The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class may be a compact sedan, but it's big on design, powertrains, and ride. The front seat is very comfortable, but the back seat offers very little room. A reasonable starting price can quickly spiral out of control if you're not careful.

Best Value

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is presented as a four-door sedan, although the automaker refers to it as a coupe on account of its sloping roofline. This model is offered as the CLA 250 Coupe or the AMG CLA 45 Coupe. The standard model has front-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive. The AMG model is all-wheel drive.

Our choice is the CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe, which adds $2,000 for all-wheel drive. The CLA 250 is unusual for this chiefly rear-wheel-drive brand as it's built on a front-wheel-drive architecture. Although the handling is quite good, we think all-wheel drive supplies the desired edge for spirited driving as well as control on slippery roads.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, vinyl upholstery, a power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control an eight-inch infotainment screen, and Bluetooth. Most models come far better equipped, which easily pushes your price past $40,000. We chose the items we think make the most sense, while keeping an eye on affordability.

  • Model: 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic Coupe
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine
  • Output: 208 hp / 254 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 24 City / 32 Hwy
  • Options: Leather seating ($1,600, leather upholstery, MB-Tex upper dash and door trim), Premium Package ($1,800, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry, SiriusXM satellite radio, a Harman Kardon surround sound system), Smartphone Integration Package ($350, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility)
  • Base Price: $36,095 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $39,845

Performance

Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

Powering the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This engine makes 208 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque and works with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The CLA’s all-wheel-drive system is front-centric, but it's able to shift up to 50 percent of its power to the rear wheels. We found the engine “busy,” which means power comes on at erratic intervals. This can be fun when pushing down twisty roads or zooming out of corners, but in city traffic the fun is gone. The dual-clutch transmission does a stellar job of keeping the engine in line. That said, we recommend operating in sport mode whenever spirited driving is pursued.

We give the CLA 250 high marks for its stable, planted feel. You may feel stray bumps and wobbles at times, something the available adaptive suspension system mitigates.

Style

The sleek lines of CLA mirror the now-defunct CLS. That striking design came to the market more than a decade ago, but it aged well by the time it appeared on the CLA. We’ve seen some changes since, including an updated front fascia. The beautiful curves remain and the taillights are exquisite, offering a dramatic complement to the roofline and profile.

But there's a cost in all this. Specifically, if you’re wanting to fit four adults in comfort, you simply cannot. Access and egress are a challenge, especially in the second row. Leg space is almost non-existent and head room is very restricted by the plunging roofline. If you do use the rear seat, two children in car or booster seats won’t have a problem.

As for the rest of the interior, the standard vinyl seats aren’t ugly, but they seem too low-rent for a Mercedes-Benz. This is why we opted for leather. We also skipped recommending the brand’s COMAND infotainment control system with navigation. Yes, you’ll pay extra for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, but the two systems are better than COMAND.

The Best and Worst Things

One of the best things about the CLA-Class is that it brings Mercedes-Benz affordability to more buyers. But it does so at a cost, particularly its base package with vinyl seats and front-wheel drive. Still, if you can package this model wisely, you should be able to leave the dealership without spending more than $40,000.

Right For? Wrong For?

Mercedes-Benz CLA Class

If you’re looking for an affordable luxury model, the CLA-Class is worth a look. But hold on: the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan arrives in early 2019 and it may be the better choice for you. At the same time, if you’re looking for a sporty luxury compact, the CLA-Class may not possess the performance chops you want at a price you can afford. The AMG CLA 45 is an option, but it costs north of $50,000.

The Bottom Line

It may have four doors, but the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is ideal for two people. Its style is outstanding, performance is fairly good, while its interior can stand a few options to bring it up to snuff. All in all, this Mercedes supplies an affordable gateway to this storied German brand.