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First Drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

These days $30,000 will get you quite far in the automotive market – you can find yourself in a nicely equipped family oriented Subaru Legacy or a Hyundai Tucson Crossover for that kind of money. But that’s not what Mercedes had in mind when they decided to launch their new front wheel drive four-door coupe to the American market.  The CLA250 starts at a reasonable $29,900 (before the $925 destination charge) for those who want the three- pointed star badge, but can’t afford the five-star price.

To keep things simple and within a decent budget, our sampled CLA250 came with a few simple unnecessary options, that we’re willing to take advantage of: $1,480 Panorama Sunroof, $580 Heated Seats, & $500 18-inch Wheels – brings a grand to $33,385 – a price still within reason. But it’s what our CLA didn’t come with that has us scratching our heads – no Navigation, no Back-Up Camera, and no Satellite Radio – that of course is another package… that we wish had been fitted.

So what do you get for 30-grand? For starters, you get a good looking sedan. The CLA carries bold characteristic lines that give it personality. The aggressive fascia stands out amongst the traditional droopy faces in the parking lot. Our sampled Night Black paint is very business-like and with the before mentioned 18” alloy wheels, it gives the CLA an assertive stance. If the silhouette seems familiar, it should since the styling cues where pulled from the more upscale CLS.

The engine in the CLA is just right for size and weight, weighing roughly 3,300lbs. What you get is a 2.0-liter four cylinder matted to a turbo. This combination produces 208 horsepower and 258lb-ft of torque through a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. This set up works very well together with smooth, quick gear changes and rapid acceleration from zero to 60 mph in just over 6 seconds. Around town the front wheel drive system is like your typical sedan; smooth and refine – acceleration in the bends show a hint of torque steer – an all-wheel drive 4MATIC is available to fix that – but that will cost two-grand more.

The CLA drives like a Mercedes should. The chassis is well built; the handling is light and nimble with decent responsiveness from the steering wheel. The brakes aren’t too shabby either as they are eager to stop in roughly a good distance from 70mph. The ride is noticeably bouncy from the stiff suspension and with those before mentioned 18” wheels, pot holes will leave you swearing worse than a sailor. Depending on your driving style there are three modes to choose from: Sport, Eco, and Manual – all designed to make driving your CLA comfortable and more enjoyable. Eco, is the default which keeps you from getting to rambunctious during your morning commute. But if you need a little excitement, Sport adjusts the driving dynamics while Manual gets you out playing with the paddle shifters.

Mercedes articulates the CLA will do 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway with a combined average of 30 mpg. That’s a tall order on something that requires Premium grade fuel. During our time we managed a mere 25 mpg city, recorded 32.6 mpg during our highway test, and a combined average of 28.2mpg . The CLA does come standard with the eco Start/Stop system which shuts of the engine while at a stop – with an engine this small, it seem rather unnecessary and didn’t seem to improve our fuel figures.

Even though this is an entry level CLA, it’s decently equipped. The leatherette interior is a comfortable place to be – the sport design seats are unique and give a sporty appeal. The front seats are power adjustable which makes it easy finding the right driving position and have memory feature in case you have multiple drivers or passengers. We also found the back seat to be just as comfortable as the front with decent thigh and back support; sure, it’s a little snug and the sloping roof-line isn’t kind to taller passengers, but you don’t buy your car based on whether you fit in the back or not.

From behind the wheel the modern styled dash configuration is groovy. The silver accent, leather trim, and those chic air vents add that typical Mercedes luxury charm. The center stack is slightly confusing, but the pop-out Garmin styled screen is different and can be controlled with the center rotary knob – it’s not one of our favorite systems on the market, but it is quick to learn. Now we do wished that screen did a little more than just show AM and FM channels but we weren’t gifted with the before mentioned Navigation, Back-Up Camera, or Satellite Radio option – which… we suppose… if you’re a good driver, none of that is necessary.

As much as we tried to avoid any dislikes, we encountered a few worth mentioning… to fold the rear seats – the front seats must be moved forward, we couldn’t get the voice activation to work (we assume that’s an option that hadn’t been fitted), the eco Start/Stop would turn off the air conditioning, the Panorama sunroof whistled above 50 mph (when closed),  and our sampled CLA had a lingering smell of a freshly applied paint – which wasn’t pleasing after it baked in the sun for several hours.

Like most entry level and new to the market cars, the CLA has its fair share of short comings. If you’re able to look past it flaws and only care about the badging underneath, then the CLA is worth a gander. It is a good looking thing, it drives great, and at $29,900 you can tell everyone you drive a Mercedes-Benz and no one has to know what you really paid.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA240 $29,900
Destination: $925
18-inch Wheels with High Performance Tires: $500
Heated Front Seats: $580
Panorama Sunroof: $1,480
Grand Total: $33,385


  1. A3, 2 Series and this Merc – interesting choices especially looking at fully loaded Fusions, Accords etc prices (though clearly bigger cars).

    Any nose heavy attributes with the CLA? Neutral or some under steer?

    • Unless you’re on a track, it is difficult to get some of these cars to behave aggressively on surface streets. That said, with any FWD, there is going to be some heaviness – and we did notice some in the CLA but not enough to experience any understeer under normal driving conditions or even during our harsh handling test.

      • Many thanks. Agreed should not really notice on the road under normal conditions. Even RWD’s are often set up for mild under steer.

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