Mercedes-Benz first introduced the CLA in 2014 as an entry-level model that would provide a low-priced gateway to the Mercedes brand and allow the C-Class to move further upscale. By and large the CLA has achieved its goals, and 2017 sees a refreshed model with some minor styling updates. Unfortunately, there are a few bugs in the car that haven't been addressed, and we feel they could be deal-breakers for many buyers.
The CLA's cabin represents the previous generation of Mercedes interior design. Though it's not quite as showy as some of Mercedes' latest products, the look and feel are mostly upscale and premium, and even the imitation leather (called MBTex) is hard to tell from the real thing. That said, there are a few cheap-looking trim bits to be found if you look carefully enough.
While the front seats are impressive for their comfort and support, the backseat is a hot mess. Legroom is decent, but the CLA's swooping roofline limits headroom and the small windows make it feel claustrophobic. There's no center armrest and the small door openings make entering and exiting difficult. It's not even well suited for children, as the non-removable headrests get in the way when fitting a forward-facing car seat.
The CLA gets the latest generation of Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system, though it lacks the new touchpad controller. But that's a feature we've never found very useful, and therefore didn't miss very much. For 2017, the screen gets a larger viewing area, and the Smartphone Integration package includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The latest version of the software seems slightly more confusing than its predecessor, however.
All CLAs get a 2.0-liter engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. CLA250 models are rated at 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, while the AMG CLA 45 squeezes an impressive 375 hp and 350 lb-ft from this small engine. The CLA250 offers front- or all-wheel drive, while the 45 gets AMG-tuned all-wheel drive. The EPA fuel economy for the front-drive CLA250 is 29 mpg combined (24 city/36 highway) with AWD models slightly lower. The AMG CLA 45 is rated at 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway), which is impressive for its power output.
Unfortunately, the CLA250's driving experience isn't as good as we would have hoped. The CLA is actually a good handler ? it reminds us of hot hatches like the Volkswagen GTI ? but ride quality with the standard Comfort suspension is poor, due to the hard-compound run-flat tires. Ironically, the Sport suspension gets regular tires that provide a better ride, but both versions suffer from soggy throttle response and an unrefined transmission. The AMG CLA 45 is a lot of fun, but its sport-tuned suspension is very firm and the brake pedal is grabby.
Both the CLA250 and AMG CLA 45 are offered as single-trim models with a lot of standard equipment and a long options list. Which is best? Let Edmunds help you find the perfect 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.