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2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2016

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a compact sedan with 4-door-coupe styling, and it's the least expensive way for North Americans to get into a brand-new car bearing the famed 3-pointed star. As such, it could tempt buyers who may be looking at high-end versions of non-premium brands -- like a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry -- to stretch their budget and acquire something with more cachet. Existing Mercedes-Benz owners may also see this model as a good downsizing option.

The CLA is based on the A-Class, a front-wheel-drive car that Mercedes-Benz doesn't import to the United States. But it does offer all-wheel drive, and true to Mercedes-Benz form, there's a hot AMG variant. Overall, it treads a fine line between being affordable and upholding brand values.

What's New for 2017?

Although still a relative newcomer, the 2017 CLA already sports a mid-generation refresh with tweaks to the styling of the nose and tail, along with new designs for the alloy wheels. The interior has also received some attention -- the touchscreen is larger by an inch, the instrument gauges have been redesigned, and there are new seat covers and trim pieces. A rearview camera is now standard. Joining the options list is a hands-free power trunk lid, LED headlamps and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The official name for the higher-performance version is the 2017 Mercedes-AMG CLA45.

What We Like

Reasonable base price for a Mercedes-Benz; decent fuel economy; safety features; enthusiastic acceleration and handling; AMG model's performance

What We Don't

So-so interior materials; tight back seat; outward vision not ideal; pricey options

How Much?

$33,325-$50,875

Fuel Economy

The CLA250 uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that develops 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the front-wheel-drive CLA250 at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 36 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined. With 4Matic all-wheel drive (a $2,000 option in this model), those figures are 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.

The Mercedes-AMG CLA45 also has a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, but it's boosted to 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, and fuel economy is respectable at 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

All versions have a 7-speed automatic transmission.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class starts out with the CLA250 ($33,325), which comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels (a Sport package adds 18-in alloys and an aero body kit), push-button start, power adjustable front seats with driver's-side memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-in infotainment display with the Comand interface, Bluetooth and leatherette upholstery (called MB-Tex, which sounds suspect, but it looks and feels good).

The CLA45 AMG ($50,875) adds all-wheel drive, an AMG-tuned suspension, 18-in wheels, upgraded brakes, a stronger engine, a performance exhaust system and various AMG styling touches.

Options are plentiful and pricey. They include LED headlights, keyless entry, parking assistance, Harman Kardon audio, navigation, voice control, heated seats, panoramic sunroof, a hands-free power trunk lid, real leather upholstery and a Smartphone Integration package.

The CLA250 can be ordered with a sport-tuned suspension, while the CLA45 is also eligible for 19-in wheels, carbon-fiber accents, sport front seats and a Dynamic Plus Package that includes a limited-slip front differential, AMG-tuned adaptive suspension, a Race mode and a top speed of 167 miles per hour. An AMG Dinamica package also brings faux suede around the steering wheel and on the dash.

Safety

Standard protection includes stability control, anti-lock disc brakes, nine airbags (front, front side-thorax, front side-pelvis, driver's-knee and full-length side-curtain) plus Mbrace2, a telematics system that can connect to the Internet and contact emergency services if an airbag is deployed.

A rearview camera, driver-drowsiness monitor and a forward-collision mitigation system with automatic braking are also standard. Notable safety options include rear-side airbags, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control with enhanced automatic braking.

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

Behind the Wheel

The CLA doesn't share quite the same quality of materials as its larger siblings. The lower half of the dashboard, for example, has a hard plastic trim that doesn't do justice to the marque. But there's still a luxurious feel overall, particularly in light of the appealing base price.

Rear-seat accommodations are a downside, since the sloping roof encroaches on headroom. Meanwhile, legroom is only bearable for shorter trips. For a compact car, though, the CLA packs a useful trunk: 13.1 cu ft., more than enough space for two sets of golf clubs. The rear seats also split and fold.

The CLA250's engine is punchy enough to reach highway speeds in short order. The sprint from standstill to 60 mph takes a brisk 6.9 seconds. Power comes on in a smooth, linear fashion as the throttle pedal dips toward the floor.

Gear changes from the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission are similarly silky. You can put it in Drive and forget about it, or use the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles whenever the desire to be more engaged takes hold.

To save the weight and space of a spare wheel, the use of run-flat tires imparts a harsher ride than Mercedes-Benz usually delivers. Riding on the optional 18-in wheels means a smaller and therefore less-pliant tire sidewall, which only adds to the firmness. For everyday driving, 17-in wheels could be a better bet.

The CLA45 only needs 4.1 seconds to sprint to 60 mph. The handling is sports-car quality, and the standard all-wheel-drive system means tenacious traction in all conditions. It feels like the most complete version of the CLA range.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Acura ILX -- The Civic-derived ILX is an affordable alternative to the CLA. It lacks the Benz's turbocharged urgency but enjoys a fine reputation for dependability.

2017 Audi A3 -- Audi's smallest sedan is a bit short on power (except for the high-performance S3), but it's perky enough. Its interior is also nicer than the CLA's.

2017 BMW 2 Series -- If four doors aren't really necessary, consider the sharp-handling and well-appointed 2 Series, one of the best performance bargains out there.

Used Mercedes-Benz C-Class -- For more space, try the previous-generation C-Class sedan, which is available at Mercedes-Benz dealers with a certified pre-owned warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

If your budget allows, go for the CLA45 -- it really is a standout machine. If not, get the CLA250, and be discerning when selecting the options. With any CLA, the blind spot monitoring system is a worthwhile investment.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader