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2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class Review

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a compact luxury car with finesse. Its low price is justified in its small footprint and interior, but it still looks great.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a four-door sedan that’s entry-level luxury, if that’s a thing. With an aging but striking design, the CLA is an eye-catcher from every angle. The reasonable $30,000 starting price doesn’t stay that way for very long, as the CLA rolls out of the factory without much of the luxury kit that buyers will want. We rate it 5.8 out of 10 overall, noting its strong performance—especially the CLA45, but the fact that it can’t comfortably seat four adults holds it back from being truly great. 


Aside from a new color in the CLA250 and a couple of new packages in the CLA45, the CLA-Class is the same car we’ve seen since 2017. The attractive exterior styling is a major selling point and makes the CLA’s rivals from BMW and Audi look tame in comparison.

A 2.0-liter turbo-4 is the powerplant of choice for the CLA line, with most models getting 208 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. Power is delivered through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. In standard guise, the CLA250 will run up to 60 mph in about seven seconds, all while managing 30 mpg.

The CLA45 bumps power output to a bonkers 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque and can hit 60 mph in just over four seconds. Power is brutal and immediate and makes the CLA 45 a rocket ship of a sedan.

The CLA-Class is a decent performer overall with respectable handling. The ride could be better, though the addition of adjustable suspension helps quite a bit.

Standard features on the 2019 CLA-Class include 17-inch wheels, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth connectivity, power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, and synthetic leather.

Spend up and Mercedes throws at the CLA-Class up to 19-inch wheels, grippy synthetic suede, premium audio, adjustable suspension, or a high-horsepower engine.

Styling
Both the 2019 CLA250 and 2019 CLA45 feature the sweeping, dramatic design that made them revolutionary so many years ago.

The 2019 CLA250 still carries the same arresting design that made the car a standout for Mercedes-Benz when it premiered. With a swept-back, sleek silhouette, the design has weathered the years well. Mercedes has translated this design to other models like the C-Class and E-Class with better results since. We rate the 2019 CLA 7 out of 10 for its well-aged design that still looks revolutionary.

The CLA is almost a mirror image of the now-gone CLS that was a striking design when it came to market over a decade ago. Slight refreshes like updated front-end styling have kept the CLA’s look fresh over the years. Large taillights complete the look, swooping in from either side to accent the dramatic roofline and silhouette.

Of course, all of this glorious vanity can’t come without some pain. Like a fine pair of Louboutins, there have to be some sacrifices made to accommodate the curves, and in this case it’s the ability to seat four adults.

The CLA’s interior carries much of the same attitude that makes the exterior so striking, but robs much-needed passenger space to pay the piper. Back-seat head room is compromised, and leg room leaves much to be desired.

The “floating” infotainment screen feels slightly out of place in our eyes, but the CLA isn’t the only offender in its class.

The CLA250 looks sportier than it is—even more so with the larger optional wheels installed. The CLA45 looks downright aggressive, with large front air intakes and sharper aero all around.

Performance
The 2019 CLA250 is good enough for a Mercedes badge and the CLA45 is a true enthusiasts’ car.

The CLA offers crisp steering and capable braking but suffers from a harsh ride and only average powertrain. With that in mind, we rate the 2019 CLA 6 out of 10 for performance. 

The CLA250 is the volume-seller of the line and is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that produces 208 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. It’s a busy engine with power that comes on somewhat erratically, which is fun during sporty driving but can be stressful in daily driving.

The 7-speed dual-clutch automatic does an admirable job taming the engine, with a smooth start off the line and quick shifts. Spirited driving can cause some stutters, so manual-shifting may be preferable in those situations.
Road feel is stable and planted, though the optional adjustable suspension reigns in some of the stray bumps and wobbles.

Mercedes’ “4Matic” all-wheel drive system is optional on the CLA250 for $2,000. The system is front-drive oriented and able to shift up to 50 percent of the power to the rear.

The CLA45 is an upgrade that brings 375 hp and an almost four-second 0-60 mph run. The CLA45 has reconfigured steering, suspension, braking, and ride height, which significantly improves performance. The suspension goes from unforgiving to unmercifully stiff in the CLA45, although it’s more suited for high-speed stability than low-speed cruising, admittedly. The CLA45 features standard 18-inch wheels and thicker anti-roll bars. The stability system controls each brake individually, which helps provide simulated torque vectoring on corners. That all adds up to a car that is very capable on a track and not at all CLA250-like.

Comfort & Quality
The 2019 CLA does its best Mercedes-Benz impression and mostly succeeds.

The CLA250 has four doors, but any similarity to a traditional sedan stops there. Back seat comfort for any normal-sized adult is sacrificed in the small Mercedes for the vanity of a sweeping roofline. We’d rather road trip in the back of a Ford Focus than hunch over in the CLA—well, maybe. We’ve rated it a 4 out of 10, almost dropping another point for a poor backseat overall. 

Entry and exit are difficult no matter the door, thanks to the small openings. If shuttling seniors is your primary goal, we’d suggest opting for a different vehicle.

Once you’re inside, the front seats are comfortable and supportive with decent adjustability. Mercedes-Benz has given the CLA plenty of small storage bins up front, perfect for mobile phones and wallets.

The CLA hides its price tag well, with only a few sub-luxury touches immediately apparent. There’s a bit more plastic than we’d like in a Mercedes-Benz, but the interior isn’t bad at all.

Safety
The 2019 CLA hasn’t been crash-tested, ever. Optional safety equipment helped it earn a solid collision-avoidance score.

Even after several years on sale, the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class lacks any official crash data from federal or independent testers. We’re not sure why, but we’ll update this space if that changes anytime soon.

IIHS did assign a “Superior” rating for the CLA’s front-collision avoidance abilities with optional equipment but gave its headlights a “Poor” designation.

The CLA comes with a standard rearview camera, driver attention monitor, and forward collision warning. Available features include automatic emergency braking, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors.

Features
The 2019 CLA becomes more interesting— and more expensive with options added in.

The 2019 CLA can be a very affordable car in base trim, but Mercedes won’t be selling many of those. The features that people want and expect out of a German luxury sedan can drive that price north of $40,000 without much effort. We’ve awarded it 7 out of 10 for its interesting options list and good infotainment system—once Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have been optioned-in.

The CLA’s standard kit includes power driver’s seat, 17-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, 8.0-inch infotainment, Bluetooth connectivity, and vinyl upholstery.

New in 2019, the CLA gets a Denim Blue paint color and the CLA45 gets two new equipment packages: Premium and Convenience, along with 19-inch AMG Multi-Spoke Wheels.

Drivers in colder climates will want to opt for all-wheel drive in the CLA250, which adds $2,000 and a generous amount of grip.

Mercedes holds back Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as a $350 option, but the added usability it brings to the infotainment system is worth the change. It’s $2,000 less than Mercedes’ own COMAND system and far better in most cases.

The CLA250’s option list includes adaptable suspension (worth the upgrade), panoramic sunroof (not worth it), Harman Kardon audio, and parking sensors. The available 18-inch wheels look great and don’t kill the ride quality.

Recaro sport seats are available in the CLA45 and are well worth the added cost. They’re supportive and kept our backsides where they belong on curvy roads.

Fuel Economy
The 2019 CLA offers decent fuel economy across the board, especially when driven gingerly.

The 2019 CLA hasn’t been rated yet, but based on its similarities to last year’s mode, we expect it to perform the same. Based on that, we can rate the 2019 CLA 5 out of 10 for fuel economy. 

Fuel consumption clocks in at 24 mpg city, 37 highway, 29 combined for the front-wheel-drive models, while all-wheel-drive models rate 24/32/27 mpg. Opt for the hotrod CLA45 and those numbers drop slightly to 23/30/26 mpg, though many people will find less than that while driving it the way it begs to be driven.

The standard stop-start tech helps but does suffer some awkward stutters when shutting off and may restart at longer stoplights.

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