2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class AMG CLA 45 Review

The CLA-Class shows promise, but some other entry-level luxury sedans have it beat.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Mark Takahashi
Edmunds Editor

The Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star is one of the most recognizable luxury badges in the world. The fact that acquiring one typically sets you back a hefty sum has been well established, but that's not necessarily the case with the 2018 CLA-Class. For about the same price as a non-luxury sedan, you can get a lot of Mercedes charm and quality. And for a lot of shoppers, that could be enough.

If it were the only sedan in its class, we'd be inclined to agree. But there are some similarly priced vehicles out there, and they don't have the same drivability, comfort and space issues that the CLA does. As a result, we suggest checking out those European rivals before signing on the dotted line.



what's new

For 2018, the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class returns largely unchanged.

we recommend

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 delivers more performance than the typical driver expects, leaving the AMG CLA 45 for the select few who desire much more. The standard features list is already lengthy, but we'd suggest adding the Premium package for some luxurious creature comforts as well as the Multimedia package for the navigation and smartphone integration.

trim levels & features

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class sedan is offered in CLA250 (208 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque) and a higher-performance AMG CLA 45 (375 hp, 350 lb-ft) trims. Both models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. The standard CLA250 is front-wheel-drive, but all-wheel drive (Mercedes' 4Matic) is available as an option. All-wheel drive is standard with the AMG CLA 45.

Standard feature highlights for the CLA250 models include 17-inch wheels, automatic wipers, selectable drive modes, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated leather upholstery (MB-Tex), eight-way power front sport seats with memory functions, and 60/40-split folding rear seats with a center pass-through.

On the technology front, you get an 8-inch infotainment screen, Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, forward collision warning and mitigation, a drowsy driver monitor, the Mbrace emergency telematics, and an audio system with
a CD player, HD radio, two SD card slots and two USB ports.

Upgrading to the AMG CLA 45 adds 19-inch wheels, LED headlights and running lights, unique styling and aerodynamic flourishes, a sport exhaust system, upgraded brakes and transmission, a torque-vectoring differential, a sport steering wheel and simulated suede upholstery inserts.

There are a few main option packages to look out for. These include the Premium package (keyless ignition and entry, a hands-free trunklid, blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats and satellite radio); the Convenience package (auto-dimming mirrors and a universal garage door opener); the Interior package (leather upholstery, upgraded dash and door trim, and interior ambient lighting); the Multimedia package (a navigation system, voice controls, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration); and the Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning and intervention).

Many AMG-based styling elements are available on the CLA250. Other notable add-ons include an automated parking system, an adjustable suspension, a panoramic sunroof and a 12-speaker premium Harman Kardon audio system.

trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 (turbo 2.0L inline-4 | 7-speed dual-clutch automatic | FWD)

Since this test was conducted, the current CLA-Class has received some revisions, including a retuned-suspension, a minor interior and exterior styling update, extendable front-seat thigh supports and a new infotainment screen. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's CLA250, however.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration4.0 / 5.0
Braking3.0 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability2.5 / 5.0

Comfort

3.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort2.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort3.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration4.0 / 5.0

Interior

3.0 / 5.0

Ease of use4.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out2.5 / 5.0
Roominess2.5 / 5.0
Visibility2.5 / 5.0
Quality4.0 / 5.0

Utility

4.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage4.0 / 5.0
Cargo space4.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
With its strong four-cylinder and quick-shifting transmission, the CLA250 offers enough performance to impress owners of the larger C-Class. Unfortunately, that same transmission can be quirky in normal driving.

acceleration

edmunds rating
With its 208-hp four-cylinder and a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic, the CLA250 gets up to speed effortlessly, especially from 20 mph on. In our testing, the CLA accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a respectably quick 6.4 seconds.

braking

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Even in heavy traffic, the CLA's brakes are linear and easy to modulate. We recorded a panic-stop distance of 121 feet from 60 mph, which is an average distance for this class of car.

steering

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The CLA250's steering is nicely weighted; it's neither too heavy nor too light. Turn-in is sharp, and there's enough articulation for easy parking. The steering, however, doesn't give you much feel for the road.

handling

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The CLA250 has enough poise and control to feel stable on a twisty road or highway off-ramp curve.

drivability

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The CLA's transmission 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.

comfort

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The 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.

seat comfort

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The CLA's seats offer nice bolstering, but they have a short cushion that lacks thigh support. Mercedes' MB-Tex faux leather feels exceptional and durable but lacks ventilation. Prepare to feel sticky.

ride comfort

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A mixed bag here. The CLA250 (before the suspension retune) handles potholes and breaks in the pavement with zero drama, but gets jostled by seams in the highway and pulled around by grooved pavement.

noise & vibration

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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.

interior

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A 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, plus lackluster visibility, hurt the CLA's score in this category.

ease of use

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The CLA's interior is deceptively simple and remarkably easy to use, with a large infotainment screen, clear gauges and an easy knob- and button-based climate control. The gear-selector stalk is love-it-or-hate-it.

getting in/getting out

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Front-seat access is a nonissue with wide door openings and a reasonably high seat. Rear-seat access is hugely problematic. Because of the sloping roof, there just isn't enough head clearance.

roominess

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The CLA's interior feels tight. Not unpleasant, but cozy. The rear seats have good legroom but severely lack headroom.

visibility

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The rearview camera is 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.

quality

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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 and the seats — feels like a Mercedes.

utility

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Smart interior packaging allows for more storage options than in some rival sedans. The trunk is well shaped with a large opening and benefits from added rear-seat convenience items for larger objects.

small-item storage

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With the shifter relocated to the steering column, the center console is freed up to house more bins and cupholders. There's plenty of them to hold all of your personal effects.

cargo space

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The trunk is decently proportioned, with a large opening and shrouded hinges. Total capacity is 13.1 cubic feet. The standard split and folding rear seats and a center pass-through will help when things get tight.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.