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

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - November 21, 2018

You would be forgiven for getting the Mercedes CLA-Class and C-Class confused. Mercedes calls the CLA a coupe, but just like the C-Class, it has four doors. The C-Class has a longer wheelbase and more leg room, but the CLA-Class gets more cargo space. Both start with four-cylinder engines and offer sporty AMG models. Confused yet? You’re not alone, but a few key differences separate the two sedans. Read on to find out which we prefer.

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

What the CLA-Class Gets Right

The biggest advantage of the CLA-Class is price. In base trim, the 2019 CLA 250 is $8,300 cheaper than a 2019 C 300. For a four-door sedan that’s only two inches shorter, that’s quite a bit of value.

All-wheel drive is an option on the CLA, as is a tuned AMG engine with 375 horsepower. An available adaptive suspension smooths out the ride. The interior doesn’t suffer, either – all CLA’s get dual-zone climate control and an eight-inch infotainment screen. Some options are expensive, but eight grand covers quite a few.

While aesthetics are always subjective, the CLA’s dramatic roofline is a bold and attractive alternative to conventional sedan bodies. Although cabin space is restricted, cargo space is slightly larger than that of the C-Class.

Finally, the CLA-Class wins out on fuel economy. The 2019 CLA 250 gets an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon city, 37 mpg highway, and 29 combined, while the 2019 C 300 achieves 23/34/27 mpg (city/highway/combined). The difference is even starker at the performance end of the spectrum, where the CLA 45 trounces the C 63 in combined mpg: 26 to 19.

What the C-Class Gets Right

While the CLA-Class may be the cheaper entry point, the C-Class will win buyers on comfort alone. The CLA’s roofline may be handsome, but it severely restricts rear-seat room. In the second row, the C-Class offers a full eight inches more leg room.

The C-Class is up in the power department as well. A base C 300 gets 241 horsepower, compared to just 208 in the CLA 250. At the upper end, the C-Class can house a V6 or even V8 engine, while the CLA is stuck with variations on a turbocharged four-cylinder. There’s even a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

And while the CLA-Class is still a Mercedes, the C-Class is the more luxurious of the two. It comes with more standard features, more options, and more customizability.

Luxury On a Budget

As the smallest sedans that Mercedes has to offer, both these cars are relatively accessible ways into the Mercedes lineup. But even between the two, the CLA-Class feels like a C-Class lite. It’s cheaper, a little less powerful, and substantially less comfortable for rear-seat passengers. As a small bonus, the CLA’s unconventional profile will turn a few heads.

Our Verdict: C-Class

Although the Mercedes-Benz CLA is the affordable choice, we’d still opt for a C-Class in the end. The rear seat usability is worth the cash, and all the available powertrains are excellent. It may be more expensive, but this is Mercedes – if you’re on the hunt for a bargain, look elsewhere.

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

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.