30 Days of the Mercedes CLA: Fresh Eyes

October 29, 2013

We're winding up our 30 days of seat time with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 this week. While we wrap up our month-long driving experience, I've asked High Gear Media's trio of senior editors to kick in their thoughts on how the CLA fits its many missions--from a mainstream price point, from a high-economy or green perspective, and from a luxury and performance point of view.--Marty Padgett

How does it look from the mainstream?

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is offered at a bottom-line price of just $30,825.

That's going to be a revelation to a lot of shoppers who simply want to get the most car for the money. For just a few grand more than a loaded Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, or Volkswagen Jetta GLI—or somewhat less than a well-optioned mass-market mid-sizer like the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, or VW Passat—you could get this sexy-looking car with four doors and the Mercedes-Benz badge.

The 208-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four delivers strong performance and excellent drivability with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and the CLA feels as frisky as a VW GLI with the DSG gearbox but a little more 'grown up.' The CLA250 definitely won't fool you into thinking that it's a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan, and when you push it into action the raspy engine note might not fit your Mercedes dreams, but its ride-and-handling portfolio is better than that of any front-driver we know.

MORE: Read our 2014 Mercedes CLA review

Charm and style are what the CLA oozes, inside and out, from the moment you lay eyes on it. More like a baby CLS than a smaller sibling to the C-Class, the CLA has a long hood and flowing roofline that make it very, very pleasing to look at from some paces back. That said, the CLA isn't going to be a great vehicle for those who really need a sedan. The cabin feels cramped; headroom is tight even if you're approaching six feet; and the trunk doesn't make up for any inadequacies. Interior trim is priced according to the class--not according to your likely vision of a downsized CLS-Class.

In all, the CLA250 adds up to a lot of car for the money, especially if you can find an example in base form. And that's even before factoring in the 'badge equity' of the three-pointed star, and the image boost that goes with it.--Bengt Halvorson

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