Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class vs. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - March 2, 2020

In 2020, Mercedes released a redesigned and more expensive CLA-Class to allow the new entry-level Mercedes-Benz A-Class some breathing room. This pushed the new CLA-Class closer to the midrange C-Class with its bold appearance, premium features, and improved performance.

Does the aging C-Class have what it takes to fend off the improved CLA-Class? Find out below.

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

What the CLA-Class Gets Right

The Mercedes CLA-Class starts the battle against its big brother with a significant price advantage. With a $37,645 starting price, it’s $4,750 cheaper than the base C-Class. Buyers can also opt for all-wheel drive and remain a few grand under the C-Class’ entry fee.

On top of this lower price, the CLA-Class is all-new, boasting a sporty look that makes it stands out in the crowd. And when AMG touches this sedan, it looks even bolder with its large air inlets on the front bumper, special wheels, and other performance and look-good bits.

Despite its low price, the CLA-Class lacks little in terms of standard features. Sure, its 7-inch infotainment screen is smaller than the standard 10.3-inch unit in the C-Class, but it has two of these screens – one for the infotainment screen and one for the gauge cluster. The CLA-Class’ bits continue with the new MBUX infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, leatherette upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a panoramic moonroof, LED headlights, and more.

While overall performance in the CLA-Class falls behind the C-Class, there is a sweet spot in AMG CLA 35, which uses a 302-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to shuttle it to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds. This is just a tenth of a second slower than the V6-powered AMG C 43, plus it's over $9,000 cheaper.

What the C-Class Gets Right

The Mercedes C-Class is a legend in the luxury sedan space, so it carries with it a status the CLA-Class can’t match. Plus, its longer and sleeker body offers a more premium look than the more aggressively styled CLA-Class.

The C-Class sedan is far from roomy in the back, as these seats offer 35.2 inches of legroom, which is 8.1 inches more than the CLA-Class. The C-Class’ rear seats also offer 37.1 inches of headroom, beating the CLA-Class by 1.4 inches.

Buyers seeking performance will find more satisfaction in the C-Class, as its base 255-hp engine delivers a 5.7-second 0-60 mph time. The 221-hp motor in the base CLA pushes it to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. At the top of the range, the CLA-Class has nothing to match the 503-hp AMG C 63 S and its 3.8-second 0-60 mph time.

While the CLA-Class and C-Class offer standard automatic emergency braking, the C-Class goes a step further with standard blind-spot monitoring. The C-Class has also been through full IIHS testing and earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating; the CLA-Class is still waiting for its date with the IIHS’ brick wall.

No Kids? Save Big Bucks with the CLA-Class

The CLA-Class falls short in some areas, but its biggest deficiency – and what puts the C-Class ahead of it – is its lack of rear-seat room. If you have no kids and rarely use the rear seats, the CLA-Class can offer you near-C-Class levels of performance, superior-tech, and more at a dramatically lower price.

Our Verdict: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class pulls off a narrow win over its all-new little brother thanks to its more family-friendly rear seats, certified safety ratings, and performance advantages. But this all comes at a price premium.

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

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

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

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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