Buick Verano Vs. Mercedes-Benz CLA 250Enlarge Photo
The Mercedes CLA 250 lures first-timers into the Benz realm with its sterling reputation, un-stodgy look and feel, 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?
Only the Audi A3 comes close to the CLA when price and prestige are coupled together. 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 as an interesting vehicle to potentially cross-shop.
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. As for safety, both of these models comes very well-equipped, and while the picture isn't very complete for either of them, the Verano does have an excellent record in IIHS testing.
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. At $30,000 the Buick includes standard leather seating and 18-inch wheels, both options on the CLA. And yet, it doesn't offer the sporty handling of the Mercedes, even in its base form, which lands at around the same price. Available all-wheel drive, higher gas mileage, and the three-pointed star on the hood are all additional, 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.
|2015 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class||2015 Buick Verano|
|The 2015 CLA is a small Mercedes done right, with enough of the brand's style and refinement mixed with a dash of youthfulness.||The 2015 Buick Verano may not be much of a sports sedan, but it certainly delivers in the category of comfort.|
|Read moreThe new CLA-Class owes its look to the larger CLS sedan, but the interior's more sporting.||Read moreA low-key, high-quality interior is paired well with the Buick Verano's handsome exterior.|
|Read moreThe base CLA wants to be a sport sedan, but could use better shifting; the CLA 45 AMG is a back-road gem.||Read moreIt's quiet and smooth, and even turbo power can't ruffle the Buick Verano's calm, controlled handling.|
|Read morePatient, small, young: be any one of those things before you try to go long-distance in the CLA's back seat.||Read moreWith agreeable interior space and very comfortable seats, the Buick Verano overcomes its compact-car dimensions.|
|Read moreNo crash-test data exists for the CLA yet.||Read moreCrash-test scores have been very good, and the Buick Verano now has a standard rearview camera.|
|Read moreAll the premium touches you'd expect are available, but a well-equipped CLA is easily more than $35,000.||Read moreThe Buick Verano doesn't miss out on many of the latest luxury and technology features.|
|Read moreThe EPA gives the CLA good gas mileage ratings, and we've found they're easy to reach in real-world driving.||Read moreGas mileage isn't the Verano's strong suit, not when it's compared to less expensive compacts.|
|from N/A||from $23,380|
|from N/A||from $22,444|
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|Front Leg Room (in)|
|Second Leg Room (in)|
Read Full Specs