REVIEW: 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC – Breaking The Rules Was Never More Fun

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The Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC does not stick to the usual sports sedan script. Starting with it being a coupe.

What is it? 

The Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC is a premium compact four-door, five-passenger car. Mercedes calls this vehicle a coupe. We have no problem with that. If a tomato is called a vegetable, not a fruit, then why can’t a four-door car be a coupe?

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Pricing and trims

The Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC coupe starts at about $39K in front-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line CLA 45 begins at around $57K. We tested a mid-trim CLA250 with 4Matic all-wheel drive and a healthy assortment of important options. The as-tested price came to $50,055. That puts this vehicle squarely into competition with the Genesis G70 3.3T  Sport AWD and Tesla Model 3.

Performance

The CLA250 4MATIC has a 221 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. This is a typical entry-level engine and transmission type for premium sporty vehicles. For this price point, it seems a bit anemic, but just on paper. The Genesis G70 we recently tested was priced at $53,245 and had a much more powerful 3.3-liter turbocharged V6. Tesla uses an electric drivetrain of course and has similar torque, but it feels stronger because the torque is instantaneous.

Mercedes says the CLA250 4MATIC will sprint to sixty from a stop in about 6.3 seconds. Mercedes makes a more powerful version of this car, but the price jumps by more than 15%. On the road, the CLA250 4MATIC accelerates adequately in “Comfort” mode. Use “Sport” mode and the vehicle comes alive and holds gears longer.  It’s hard to argue that anyone needs more thrust than the vehicle can generate in Sport mode.

Ride and handling

The ride and handling of the CLA250 4MATIC are superb in all situations. The car has a refined and solid feel that makes highway driving satisfying. On back roads, the CLA250 4MATIC steers sharply and spirited driving is a joy. The upgraded AMG brakes work perfectly as well. Pedal feel is just right and the car stops on a dime. Best of all, broken up roads don’t make the CLA250 4MATIC feel harsh. Mercedes has this car dialed in. Of the many ways this vehicle is satisfying, the ride is its most obvious way Mercedes is ahead of the pack.  We should note that our impressions were formed with the test vehicle wearing winter tires, not the sport tires it would ship to a dealer with. That impresses us even more.

Seating

The front seats are covered in premium microfiber suede that feels very comfortable in winter. Although the sport seats look track-ready and stiff, we found them to be very comfortable. We like the extendable thigh adjustment. The heated seat controls are on the door panel of all places.

Rear seating is tight for adults, but in this class that is the reality. If you want a large back seat Mercedes-Benze has a dozen other models to fill that desire.

Cargo

The cargo volume of the CLA class is 11.6 cubic feet. That is a bit larger than the 10 cubic feet offered by the Genesis G70. Unlike in the G70, there is no spare tire in the CLA250.

Infotainment, Controls, and Interior

Overall, the CLA250 4MATIC is plush and stylish inside. It is dramatically more luxurious than a Tesla Model 3 in our opinion, and a close match to the top-trim Genesis G70 in terms of overall panache. The CLA250 has an unusual infotainment array we grew very fond of during testing. There is one large rectangular screen spanning the center of the dash to the driver’s gauge area. We found the display to be sharp, clear, and super useful. First off, the center section acts as a touch screen. We like the ease of use of a touch interface. There is also a simple to operate remote user interface on the center console.

Mercedes has its own controls scheme. The steering wheel controls are on the opposite side of almost every other brand. The drive selector mode is a small stalk on the right of the steering wheel where wiper controls typically reside. Some seat controls are on the side of the seat, some on the front of it, and some on the door. It sounds like a mess, but it works. We adapted in moments, and found that it all makes good sense if you give it a shot. One thing we really liked was the button-switch operated climate controls that were divorced from the infotainment screen for the most part. You can do all the most frequent things like turn up the temperature with a tactile switch.

The CLA250 is also well-suited to the tech-savvy. For example, its phone interface uses the more modern smaller USB-C inputs. We used an adapter to connect with Android Auto with no difficulties. The Android Auto integration also extends to the gauge cluster. The phone tray charges the device and even has a small sliding holder that keeps it from flying around in sporty drives.  When in the tray, your phone can use near-field communication (NFC) protocol to communicate with the car. One added feature we will be looking for in 2021 from Mercedes will be wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. BMW is now rolling that nice feature out in its current product line.

Unfortunately, there was no heat for the steering wheel and no head-up display. At this price point, in this type of vehicle, those are omissions that we think shoppers will miss.

Overall

It is easy for some enthusiasts to dismiss cars like the Mercedes CLA250 4MATIC due to its seemingly high price tag, because it is not the fastest vehicle in a spec-sheet battle, or the fact that it is a sports sedan built on a front-wheel drive platform. However, we have tested a BMW 3 Series ($58,220), Genesis G70 ($53,245), Acura TLX ($50,945) and Infiniti Q50 ($60,475) in the past two months. None of them were more satisfying to drive than the Mercedes CLA250 4MATIC and all of them cost more. Surprisingly, this car from Mercedes-Benz, the brand with the most cachet, is the bargain of the bunch.

There are vehicles that one can drive faster on a racetrack than this Mercedes CLA-Class vehicle. Many of them are built by Mercedes. But in the real world, this car is a blast to drive assertively and very pleasant to just cruise in. Those looking for a fun, luxurious, classy, modern sports sedan at a price that is at the low end of the segment’s range need look no further than the 2020 CLA250 4MATIC from Mercedes-Benz.

 

 

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham