Mercedes Benz CLA
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It might be the least expensive Benz available, but the CLA’s swoopy design makes it one of the more stylish cars on the road. The only engine is a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder making 208 hp. It teams up with a seven-speed automatic and either standard front- or optional all-wheel drive. However, the steering is heavy and the ride can be harsh over rough roads. The interior design is handsome, but the infotainment display looks tacked on—and tacky. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are optional.
The CLA’s shape mimics that of the larger, twice-as-expensive CLS—both are sedans in the “four-door coupe” mold that Mercedes started with the original CLS. Although there’s a wicked AMG CLA45 variant with 375 horsepower, the standard CLA250 uses a modest, 208-hp version of its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with either front- or 4MATIC all-wheel drive as in our test car.
Potential customers seem to dig it. With a starting price of only $33,325, the CLA puts a sleek body behind a seven-inch-wide star prominently affixed to a chrome-studded grille. In a way, the CLA approximates a gold chain more than it does a compact car.
We haven’t tested a CLA since its first model year in 2014, and neither of those previous cars was as lavishly optioned as this example. At $50,250, our 2017 CLA250 4MATIC checked so many boxes that it nearly matched the CLA45’s base figure. A well-equipped C300 4MATIC would be more compelling at this price, and a base E300 is only a couple grand more. But model overlap is common. Choice reigns at Mercedes-Benz, and the CLA is the starting point.