2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Road Test

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 stirs up the entry-level luxury segment

What It Is
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is a stylish compact sedan.
Best Thing
The CLA250 may be accessibly priced, but it doesn't look or feel that way.
Worst Thing
Features like a backup camera should be standard.
Snap Judgment
Crammed with style and allure, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is also priced to entice.


The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 represents a foray into a new entry-level luxury segment for Mercedes, and is part of a larger plan to better compete with rivals BMW and Audi. Until late last year, the most accessible Benz was the automaker's competent, bread-and-butter C-Class sedan. Meanwhile, the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series (now 2 Series) offered more compact, trimmed down cars that still offered a measure of luxury and the allure of a luxury badge. Mercedes may have been late to the game, but it made quite a statement once it did arrive. While the 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers classic, subdued styling, the CLA-Class will make you do a double take.

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Priced starting at $30,825 after delivery, the CLA250 attracts buyers that once thought the Mercedes nameplate was out of reach. Mercedes says the CLA has not only attracted a new, younger demographic to the brand, but has also brought buyers from other segments--ones willing to give up some practicality and room for style and luxury--into the mix.

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 208 horsepower, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The front-wheel drive architecture helps deliver better fuel economy in exchange for rear-wheel driving dynamics. Fuel economy is rated at 26/38/30 mpg city/highway/combined. While performance won't be the primary catalyst for CLA buyers, a 4Matic all-wheel drive option adds additional traction and improves handling, while the CLA45 AMG ups power to a commanding 355 horsepower with its 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

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What We Drove

Our 2014 CLA250 model came equipped with a bevy of standard equipment such as an ECO start/stop system, 17-inch wheels (which were upgraded to 18-inch wheels for an additional $500), Bluetooth, power front seats with lumbar support and memory, split-folding rear seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and ambient lighting. In addition to the larger wheels, our model added heated seats ($580) and an attractive, panoramic sunroof for an additional $1,480. Safety and security features included Collision Prevention Assist, Attention Assist, automatic headlights, anti-lock brakes, Adaptive Brake technology and Brake Assist, as well as a tire pressure monitoring system. The CLA has not yet been rated in government crash tests.

The Commute

The CLA250 can be driven in Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes, and the type of driving and mode you select will greatly vary the driving feel, performance, and observed fuel economy. In Eco, you'll notice decreased acceleration and sportiness, which may be fine if you're slogging away in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The difference from one mode to another isn't dramatic, but it is noticeable. Normal makes for a pleasant, get-about-town cruising, while the Sport mode livens things up a bit. But make no mistake--despite its aggressive styling--this is no sports car. The suspension, however, is stiff, meaning you'll get a firm ride quality.

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The seats are comfy and supportive, though larger drivers and passengers will feel a little cramped. For a run to dinner, five of us packed into the car with surprisingly little drama. Considering the CLA250 slots below the compact C-Class, there is a surprising amount of room when called upon. Taller passengers in the rear will notice the lack of headroom, a casualty of the sleek, sloped-back styling.

The Grocery Run

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is about as practical as buyers will expect; You can toss 3-4 carry-on bags in the trunk without effort, and the seats fold easily to accommodate for more room. The CLA trunk comes with a standard 13.1 cu.-ft., which is a little more than we originally expected. Maneuvering around parking lots is a breeze thanks to the CLA's slim frame, as is slipping into a parking space. Our model didn't have the optional backup camera, a feature that while not needed, we've become accustomed to.

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The Weekend Fun

While the CLA250 isn't a car we'd take for canyon-carving runs, it does make for a nice way to get around. Despite being on sale for several months already, we had several glances thrown our way, which is not the norm on a $33K car. Inside, there's a little more hard plastic than Mercedes owners will be used to, but there are also a lot of design elements we appreciate. The leather-like seats feel premium, and the metal and carbon fiber-like accents look good. The CLA250 will be happy to scoot you to your weekend coffee house or brunch spots, but if you're thinking long haul road trip, your rear-seat friends may want to drive themselves.

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Summary

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 widens the appeal, and increases accessibility into the luxury brand that may have been previously out of reach. It also adds a distinct option for buyers looking for a more aggressively styled car than the C-Class, but who can't afford some of Benz's pricier models. Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated exclusively to a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, buyers will find performance ample to get around town. Models like the 2015 Audi A3 should also be considered if you're shopping the segment, but if style is paramount, the CLA250 should be top of your list. At $33,385, much like when we first tested it, we think the CLA-Class is a must consider if you're shopping the entry-level luxury segment.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $33,385
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 26 mpg
EPA Highway: 38 mpg
EPA Combined: 30 mpg
Estimated Combined Range: 396 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: 5 yr. $41,152, Average Rating

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