2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class vs 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class: Compare Cars

May 8, 2020

Many car buyers aspire to own a Mercedes-Benz. The cars are a symbol of quality, bulletproof German engineering, and, yes, status. But if you can’t get the lord to buy you a Mercedes-Benz, you have to do it yourself, and that can really stretch the budget. Mercedes answers that issue with its two lowest-priced cars, the A-Class and CLA-Class. 

They’re essentially the same car underneath, with the same architecture and similar interiors. However, the A-Class is a more traditional four-door sedan with the space that implies, while the CLA-Class is a stylish coupe-like sedan, with the space compromises that implies.

The CLA-Class is also more powerful and slightly sportier, but Mercedes charges $3,850 more for it. The A-Class starts at $33,795, while the CLA begins at $37,645. 

Both cars earn the same TCC rating of 6.6 out of 10, but they go about getting there differently. Let’s compare them to see which is right for you.

MORE: Read our 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class and 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class full reviews

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

 

The cabins of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA-Class are virtually identical for passenger space with one notable exception. The front seats are supportive and comfortable with plenty of room in all directions. The rear seats of both have 33.9 inches of leg room, which is short and will be a challenge for taller riders. The big difference is in rear seat head room, where the A-Class has 37.2 inches of clearance and the CLA-Class has 35.7 inches. That might not sound like a lot, but it can make all the difference for adult passengers. Combine that with the A-Class’s 14.8 cubic feet of trunk room versus the CLA’s 11.6 cubic feet, and you can see why we give the A-Class the nod for comfort and quality.

From the front seat, it’s hard to tell the cars apart. The CLA has more thickly bolstered sport seats, but that’s the only real difference. A pair of digital displays, either 7.0- or 10.3-inches across, dominate the dash of both cars, along with Mercedes’ beautiful turbine air vents. Both also sport more cheap plastics than you’ll find in higher-end cars from the brand. These are entry-level cars and they don’t deliver the full Mercedes experience.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

Mercedes’ two entry-level cars have almost the same features, though the CLA-Class gets the aforementioned sport seats as well as 18-inch alloy wheels instead of 17-inchers. Otherwise, both come with a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights and taillights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone automatic climate control, and synthetic leather upholstery. Options for both include adaptive dampers, 10.3-inch dashboard screens, navigation with augmented reality, ambient lighting, a Burmester sound system, a head-up display, and wireless device charging.

The CLA’s equipment upgrades don’t account for the nearly $4,000 difference between the cars, but the CLA also offers more power and a sportier suspension tune.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

In its base form, the CLA 250 is motivated by a 228-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo-4, while the CLA 220 gets a 188-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4. Both cars offer front- or all-wheel drive and both also boast AMG 35 models with 302-hp turbo-4s that turn them into pocket rockets. 

However, we’re comparing the base cars, and the CLA is at least a half-second quicker to 60 mph. Both use the same 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that shifts responsively. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

2020 Mercedes-Benz A Class

Mercedes offers three suspension choices for buyers of the A- and CLA-Class base models. A four-wheel independent suspension is standard, a lowered AMG Line suspension tightens things up, and available adaptive dampers switch between comfort and sport settings. Both cars are taut, though the CLA has firmer suspension tuning. We give the CLA 250 an edge in acceleration and handling.

So, which is right for you? The A-Class is the value leader and it has a better back seat and trunk. The CLA is quicker, sportier, and prettier. We’d choose the A-Class because it still looks good and it costs about 10% less for a car that drives much the same. Still, both are fine ways to enter into the Mercedes-Benz fraternity.

Summary

6.6
Expert Rating
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class packs sexy tech in a sexy bod, while it throws bargain pricing under the bus.
6.6
Expert Rating
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan is the most affordable new Mercedes on sale. Its three-pointed star will be the attraction, but there’s plenty to stick around for after.

Styling

8.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 CLA sports a dramatic roofline and shrunken-CLS lines, and finally, a worthy cockpit.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Smooth and sharp, the 2020 A-Class is a stately compact car for reasonable money.
Read More

Performance

7.0
Expert Rating
Perky and grippy, the 2020 CLA is fleet of feet.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Mercedes-Benz improved its small car formula with the 2020 A-Class.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

5.0
Expert Rating
Better creature comfort makes for a better CLA-Class.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 A-Class fits four adults better than the older baby Benzes, but we’re more impressed with the fit and finish.
Read More

Safety

There’s no crash-test data to report, but the 2020 CLA puts safety technology to the fore.
Read More
Crash data is lacking for the 2020 A-Class, but every model now gets standard automatic emergency braking.
Read More

Features

8.0
Expert Rating
It’s no bargain, but the 2020 CLA-Class now has the standard equipment it deserves.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
Good base features and a handful of options keep the A-Class within reach for first-time luxury buyers.
Read More

Fuel Economy

5.0
Expert Rating
Pretty on the road, the 2020 CLA gets better-looking at the gas pump.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 A-Class earns respectable fuel-economy ratings.
Read More

MSRP

from $36,650
from $32,800

Invoice

from $34,451
from $30,832

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

28
28

Engine

Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-4, 2.0 L
Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-4, 2.0 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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