The Mercedes-Benz CLA offers a gorgeous package and does so with the brand’s most affordable model. Front-wheel drive is standard, while 4Matic all-wheel drive distributes up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels under certain conditions.

Best Value

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is a four-passenger, four-door coupe. It comes in one trim with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. A performance AMG CLA 45 model is marketed separately. We think most buyers will choose the front-wheel-drive model that starts at $33,695 including destination.

The CLA 250 comes with 17-inch wheels, imitation leather seats, 14-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, and an eight-inch color display. As is common for Mercedes-Benz, the CLA 250 offers multiple packages and single upgrade options.

  • Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four
  • Output: 208 hp / 258 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 24 city / 37 hwy
  • Options: Premium Package ($1,800, heated front seats, satellite radio, keyless entry and push-button start, blind-spot monitoring), Driver Assistance Package ($1,500, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist), Smartphone Integration Package ($350, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility).
  • Base Price:$33,695 (including the $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$37,345

Performance

Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine that makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This engine sends power to the wheels by means of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

The CLA is derived from the same platform underpinning the GLA, sharing its engine, transmission, and most suspension components. The CLA launches with authority and the transmission usually reacts promptly. Driving in Sport Mode supplies an improved connection for the driver, although we find the paddle shifters are smaller than what we’d like.

The best news is that this Mercedes feels a lot like other models and that’s even with front-wheel drive. The CLA feels planted and does an admirable job of navigating twisty roads. The ride is comfortable and braking is firm.

Style

Mercedes-Benz made certain to get the styling right with the CLA, taking no chance that it'd be dismissed as some cheap, front-wheel-drive variant. The styling is an enticing derivative of the outgoing CLS, but with its own front-end details. The large taillights might seem out of place on some models, but they only enhance the CLA’s look. The roofline is one of the most dramatic we have seen on a vehicle with four doors.

The exterior’s styling flair takes a toll on the interior, at least from a passenger seating comfort point of view. Two adults sit in comfort up front, but the rear space is already small and the roofline intrudes on headroom space. Mercedes scalded down the cockpit found in larger models to fit the CLA, while the center console offers an aftermarket vibe – not uncommon to this segment

The Best and Worst Things

We like that the CLA 250 delivers a recognizable design, executing well on a small frame. People might mistake the CLA for a far more expensive model on account of its beautiful canvas.

As mentioned, the falling roofline takes its toll on rear passenger comfort. If you're considering this model for you and your significant other, then this isn’t a problem. Otherwise, the two rear seats are most useful for youngsters.

Right For? Wrong For?

Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

Affording a luxury car has become more difficult in recent years as the price point for entry-level models is well above $40,000. The CLA along with the GLA give Mercedes-Benz a foothold in a market where competing brands make a mark.

If you need space for more than two adults, this model isn’t going to do it. Moving over to the GLA is one option as is moving up to the larger (and pricier) C-Class.

The Bottom Line

In the 2018 CLA, Mercedes-Benz supplies a gateway to the brand. Its sporty and elegant look suggest a far costlier model, giving consumers much of what they want from the tri-star brand.