
26 city / 38 hwy
Seats 5
7-speed automated manual
Gas
208 hp @ 5500 rpm
MPG
24 city / 32 hwy
Seats 5
7-speed automated manual
Gas
208 hp @ 5500 rpm
MPG
23 city / 31 hwy
Seats 5
7-speed automated manual
Gas
355 hp @ 6000 rpm
See all Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class features & specs
More about the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
More About This Model

Cars that are designed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency rarely end up looking like the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250. That's because wind tunnels typically produce fragile-looking, teardrop-shaped things with three wheels. Or worse yet, they make everything look like a Prius.

It's surprising, then, that the engineers behind the CLA250 told us that class-leading aerodynamics was one of their top priorities during the car's development. The goal not only led to the CLA's unique styling, it also resulted in a final drag coefficient of 0.23, which in English means that the CLA slices through the wind more easily than the Prius (0.25 Cd).

That alone is not enough to allow the CLA250 to get better mileage than Toyota's superstar hybrid, but it does help the new Mercedes sedan make the most out of its standard four-cylinder engine. Figure around 30 miles per gallon on the highway and a 0-60-mph time of 6.7 seconds. So the CLA250 is not only efficient, it's still reasonably quick, too.

The New Face of Mercedes
Apart from its impressive aerodynamic efficiency, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is also notable for what it isn't, namely rear-wheel drive. Yes, unlike virtually every other Mercedes-Benz that came to the United States before it, the CLA puts power down through the front wheels.

It's a setup that has been used for Mercedes' smaller A- and B-Class cars in Europe, but the CLA is considerably bigger than those cars. In fact, the CLA is actually longer and wider than the current C-Class sedan. The size overlap is an odd circumstance that will be resolved when a new, slightly larger C-Class arrives in 2014.

Until then, the CLA will be differentiated by its styling, its four-cylinder-only power plant and a base price that starts just under $30K. That's roughly $5 grand less than the base C-Class sedan. An all-wheel-drive version of the CLA250 will be added early next year.

Will Anybody Notice the Difference?
The biggest hurdle facing the CLA is whether it feels like a Mercedes-Benz, or at least what Americans think a Mercedes-Benz should feel like anyway. After driving a CLA250 on a combination of tight back roads, crowded city streets and fast highways, we doubt many people will notice that the front wheels are doing all the work.

Much of the credit goes to the fact that there's very little tugging at the steering wheel during acceleration. So-called torque steer is typically a dead giveaway that a car is having trouble steering and propelling itself with the same wheels. We tried to get the CLA to squirm with big doses of throttle, but the steering wheel barely quivered, even when pulling away from a stop.

Mercedes says this is a result of its Direct Steer system, which is the company's name for its latest electric power steering setup. It not only helps to control torque steer, it makes the CLA more efficient by not drawing power when it's driving in a straight line. More importantly, the engineers were able to tune the feel of the CLA's steering to the point where it provides solid road feel and precise control without the artificial lightness that often comes with electric assistance.

All U.S.-bound CLA250s will have a standard sport suspension that yields a lower ride height and firmer ride quality than the "luxury" model that will be standard in Europe. The ride quality isn't overly stiff and tire noise isn't bad, especially considering how little wind noise there is because of the sleek body.

What You Will Notice About the CLA250
Keeping the price down on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA means there's no six-cylinder engine option as with the C-Class sedan. The only power plant available is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder. Sounds meager, but with 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, it's hardly a meek little fuel sipper.

It gets considerable help from the standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and its three driver-adjustable shift programs. With all those gears, and the ability to swap between them quickly using paddle shifters, the CLA's engine stays squarely in the meat of its power band. It has a firm push from a stop and spins smoothly to its redline, too. Catch it between gears and it'll suddenly feel weak, but it doesn't happen often.

If there's any disappointment from under the hood, it's the engine's sound. There are times when the direct-injection fuel system clatters like a diesel and others when the exhaust is just plain wheezy, mostly at high rpm. Neither of the sounds is particularly refined, and both are occasional reminders that you're behind the wheel of the base-model Benz.

No Cost Cutting in the Cabin
If the noises from under the hood don't bother you, then the cabin isn't likely to either. Nothing about the design or materials inside the CLA looks the least bit cheap. From the big analog gauges to the clean center stack design, it all looks tidy, well built and about what you would expect in a Mercedes.

At first glance the navigation system looks a bit like an aftermarket unit the way it's perched high on the dash, but it blends in after awhile and the positioning makes it easy to read. It takes some time to get used to shifting with the small stalk on the steering wheel column, too, but the space that's opened up in the center console makes the CLA that much more livable.

Livable isn't the best word to describe the backseat, though, as the sloping roof line that makes the CLA so distinctive-looking on the outside makes the rear seats claustrophobic on the inside. Head- and knee room are both tight for anyone over 6 feet, although toe room is plentiful and the seats themselves have a nice shape to them. Add in the small rear doors and the CLA won't make a very good baby hauler.

Who Is the Mercedes CLA for, Then?
Mercedes thinks the $30K barrier is where the luxury line can be drawn. Below that and you're competing with too many mainstream models. At $35K, the C-Class is a bit out of reach for anyone who isn't willing to consider at least $40K for the options they want.

With the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250, $32K will get you a nicely equipped sedan with a couple options. There are some packages, of course, along with a nice list of stand-alone features like a panorama sunroof, blind spot assist and 18-inch wheels. And most importantly, at least to some, the Mercedes name.

Brand recognition aside, the CLA is a uniquely styled sedan that attracts attention even before people know what it is. Not many of the competitors in this price range can do the same. Add in the sharp interior and solid performance and the CLA is an interesting option at its price point. About the only thing missing is a real backseat, something the young people Mercedes is hoping to attract might want to think twice about.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Overview

The Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is offered in the following submodels: CLA-Class Sedan, CLA-Class CLA45 AMG. Available styles include CLA250 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 7AM), CLA250 4MATIC 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 7AM), and CLA45 AMG 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 7AM).

What's a good price on a Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class?

Price comparisons for Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class trim styles:

  • The Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class CLA250 is priced between $10,995 and$17,529 with odometer readings between 35654 and105626 miles.
  • The Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class CLA250 4MATIC is priced between $12,951 and$20,000 with odometer readings between 27889 and124168 miles.

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Which used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Classes are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class for sale near. There are currently 23 used and CPO 2014 CLA-Classes listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $10,995 and mileage as low as 27889 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class.

Can't find a used 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Classs you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class for sale - 12 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $23,334.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz for sale - 10 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $21,241.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class for sale - 1 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $17,635.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz for sale - 11 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $15,450.

Should I lease or buy a 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Mercedes-Benz lease specials
Check out Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class lease specials