Audi A3 vs. Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - November 13, 2018

Brands like Mercedes-Benz and Audi have made it easier for younger consumers to get into their luxury vehicles. Subcompact vehicles like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class may be entry-level options into the world of luxury cars, but they wear their respective brand's badges proudly and are fitted with upscale features. While good options for those wanting luxury on a budget, both require some compromise when it comes to interior space.

See a side-by-side comparison of the A3 & CLA-Class »

What the A3 Gets Right

Right out of the gate, the A3 gets a point for being more affordable. The 2018 model of Audi's subcompact sedan starts at $32,925, while the 2019 CLA 250 Coupe is priced at $34,095 (prices include destination). While not exactly a massive difference, the A3 offers more value with features like xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights, heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and leather upholstery as standard.

Both the A3 and CLA-Class compete in the subcompact segment, but the A3 is the option with more interior space. Audi's sedan has more front leg room, front head room, rear head room, and rear leg room than the CLA-Class. Rear leg room is especially noteworthy, as the A3 has eight more inches than the CLA-Class.

Audi and Mercedes-Benz offer high-performance versions of their respective sedans, but it's the RS3 that's more powerful and quicker than the AMG CLA 45. The RS3's turbocharged engine makes 400 horsepower – 25 more than the AMG CLA 45's motor – and can get to 60 miles per hour in just 3.9 seconds, while the AMG CLA 45 takes 4.1 seconds.

What the CLA-Class Gets Right

When it comes to performance for base engines, the CLA-Class' outshines the A3's. The Mercedes comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that makes 208 hp. The A3 is fitted with a similar engine, but it's rated to produce 186 hp. The CLA-Class is also more fuel efficient on the highway, capable of getting an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. The best the A3 can manage is 26/35/29 mpg (city/highway/combined).

The A3 may have a more spacious cabin, but the CLA-Class has a larger trunk. Cargo volume for the CLA-Class measures in at 13.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which is approximately one cubic foot more than the A3's cargo capacity.

Who the CLA-Class is Right for

With its sloping roofline and stylish exterior design, the CLA-Class puts style before comfort. With its peppier base engine, Mercedes-Benz's offers more in terms of performance right out of the box.

Verdict: Audi A3

It may be down on power compared to the base Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, but the Audi A3 really shines as an affordable luxury vehicle. It has the features, a high-performance option, and a reasonable price tag, which the CLA-Class can't match. In all regards except for styling, the A3 outclasses the CLA-Class.

Take a closer look at the Audi A3 »

Take a closer look at the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter | Website