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- CLS profile in miniature
- Eager turbo powertrains
- Good and better front seats
- Least pricey new Mercedes
- Facebook integration, even
- Rear seat only marginal
- Freestanding LCD screen disliked by some
- Good handling, stiff ride
- Fuel economy means slow shifts
- A Civic-sized Mercedes? Really?
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is a sharp-looking sedan that washes its hands of back-seat space, and stuns us in CLA45 AMG trim.
As the smallest sedan in the three-pointed star's ever-growing family, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA continues to woo a different kind of buyer than those who have traditionally sought and owned the German automaker’s big, rather conservative sedans and purposeful utility vehicles.
In its current form, we rate it at 6.6. It's a beautiful car with a compromised interior and a sharp handler with great fuel economy—but there is no crash-test data available to support its brand's reputation. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In silhouette, the CLA’s profile remains a somewhat shorter, scaled-down version of that of the handsome, swoopy CLS “four-door coupe.” It adds up to an audacious entry, one that makes the Audi A3, one of its closest rivals, look extremely conservative. For 2017, the CLA gets new bumpers, new front-end details, LED lighting, and a new spoiler-like lip at its tail that frames its roofline a little more concisely than before.
Swoopy and dramatic, the CLA's interior prioritizes style over practicality. It is basically a scaled-down version of the interior seen in other Mercedes-Benz products, but its finishes are intended to feel more youthful. Improvements for 2017 include new seat covers, new chrome-plated controls, and new trim pieces; and the instrument cluster gauges have a new look, with red needles.
Mercedes CLA performance
The CLA sedan remains closely related to the GLA crossover, which is essentially a hatchback version with higher ride height.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 remains the bulk of the CLA lineup, providing strong yet economical performance, while serious driving enthusiasts will head straight to the low-volume (and much pricier) hot-rod version—the Mercedes-AMG CLA45. A 208-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 powers the CLA250; it’s mounted transversely, producing 254 pound-feet of torque, and it powers the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The base CLA 250 can accelerate to 60 mph in well under seven seconds, and while the transmission can feel off guard by sudden power demands, running it in sport or manual mode works better for hotfoot drivers. Blame it on fuel-economy rules, which keep the car in high gears at low engine speeds as much as possible. But the 30-mpg combined rating (from previous model years, not yet confirmed for 2017) is easily reachable.
All-wheel drive is available as an option; and in most circumstances, this remains a system that’s biased toward the front wheels. AWD will shave off a few miles per gallon.
In the 2017 CLA45, the powertrain layout is familiar, although every component’s been uprated, strengthened, or improved. Last year brought a power boost, up to 375 hp and 350 lb-ft from the same 2.0 liters, with a 0-to-60-mph sprint in just 4.1 seconds, and those ratings continue into 2017. CLA45 models come with standard all-wheel drive, plus a transmission that’s been programmed for snappier downshifts and firmer shifts.
Across the lineup, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class lineup continues Mercedes tradition in providing a firm, heavy, planted feel—although a tightly-tuned steering, with a nicely weighted feel and quick responses—even if its feedback is minimal. In recent years, the suspension was made more compliant—a smart move that made the CLA250 more agreeable for more buyers—while the previously standard Sport mode and upsized 18-inch wheels are an option. Base models come with 17-inch run-flat tires, which offer a ride that’s reasonably good although sometimes unsettled.
Ride and handling attributes for the CLA45 are altogether different, and it’s as if you’re driving a completely different model in some respects. It corners flat and feels no rougher on most surfaces than the cheaper model; some might even describe its ride as more settled. An available AMG sport suspension flattens the roadholding even further.
CLA-Class comfort, safety, and features
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is quite enjoyable to drive, and it makes quite the visual statement; yet it’s not the car to pick if you customarily carry four adults. Space in back is very tight, and the rear doors alone make it challenging to get in and out. Legroom is rather tight, but headroom is probably the key limiting factor for usability. It’s the price you pay for that sleek silhouette. Cargo space is better than you might expect from the outside, though, and there are various bins and trays that show how Mercedes-Benz has been listening to how busy young professionals use their vehicles.
No crash-test data exists, but the CLA has a great set of active-safety features for some peace of mind, including a standard rearview camera and available LED headlights and adaptive cruise control. Outward vision is pretty bad, thanks to its extravagant shape.
The Benz CLA skips some features we expect from Mercedes, and prices soar with just a few options. All versions come with that rearview camera, Bluetooth, and MB-Tex synthetic upholstery, as well as the usual power features. Major options include adaptive suspension, Keyless Go, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, Harman Kardon audio, and a Parktronic system with Active Parking Assist.
You'll have to pay a premium to get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in your CLA—so while you're at it, why not spend up to the stunning CLA45 AMG? It's nothing shy of the best-looking, most prestigious Subaru WRX ever—and that's meant as high praise.