Test Drive: 2014 Mercedes CLA250 Review

Jerry Reynolds | September 10, 2014
Test Drive: 2014 Mercedes CLA250 Review

I had to try to figure out if I was going to review the CLA250 as a Mercedes, or as just a small car. After a mental struggle, I decided it had to be reviewed as a Mercedes Benz since this new segment of small luxury cars is heating up.

If you have not seen this car in person, make no mistake, it is small. It is. in fact, smaller than Toyota Corolla, VW Jetta, and Nissan Sentra, to put its size in perspective. There is no mistaking the fact that it is a Mercedes, even from afar. You get the classic front end, similar lines between the bumpers, and Mercedes wheels have a certain look. That is where the Germans were smart on this car…they finally made a baby Benz that has good looks, something they never accomplished with the slow-selling C230.

The CLA250 is the first front-wheel drive Mercedes ever offered in the United States. It has a transverse-mounted 2-liter 4-cylinder engine that Mercedes bolted a turbocharger to. It is emitting 208-horses, which is very respectable for this sized car. Mated to the engine is a 7-speed, dual clutch automatic transmission. I will say the did a great job engineering this power train, there is virtually no turbo lag, and no torque steer. They have the start/stop technology, but they thankfully allow you to turn it off.

Driving characteristics are mixed for me. The handling is good, it corners well, but the overall ride quality is poor, nothing like a Mercedes. You feel every bump in the road, and on a rough road, it will beat you to death. On the plus side, when getting bounced around, the interior is extremely quiet with no outside noise at all.

On to the interior, it is a mixed bag, too. The leather seats are impressive to the eye, and the high back front buckets are nice, although if you are sitting in the back seat, the headrests block the forward view. That is probably not an issue because back seat occupants can only be children, and they’ll be looking down at their phone anyway.

The CLA250 has a tremendous amount of plastic inside, especially on the center stack, and that cheapens the interior greatly. I know, I know, this is an entry level Benz, but I have to think they could have used different materials and still turned a profit on this car.

Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, power memory seat, automatic headlights, Adaptive Brake technology and Collision Prevention system. It also comes with the Mercedes mbrace system, which works much like Onstar should you have an emergency, or need assistance of any kind. Of course, the CLA250 comes with power windows and door locks, a manual tilt steering wheel, and cruise control.

I know a lot of you got sucked in when the TV commercials started to air showing a new Mercedes for $29,900. It even got my attention, but the price climbs fast when you start to add options that most people would want on a Mercedes Benz. Destination charges are $925, so the stripped down CLA250 really starts at $30,825.

My review car has optional 18” wheels for $500, an upgrade from the standard 17” wheels. For $325, you get a little wood grain on the dash. The Premium package gets you six months of satellite radio, heated front seats, surround sound stereo, a compass, garage door opener, and dual-zone climate controlled air conditioning. Although those items should be standard equipment on any Benz, the charge is $2300.

The next package is Multimedia package, which I have no objection to. For $2370, you get navigation system, rearview camera, voice activation, real-time traffic and weather, all operated from a center console-mounted dial that operates a 7” LCD screen. The problem is the screen is mounted up high on the dash and looks like an afterthought. It works fine, it just looks like it was put in by Manny, Moe, and Jack.

Add the options up and you get to a total MSRP of $36,320. Unfortunately, we are missing items like any kind of sunroof, blind spot monitoring, cooled seats, and lane departure warning. Adding those items would bring the total price to $40,300.

Bottom line is the CLA250 is a mixed bag. On one hand, it is a Mercedes, one of my favorite car companies, and I think the overall quality is there. Fuel economy is good, although I am falling about 2-miles per gallon short of the 30 MPG combined rating. I like the exterior looks and the interior is OK. The harsh ride is a big issue for me.

However, the two bigger issues for me are first, the competition. I just had the 2015 Acura TLX that was $400 cheaper (it is $5000 cheaper when you add items to the CLA250 that the TLX has) it is a roomier car, it rides better, and gas mileage is comparable.

The biggest issue for me is what may be the greatest bait-and-switch ever pulled off by a car manufacturer. Many people have the expectation of getting a loaded Mercedes for under $30,000-only to find out that the car they want is $40,000. Clever marketing? It must be, it is working…the CLA250 is doing well. For me, the 3-pointed star on the front lost some of its luster.

  • What I liked most: Exterior looks, interior quietness.
  • What I would change: The pricing structure and ride quality.
  • MSRP: Base price $29,900. As equipped $36,320.
  • Fuel Economy: 26 City/38 highway/30 combined, but I am not getting it.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 10,240 miles.
  • Weight: 3262 Pounds.
  • Length-Width-Height: 182” long/80” wide/56” High
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.1 gallons.
  • Towing Capacity: N/A
  • 2014 CLA in a few words: A nice, entry level, near-luxury car, but it’s not under $30,000.
  • Warranty: 4-year/48,000 mile bumper-to-bumper with roadside assistance.
  • Manufacturers website: http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/vehicles/class/class-CLA/bodystyle-CPE

Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz

Gary B.
Just seen this and thought I would throw my .02 cents in for what its worth. We bout one of the first '14s off the lot trading in our C300. The deciding factor was the look and the MPG for us. We chose to go with the Edition 1 version which was full loaded with the AMG 18" rims and run flats. Decided to lose the run flats and go with all season radials. They made a difference in the bumps but not by much. We got the dark silver and put in limo tint all around in the windows. Let me tell you the car gets a lot of looks even to this day. We get great gas mileage and even better than the sticker. Top MPG was 48 mpg on highway. Too in for B service and had a ECU software update and was able to get 53.4 mpg. I was stoked had to show the boys at the MB dealership and they almost didn't believe it either. But one of the more impressive things about this car is its ability to haul butt when the turbo kicks in. Top speed I have gotten it to was 135 and she hugged the road and ran like she was on rails. I only was able to get her that high and not faster was my turn was coming up on that stretch of road. HAHA! I am sure she would have kept going...what a strong 4cyl turbo. Great car in my humble opinion.
Jerry .
Hey Rick, I think there are a couple of reasons. One, it gives them something to advertise to get people in the door, and second they hope to start people out with an entry level and then hope to move them into something nicer. Not sure how this strategy will work out, but we'll see! Thanks for listening to the show.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Rick .
I loved the car magazines reviews of this CLA. C-class is for those who can't afford the more expensive models but still want a MB. CLA class is for those that can't afford a Mercedes. LOL

The CLA does sound like an embarrassment to the marque.

Why do they do this?!
dave c.
I bought this vehicle in February and now have over 14K miles on it. Have travelled from FTW to Naples, Fl. twice (once in heavy rain) without difficulty. It is very quiet but you do indeed feel the road....much like a roadster. Holds the road much like a roadster as well. According to the vehicle I got 40.6 MPG on the highway and 36+ avg. I don't normally drive fast but know how to do it...when you hit the turbo,...hold on!....The price is kicked up dramatically with add-ons. I insisted I did not want ,or need, all the extras and it took the dealership about 6 weeks to find a vehicle that fit my needs. The total price (with TTL) was a little north of $33K. Looking back at this point, I would get the 18" wheels and the windows tinted. Other than that I am a happy MB CLA 250 owner....