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2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2015

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class sedan marks Mercedes' bold expansion into a more affordable price bracket. Based on a front-wheel-drive platform with available all-wheel drive, the CLA-Class is a rare departure from the company's rear-wheel-drive norm. With its slinky, CLS-inspired styling and perky turbocharged performance, the CLA is an intriguing alternative to both its entry-level luxury rivals and to well-equipped versions of family sedans such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. It's not without its weaknesses, however, which must be weighed against the undeniable appeal of that 3-pointed star on the grille.

What's New for 2015?

The CLA250 gets a standard comfort suspension, relegating the sport-tuned suspension to the options list, and some additional features join the equipment roster.

What We Like

Reasonable base price for a Mercedes-Benz; impressive fuel economy; enthusiastic acceleration and handling; AMG model's sports-car-like performance

What We Don't

So-so interior materials; tight back seat

How Much?

$32,425-$49,425

Fuel Economy

The CLA250 features a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the CLA250 at an impressive 26 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive and 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

The CLA45 AMG also has a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, but it's an amped-up version with 355 hp and 332 lb-ft. All-wheel drive is standard, and fuel economy remains respectable at 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

All CLA models employ a 7-speed automatic transmission.

Standard Features & Options

The CLA250 ($32,425) comes standard with such luxuries as 17-inch alloy wheels (a Sport package adds 18-in alloys and an aero body kit), push-button starting, power front seats with driver memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-in infotainment display with the COMAND interface, Bluetooth and leatherette (MB-Tex) upholstery.

The CLA45 AMG ($49,425) adds all-wheel drive (optional on the CLA250), an AMG-tuned suspension, 18-in wheels, upgraded brakes, the stronger engine, a performance exhaust system and various AMG styling flourishes.

Options are plentiful and pricey. Highlights include xenon headlights, keyless entry, Harman Kardon audio, a navigation system with an 8-in display, voice controls, heated seats, a panoramic sunroof and leather upholstery. The CLA250 can be equipped with a sport-tuned suspension, while the CLA45 AMG is further eligible for 19-in wheels, carbon-fiber accents and sport front seats.

Rear-seat accommodations in the compact CLA-Class are a lowlight, since there's just not enough room left over for full-sized adults in the second row. The trunk is a pleasant surprise, though, measuring 13 cu ft., a generous allotment for this segment.

Safety

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class comes standard with stability control, anti-lock disc brakes, nine airbags (front, front-side thorax, front-side pelvis, driver-knee and full-length side-curtain) and mbrace2, a telematics system that can connect to the Internet and contact emergency services if an airbag is deployed. Also standard are a drowsiness monitor and a forward-collision mitigation system with automatic braking. Notable safety options include rear-side airbags, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with enhanced automatic braking capabilities.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has crash-tested the CLA at this time. However, Mercedes conducts its own stringent tests, so there's no reason to think that the CLA will ruin the company's fine reputation for safety.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we noted that the CLA-Class doesn't quite share the materials quality of its bigger siblings. The lower half of the dashboard, for example, consists of a hard plastic trim that doesn't do justice to the 3-pointed star. There's still a generally luxurious vibe, though, particularly given the CLA's appealing base price. Shoppers considering the much more expensive CLA45 AMG may find themselves in a less forgiving mood.

On the road, the CLA250's 208-hp turbo four acquits itself nicely, providing ample low-end punch. The sprint from standstill to 60 miles per hour takes about 7 seconds, but real-world acceleration feels stronger than the numbers suggest. The CLA250's standard suspension calibration should be sporty enough for most shoppers, and it provides decent ride compliance, too. We'd advise against the optional performance suspension for this model, since it comes bundled with a number of additional features that mainly serve to inflate the price.

As for the CLA45 AMG, it's a wild child when you mash the throttle, hitting 60 mph in an astonishing 4.4 seconds per Mercedes' calculations. Handling is sports-car quality, and the standard all-wheel-drive system ensures tenacious traction in all conditions. Is it worth the extra $17,000? Only you can answer that question. But there's no doubt that the CLA45 is a world-class performer.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Acura ILX -- The Civic-derived ILX is an affordable alternative to the CLA, lacking the Benz's turbocharged urgency but boasting superior value and a reputation for dependability.

2015 Audi A3 -- Audi's smallest sedan is a bit short on power (unless you spring for the high-performance S3 model), but it's perky enough, and its interior is nicer than that of the CLA.

2015 BMW 2 Series -- Do you really need four doors? If not, consider the sharp-handling and well-appointed 2 Series, which is one of the best performance values on the planet.

Used Mercedes-Benz C-Class -- If the CLA feels like it's missing a certain something, try the previous-generation C-Class sedan, which is widely available at Mercedes dealers with a certified pre-owned warranty.

AutoTrader's Advice

The CLA250 comes nicely equipped right out of the box, and its base price is mighty appealing. We'd be inclined to keep the options to a minimum; otherwise, you'll quickly encroach on the territory of larger, more capable car.

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2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader