Class: Premium Compact Car
Miles driven: 155
Fuel used: 5.5 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 28.1 mpg
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
|7-speed automated manual
Driving mix: 55% city, 45% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 23/33/27 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas required
Base price: $38,650 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Multifunction sports leather steering wheel ($360), SiriusXM Radio ($460), lowered comfort suspension ($290), heated front seats ($580), 64-color interior ambient lighting ($310), wireless charging ($200), Driver Assistance Package ($2250), Multimedia Package ($1150), AMG Line package ($1950), Premium Package ($1100)
Price as tested: $48,295
The great: Excellent ride/handling balance; classy cabin
The good: Crisp acceleration; cutting-edge infotainment system; distinctive styling
The not so good: Stingy interior room, especially in the back seat; small rear door openings complicate entry and exit; some tedious controls
For something called “compact,” the premium-compact-car class isn’t. By Consumer Guide’s reckoning, the count for 2020 is up to 16 entries now that the BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe has joined the party. Three of the vehicle lines in the group wear the Mercedes-Benz star, and one of them—the CLA-Class—is fully redesigned for the current model year.
The CLA is a 4-door not-a-sedan, one of the luxury-brand inner circle of so-called coupes that trade interior room for a cool-looking profile. (The 2-Series Gran Coupe is another.) It fits between the front-wheel-drive A-Class, a 2019 newcomer, and the veteran rear-drive C-Class—though all are available with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Indeed, the 2020 CLA finds itself on the same core platform as the A-Class sedan, albeit with some different packaging. They have the same 107.4-inch wheelbase, but the CLA is 5.5 inches longer—which no doubt helps it gain a 3-cubic-foot advantage in trunk space. The CLA sits 0.3 inch wider and, not surprising for its coupe pretentions, 0.6 inch lower from road to roof.
Consumer Guide tested a Jupiter Red CLA250 with 4MATIC, a car that starts at $39,645 with delivery, but reached $48,295 as equipped. The front-drive version starts at $2000 less. Aside from fresh sheetmetal, the second-generation CLA incorporates M-B’s latest MBUX infotainment system, as well as standard digital instrumentation. Though the CLA250 carries over a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine from the previous model, that powerplant now puts out 221 horsepower, a gain of 13 from 2019. A similarly configured engine that powers the A-Class is rated at 188 horses.
Like any turbo four, the real strength of the one in the CLA250 lies in its ability to generate torque. It squeezes out its full 258 lb-ft as early as 1800 rpm. There’s little dawdling from a standing start, and Mercedes claims a 0-60-mph charge of 6.3 seconds. Move off the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) default “Comfort” mode—either to “ECO” or to “Sport”—and performance character clearly changes. ECO tears through the gears in a short-shifting frenzy to hurriedly reach the higher ranges, while Sport predictably hangs on longer, effectively pulling what power there is to be had from each gear range. Need an extra burst of speed on the highway? Just tap the pedal and, in Sport, the DCT drops down three gears just like that. Folks who think they know better than any electromechanical thingamabob can prove it with shifter paddles on the steering wheel.
EPA fuel-economy projections are 23 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 27 combined. In a concentrated 59.7-mile test with a period of sustained speedy expressway running (just 24 percent of miles were under city conditions), this driver averaged 40.07 mpg. The CLA has a tolerable stop/start function to help save a little premium gas.
Out on the road, the CLA250 is a nimble and alert handler. Drive modes also modify steering and damping behaviors that get a little sharper in Sport, but going up against surface imperfections was never overly loud or uncomfortable.
The CLA250 is an aggressive-looking little bauble, especially when, like the test car, it is equipped with the extra-cost AMG Line package of appearance features and lowered suspension. The low, racy look will best be appreciated by passengers who don’t stray too far beyond average human dimensions. Headroom is severely limited in back, and not even all that generous in the front seat. While the platform switch made way for more rear-seat space in the CLA, legroom is modest for two adult passengers, and narrow openings at the bottom of the doors complicate entry and exit.
The 11.6-cubic-foot trunk extends far forward to the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, and sidewalls are widened out at the back just ahead of the bumper. For larger cargo, the seat backs fold nearly flat and in a smooth transition from the trunk floor. For personal-item storage, the glove box, front-door pockets, and rear-seat net pouches are big and handy, but the console box and rear door pockets are small.
There’s a plush look and feel to the quiet cabin. The test car had supportive and grippy seats in black leatherette with suedelike DINAMICA inserts in the backs and cushions, and red stitching. (This is a no-cost choice, albeit only available in conjunction with an AMG package.) Controls are another facet of the interior experience, one that Mercedes is really hanging its hat on this year. MBUX allows users to access the system via a touchscreen, touch-control buttons, a console touchpad, or voice control with natural-language understanding. Seven-inch instrument and multimedia touchscreens are standard, but CG’s tester had the optional 10.25-inch instrument and display screens so big that they seem to form one continuous horizontal command center. This reviewer can’t say a good thing about the finicky touchpad that made audio-preset selection a frustrating and tedious exercise. The touchscreen keeps “80 percent of commonly used functions . . . just a few swipes away,” M-B says, but those functions are parceled out to lots of menus. Meanwhile, the colorful and legible digital driving controls have their own bevy of displays through which to scroll, but apparently the humble trip odometer reset isn’t deemed a “commonly used” function. It’s summoned somehow by the steering-wheel button controls—when I needed it, it appeared quite randomly. However, a prompt on the screen asked if I wanted to reset trip odometer, but there was no obvious means to change the choices from “No” to “Yes.” Hey Mercedes . . . what gives?
For cost, equipment, room, and performance, the CLA250 is well matched with its closest competitor, the 2-Series Gran Coupe. There are some tradeoffs between them, but if you spend about the same money you’ll wind up with a lot of the same convenience and tech features. That’s what happens sometimes when things get crowded.
2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic Gallery
2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic