Highlights: A compact crossover based-off the same platform as the front-wheel-drive CLA will be arriving at dealerships soon. The vehicle will be known as the GLA.
Test vehicle’s MSRP: $38,695 (Base Model starts at $30,825)
Seating Capacity: 5
Standard Safety Features: 10 airbags; ABS; brake hold feature; rain sensing wipers; electronic parking brake; daytime running lights; a Tire Pressure Monitoring System; an electronic stability program; and an electronic traction control system
Standard Equipment: 17-inch wheels; paddle shifters; 14-way power front seats with memory; cloth seats; a 4.5-inch audio/infotainment screen; spilt folding rear seats; electromechanical power steering; and a fuel saving stop/start feature
Suspension System: a sport-tuned 4-wheel independent suspension system
Standard Audio: AM/FM/CD/HD Radio
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles
Bluetooth Compatibility: Yes
Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder/208-horsepower
Recommended Fuel: Regular
Standard Fuel Mileage: 26-city/38-hwy
Other Trim Levels:
CLA250 4Matic (all-wheel-drive)
What’s New: Although the C-Class was designed to capture younger buyers, bringing them into the luxury fold, the CLA’s mission is to do just that now that the C-Class moves upscale in both price and features.
Pros: The entry-level, four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz mimics the flagship S-Class. Unlike Mercedes-Benz’s previous attempt to cater to a younger crowd, offering a three-door hatchback several years ago, the CLA is a true compact sedan. Like the brand’s flagship, the S-Class sedan, the CLA offers a sloping coupe-like design all while proudly wearing the brand’s new signature grille, there is no denying this is a Mercedes-Benz.
In fact, once we were behind the wheel of the CLA, we immediately realized that the CLA offers the same precision and handling we’ve become accustomed to with this German luxury brand even with the offering of one-engine, which happens to be a peppy 4-cylinder. The CLA offers a variety of noticeable driving configurations. The driver can switch from sport to economy to a normal driving mode.
And, unlike the other vehicles in the lineup, the CLA offers Porsche Panamera-styled sports-like front seats, which conform to the body. There is no separation between the seats and the headrests; it’s just one integrated piece. The vehicle also wears the Mercedes-Benz logo on the steering wheel, while having the appropriate placement of the integrated circular vents for both the heat and air. Yes, this is a pure Mercedes-Benz through and through, offering a youthful, but less overly technical vehicle, as in the case of others vehicles in the brand’s family.
Moreover, the CLA, like every other vehicle in the brand’s line up, can be outfitted with a host of safety and luxury features. Some of those features include leather seating surfaces, an oversized power roof, a rear view camera, XM satellite radio, a 6-disc CD changer, a radar-activated cruise control system, blind-spot mirrors, a lane changing system, and 18-inch AMG wheels.
Furthermore, for those residing in the Snowbelt, an all-wheel drive configuration is available too, which pushes the price up by $2,000.
Cons: Unless one owns a Mercedes-Benz, it takes a moment to become acclimated with their vehicles. The same is true for this front-wheel-drive CLA. In fact, the location of the turn signal and the electronic gear shifter was quite an adjustment for us. Time and time again we found ourselves using the gear selector as the turning indicator, simply because of the location.
Also to our surprise, this Mercedes-Benz still requires a key to start the vehicle, as opposed to a push-button keyless starter. And, as opposed to offering three-position memory seats as standard for both front occupants, we would have preferred standard leather seats, standard XM satellite radio for 6 months or even a standard sliding oversized panoramic roof instead.
Furthermore, although the entry level vehicle is positioned right at $30,000, in order to outfit the vehicle with what most would see as necessary features, one could easily add-on several thousands in options, which easily drives up the price of the vehicle near, or if not over, $40,000.
Lastly, it’s too bad there is no manual transmission vehicle offered in this vehicle. Yes, paddle shifters are standard, but it’s not the same. True driving enthusiasts prefer a manual.
The Verdict: The last attempt Mercedes-Benz made to attract the younger generation was with the sawed-off 2001 C 200 200K Sportcoupe, which was configured as a three-door hatchback, with a fastback profile. The hatchback Mercedes-Benz stayed around in the U. S. until 2008.
This time around the Germans enter the market with the fresh CLA compact German sedan, which is a true Mercedes-Benz through and through, offering coupe-like styling all while wearing a Mercedes-Benz grille. The brand new CLA feel, looks and drives with the same precision we’ve come to expect from other vehicles wearing the prestigious logo.
Now while the vehicle is priced a few thousands less than Caddy’s import fighter, the ATS, pricing for Audi’s new 2015 A3 mirrors that of the CLA.
Overall, since the CLA rolled into dealerships this past November, the brand’s entry level vehicle has been a sales success, attracting a new generation to the brand. So, the real challenge is for the German automaker to try to fill a back log of orders and to retain those buyers. The CLA is definitely at an attainable price to usher a younger generation into the family.
Competition: Audi A3, BMW 2-Series and Cadillac ATS
Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to JeffCars.com. Follow him http://twitter.com/#!/JeffCars/.