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2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: New Car Review

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is now the second least expensive new car to wear a 3-pointed star badge. The fresh-for-2019 A-Class subcompact sedan comes in lower at $33,495. But if someone wanted a reasonably priced 2019 Mercedes-Benz with "4-door coupe" styling, then the CLA-Class is the way to go.

For the most part, it still upholds all those lofty values for which Mercedes-Benz is renowned. At this price level, 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 budgets and acquire something with more cachet. Existing Mercedes-Benz owners may also see this model as a good downsizing option, since it offers all-wheel drive and, true to Mercedes-Benz form, there’s a hot AMG variant.

What’s New for 2019?

The CLA 45 now comes with 19-in alloy wheels and gains some extra standard equipment.

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?

$34,095-$54,095

Fuel Economy

The CLA 250 uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that develops 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the front-wheel-drive CLA 250 at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving. With 4Matic AWD, those figures are 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.

The Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 also has a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, but boosted to 375 hp and 350 lb-ft. AWD is standard, and fuel economy is a respectable 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

All versions have a 7-speed automatic transmission. And premium gasoline is recommended for both engines.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class starts out with the CLA 250 ($34,095), which comes standard with 17-in alloy wheels, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, power-adjustable front seats with memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, an 8-inch infotainment display with the Comand interface, Bluetooth and leatherette upholstery (called MB-Tex, which sounds suspect, but looks and feels good).

The 4Matic AWD system is an extra $2,000.

The CLA 45 AMG ($54,095) adds AWD, AMG-tuned suspension, 19-in wheels, upgraded brakes, a stronger engine, a performance exhaust system, LED exterior lighting, keyless entry/ignition, blind spot monitoring, a Harman Kardon 12-speaker audio system, satellite radio, heated front seats, a hands-free powered trunk lid and various AMG styling touches.

Options are plentiful and pricey. They include parking assistance, adaptive cruise control, adjustable suspension, ambient cabin lighting, navigation, voice control, a panoramic sunroof, real leather upholstery and an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration package.

The CLA 45 is also eligible for carbon fiber accents, sport front seats, and a Dynamic Plus Package that includes a limited-slip front differential, AMG-tuned adaptive suspension, "Race" driving mode and a 167-miles per hour top speed.

Safety

Standard protection includes stability control, anti-lock disc brakes, nine airbags (front, front side thorax, front side pelvis, driver 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, a driver drowsiness monitor and a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking are also standard. Notable safety options include rear side airbags, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control with enhanced automatic braking.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has not crash-tested the CLA fully at this time, but describes the car’s front impact prevention capability as Superior when the optional driver aids are included.

The CLA hasn’t been subjected to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test program either. However, Mercedes-Benz conducts its own stringent tests, so there’s no reason to think the CLA will tarnish 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. And 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 CLA 250’s engine is punchy enough to reach highway speeds in short order. The sprint from 0-to-60 mph takes a brisk 6.9 seconds. Power comes on in a smooth, linear fashion as the throttle pedal is pressed toward the floor.

Gear changes from the 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission are similarly silky. The driver can put it in D 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 is usually associated with Mercedes-Benz. 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 CLA 45 only needs 4.1 seconds to sprint to 60 mph. The handling is sports-car quality and the standard AWD system means tenacious traction in all conditions. It feels like the most complete version of the CLA range.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Acura ILX — The Honda Civic-derived Acura ILX is an affordable alternative to the CLA. It lacks the Benz’s turbocharged urgency, but enjoys a fine reputation for dependability.

2019 Audi A3Audi’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.

2019 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 (CPO) warranty.

Autotrader’s Advice

An updated version is coming for the 2020 model year. So potential buyers can either wait or try and negotiate a better deal on a 2019 model.

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