2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is the brand's new
entry-level model, with a starting price just
on the serving-platter-sized badge in the grille,
Mercedes-Benz doesn’t want there to be any question
about whether the 2014 CLA250 compact sedan is a
it takes more than a three-pointed star to make a luxury
car. The new baby Benz comes up short on refinement and
finish, despite offering a pretty shape, good fuel
economy and responsive handling.
CLA250 is the smallest and least expensive car Mercedes
offers in the U.S. It’s about the same length as the
Buick Verano, Volkswagen Jetta and Chevrolet Cruze.
for the CLA250 start at $29,900 for a front-drive model
with a 208-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged
four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch
automatic transmission. The model line then takes a
giant step in price and performance to the
355-horsepower all-wheel-drive CLA45 AMG at $47,750.
CLA’s competitors include upscale compacts and
subcompacts like the Audi A3, Verano, Cadillac ATS,
Lexus IS, Mini Cooper Clubman and Volkswagen Jetta GLI.
A front-wheel-drive BMW compact is coming soon.
tested a front-drive CLA250 with Harman/Kardon audio,
navigation, blind-spot alert and other options that
raised its price to $35,620.
CLA250’s sleek profile and tapered roof give it a
sporty look. But what the swoopy design gives in style,
it takes away in passenger space. The CLA250’s rear
seat induced cries of "are we there yet?" in
record time from my average-height niece, 14, and
nephew, 12. Adding injury to insult, adults frequently
banged their heads entering the rear seat. They could
barely sit upright once they got in.
front seat offers good head and legroom, plus storage
for glasses, phones and cups.
interior suffers from one almost inconceivably bad fit
between parts. The space between the doors and the
B-pillar — the vertical structure between front and
rear doors — was so wide that the bright red bare
metal of the car’s body was clearly visible. Exposed
metal and panel gaps that wide should not occur in
well-made cars, regardless of their price.
gauges are clear. Most of the controls are easy to use,
and the voice-recognition system works well, although it
requires more steps than some competitors’ systems.
The interior materials look fine, but many feel a bit
cheap, particularly the air vents. The display screen
for navigation, phone, audio and other systems is an odd
duck. While most screens are carefully integrated into
the control panel, it looks like an afterthought, a
cheap GPS that somebody attached to the dash.
CLA250’s dynamics are more impressive. The steering is
sharp and responsive, with a clear on-center feel. The
suspension is tuned more for handling than comfort. It
keeps the CLA stable in quick maneuvers and doesn’t
squat or dive during hard acceleration and braking.
engine’s power trails the Verano turbo, but is in the
same neighborhood as the others. The transmission shifts
fast and smoothly during acceleration. It sometimes held
its gears when decelerating, which led to noticeable
vibration from the low-revving engine. The fuel-saving
auto-stop is unobtrusive, but the restart is slow. While
most systems restart the engine when the driver lifts
off the brake, the CLA hesitated. You can disable the
auto-stop, but that reduces fuel economy, one of the CLA’s
key selling points.
car’s EPA rating of 26 mpg in the city, 38 on the
highway and 30 in combined driving is impressive. Only
the smaller Mini Cooper Clubman John Works matches it,
and several considerably less-powerful models don’t
fuel costs are a slender reed to hang a luxury car’s
hopes of success on, but they’re the only clear
advantage the 2014 CLA250 offers versus competitors with
more power, room and refinement.
of vehicle: Front-wheel drive five-passenger compact
Two out of four stars
to buy: Fuel economy; trunk space; handling
Interior fit and finish; rear passenger space; poorly
integrated display screen
2.0-liter, turbocharged 16-valve four-cylinder
208 horsepower at 5,500 rpm; 258 pound-feet of torque at
Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
fuel economy rating: 26 mpg city/38 highway/30 combined.
weight: 3,642 lbs.
as tested: $35,620
exclude destination charge.