The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a little something different from the iconic German automaker, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We know that Benz can do rear-wheel-drive sedans, but times change. These days, a smaller, front-wheel-drive sedan with great fuel economy can hold a lot of appeal. Here are five reasons why the all-new CLA might be the best way to get into a brand-new Benz.

Attractive Pricing

Let's get one thing straight: Just because you're shopping for a Mercedes doesn't mean you don't want to save some money. Starting at around $30,000, the turbocharged CLA250 gives you the full Mercedes ownership experience at a fraction of the usual price. That's significantly less than you'll pay for the rear-drive C-Class, which used to be the entry-level Mercedes. You get the same warranty and service as any other Mercedes buyer; you just won't pay a typical Mercedes price for the privilege.

Awesome Fuel Economy

One thing you expect with front-wheel drive is better fuel economy, and the CLA250 doesn't disappoint. Expect an even 30 miles per gallon in mixed driving, including a lofty 38 mpg on the highway. Those are numbers we expect from pint-sized economy cars, not a buttoned-down Benz. To wit, the CLA250 is one tick better than the previous-generation MINI Cooper S, a tiny turbocharged hatchback that returned 37 mpg.

Potent Performance

Even the base CLA250 can definitely get out of its own way. With 208 turbocharged horsepower, it'll sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 6.9 seconds. Not bad for 38 mpg. But there's also the all-wheel-drive CLA45 AMG, which has been boosted to within an inch of its life. How's 355 hp and 0-to-60 in 4.4 sound? If you want a CLA that can embarrass 6-figure supercars, the AMG model's ready to go.

Coupelike Handling

Mercedes actually calls the CLA a coupe, even though it has four doors, but we can see where they're coming from. The CLA is a compact car, first of all, and it's been tuned for sportiness: The steering is quick and direct, and there's hardly any body roll. When you're driving with vigor, the CLA shrinks around you like a sports car. Does that make it a coupe? Nope, but whatever you want to call it, you'll love the way the CLA carves up corners.

Real Luxury Inside

If you're worried that Mercedes cheaped out on the CLA's cabin, don't be. There are plenty of supple surfaces in here, along with some sporty flourishes that make the CLA a more youthful choice. It's a premium car, no doubt about it, and that goes beyond the star on the steering wheel.

AutoTrader Says

Is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class a real Mercedes? You bet it is, and it's also the most affordable Mercedes. Sounds like a must-drive to us.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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