Buick Verano Vs. Mercedes-Benz CLA 250Enlarge Photo
The 2014 Mercedes CLA 250 lures first-timers into the Benz realm with its sterling reputation and a pitch-perfect base price, but it also raises plenty of questions--not the least of which is, what else should I test-drive before I sign all the paperwork?
It's a tough question, since the CLA has no direct competitors when price and prestige are coupled together. Only a few four-doors can give it some existential worries in the $30,000, front-drive niche. For now we're discounting the Audi A3--it's a hatchback, at least until early 2014--and the BMW 1-Series, which is a rear-driver, and a coupe or convertible at that.
We'd offer up the Acura ILX, and as we've suggested, even the newest Mazda 3. But for now, we consider the Buick Verano to be the CLA's most direct competitor.
We rate all cars for styling, performance, comfort and quality, safety, features, and fuel economy. And in this case, the CLA comes out on top, even before all the safety ratings are in. There's a "however," of course: in our numeric rankings, the CLA doesn't break entirely free of Buick in any category, while the Verano outshines the CLA in at least a couple areas.
Debate all you want--we consider the CLA's styling to be the Verano's superior by the widest margin in all our head-to-head comparisons. The CLA's a mini-CLS in silhouette, with the exciting surfacing of its bigger counterpart, and with a finely penned cabin. The Verano is handsome, but ultimately less exciting, inside and out. If only it had a little more of Buick's fantastic Regal in its panels and dash.
The Verano's a remarkably quiet, well-composed four-door--and in the preferred form, The Verano Turbo is priced just about where the base CLA 250 starts. In a straight line, on a long freeway cruise, we'd honestly be happier with the Verano's serene attitude. But when the road bends at all, it's the Benz you'll want to drive. The steering has a firm handshake, the ride's taut, body roll is about zero, and the paddle shift controls put the rorty--sometimes loud--turbo four in the middle of it all. The Verano leans willingly and lets its wheels travel more, all to take the brunt of the road for you, way more passive than aggressive. It's a night-day difference that lingers more in the back of our brains as we realize the Verano Turbo is the top of that line--while the CLA has AMG reaches left to explore.
Comfort and safety are the arenas where the Verano swipes points from the CLA's side of the table. The Buick's seats are softly supportive, and easier to climb into, especially in back where room is more ample, period. The CLA's basic leatherette seats are good, but the roof is low and the back seat only workable for medium-sized adults and anyone smaller. Its interior telegraphs "sporty," with plenty of plastic trim, while the Verano commands a more muted, more substantial look. The Verano also has aced some crash-test scores--the CLA has none banked yet, which could yet even this score.
Gas mileage: the CLA owns the Verano, with a 38-mpg EPA highway rating in easy reach of normal interstate driving.
Finally, in terms of features, both cars come very well-equipped at their point of competition. The Verano has more standard features at the CLA's base price, but without some key upsides. The $30,000 Buick has standard leather seating and 18-inch wheels, both options on the CLA, and an option for a manual transmission, not even on offer from Stuttgart. And yet, it doesn't offer the sporty handling of the $30,000 Mercedes, or all-wheel drive, or earn 30 mpg combined--or have the three-pointed star on the hood, whether you think that's worth the brisk upcharge or not.
The CLA is a sea change for Mercedes, and it's put together a convincing package at a compelling price, which is still substantially higher than the Buick's no matter how it's parsed. The Verano takes the idea of a small Buick up the social ladder in no small way--but it sidesteps the sporty vein that the compact luxury cars from Germany will mine, all day long, the CLA first among them.
Follow along with our Mercedes CLA coverage, and let us know what you'd like to see by posting to The Car Connection's Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages.
|2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class||2014 Buick Verano|
|A scaled-down CLS with turbocharged performance, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA proves the car world is shrinking--even at the luxury level.||Mild or slightly spicy--in either flavor, the 2014 Buick Verano delivers long on comfort, without bowing to sport-sedan cliches.|
|Read moreThe Mercedes CLA sports a mini-CLS silhouette, but gets interior inspiration from the sporty side of the haus.||Read moreThe appealing shape of the Buick Verano is paired with a high-quality, low-key interior.|
|Read moreThe front-drive CLA has sport-sedan ideals at heart; the AWD CLA45 wears them on its sleeve.||Read moreWith turbo power the Verano is quick, but not sporty; most of its effort goes into being smooth and quiet.|
|Read moreGrippy seats and low-gloss finishes make for a youthful cabin; you'll need to be young to fit in and get in the back seat.||Read moreIt's a compact, but the Buick Verano has a peaceful cabin, very comfortable seats, and agreeable interior room.|
|Read moreMercedes' reputation for safety precedes the CLA, but the NHTSA and IIHS have yet to opine.||Read moreThe Verano earns excellent crash-test scores, and adds new safety tech for 2014.|
|Read moreMB-Tex is standard and satellite radio is an option, but the CLA is Facebook-friendly and open to personalized touches.||Read moreCadillac features at a Chevy price: the Buick Verano doesn't miss out on much of GM's latest.|
|Read moreThe CLA 250 gets excellent EPA ratings of up to 30 mpg combined--and they're within easy reach.||Read moreThe Verano doesn't fare as well as most compacts in gas mileage.|
|from $29,900||from $23,700|
|from $27,807||from $22,752|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
Read Full Specs
Read Full Specs