Lexus IS 200t vs. Mercedes-Benz CLA250

By

Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.


, Contributing Editor - March 15, 2016

Lexus first launched its smallest sedan back in 2001. Redesigning for 2014 made the IS four-door a bit larger in its third generation. Three engines now are offered, highlighted by a new turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder in the IS 200t. That version comes only with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Lexus also offers two V6 options. An F Sport package is available for each IS model.

Based upon the A-Class hatchback available elsewhere in the world, the CLA250 is the first front-wheel-drive model to reach the U.S. from Mercedes-Benz. Introduced for 2014, it’s also the least-costly Mercedes at American dealerships. Highly aero-efficient, the CLA250 adapts it coupe-like four-door body from the bigger CLS sedan. Technology is paramount, including standard fatigue alert; but most active-safety and other features come only in option packages.

See a side-by-side comparison of the IS 200t & CLA250 »

What the Lexus IS 200t Gets Right

Performance might be stronger with one of the V6 engines—especially in the IS 350—but the new 241-horsepower turbo-four in the IS 200t is peppy enough to satisfy most drivers. Unless they’re tromping hard on the pedal, that is, in a passing or merging maneuver. At that point, a brief but significant delay might occur, stemming from the turbocharger and transmission. No such delay accompanies full-throttle operation with a V6.

Ride comfort varies from gentle much of the time, to substantially harsher when the pavement suddenly worsens. Fuel economy is passable but not A-1, EPA-estimated at 22 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway. Reaching the back seat may require some squirming, and a low roofline impedes access. Front seats are snug, straddling a wide console. Instruments annoy, with small buttons.

What the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Gets Right

Efficient performance could be considered the byword for this “affordable” Mercedes-Benz. A turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque—sufficient to reach 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Power reaches the front wheels (or all four) via a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission, controlled by a stalk mounted on the steering column.

A standard sport suspension yields a sporty overall feel, but the ride is quite firm. Trunk space is good, with a flat cargo floor, but getting into the back seat isn’t easy. That seat is tight, with minimal head clearance. Stop/start technology is standard. Gas mileage impresses, estimated at 26 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway, but all-wheel drive sinks those figures to 24/33 mpg.

Can smallest Lexus sedan measure up against shapely front-drive Mercedes-Benz?

Mercedes-Benz appears to be courting a more sport-minded audience, while the Lexus is less focused on handling talents.

Our Verdict: Mercedes-Benz CLA250

Lexus definitely has its favorable points, but the CLA250 has an all-wheel-drive option and a stronger list of appealing features, to offset its firm ride. Unfortunately, many of them cost extra.

Take a closer look at the Lexus IS 200t »

Take a closer look at the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 »

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

, Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.