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MSRP: $32,700 - 50,400

Rankings & Research

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class ranked #19 in Luxury Small Cars. Currently the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has a score of 7.7 out of 10 which is based on our evaluation of 25 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.7

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.6
Performance: 7.7
Interior: 6.7
Safety: N/A
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Review

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA has a long list of standard features … and little else. A cramped rear seat and an unrefined ride are just a couple of reasons it ranks in the bottom tier of the luxury small car class.

Pros & Cons

  • Lively engine with excellent fuel economy
  • Agile handling
  • Large, convenient trunk 
  • Cumbersome infotainment system and controls
  • Small back seat
  • Run-flat tires create stiff, noisy ride

 

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLA a Good Car?

Unlike the many remarkable models in the luxury small car class, the CLA is simply mediocre. Its infotainment system is harder to use than rival’s systems, the ride is a bit bouncy, and rear-passenger and trunk space are limited. That said, this car has some admirable traits worth mentioning. Considering its below-average price for the class, the base CLA250 comes with a good amount of luxury features (such as high-grade leatherette upholstery). Its handling is agile as well. Still, unless you’re in love with the styling or you can’t resist the chance to own a Mercedes that won’t break the bank, you’re better off shopping around.

Should I Buy the Mercedes-Benz CLA?

If you've got the extra money, we recommend the Mercedes-Benz C-Class over the CLA. It has a better ride, a more luxurious cabin, and stronger engines. The only real advantages the CLA has over the C-Class is its lower price and its smaller size, which can help it feel more agile.

However, if athletic performance is what you're after, you're better off choosing a livelier small car like the Audi A3. Thanks to its sprightly handling and peppy turbocharged engine, the A3 is much more fun to drive than the CLA250, and it has a similar starting price.

Compare the CLA, C-Class, and A3 »

Should I Buy a New or Used Mercedes-Benz CLA?

The CLA's current generation debuted for the 2014 model year. There were some notable updates between the 2016 and 2017 model years, including a sharper infotainment screen and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. However, the 2018 model sees no significant changes from 2017. That means you can get a used 2017 CLA that's essentially the same as the new model for potentially much less money.

If you're interested in a used model, be sure to visit our overviews of the 2016 and 2017 CLA. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles. 

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 CLA »

We Did the Research for You: 24 Reviews Analyzed

Our 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA review has everything you need to know about this car (which Mercedes calls a coupe, though it's really a four-door sedan). Our analysis includes viewpoints from 24 professional reviews, along with data like fuel economy estimates, performance ratings, and standard features.

This Mercedes-Benz CLA review includes research for all model years in the current generation, which spans the 2014 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been in business since 1933, and we've been ranking and reviewing cars for more than 10 years. To safeguard our reviews from bias or favoritism, we don't accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Mercedes-Benz CLA Cost?

The principal trim level for this model is the Mercedes-Benz CLA250. With its starting price of $32,700, this vehicle is not only the least expensive model in the Mercedes paddock, but it's also one of the lowest-priced luxury small cars in our rankings. More than a dozen packages and add-on services are available, with package prices ranging between $350 and $4,000. The CLA also comes as an AMG-tuned model – the AMG CLA45 – which starts at $50,400. For great deals at a Mercedes dealer in your ZIP code, check out our U.S. News Best Price Program. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mercedes deals page.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz CLA or Audi A3?

The Audi A3 also comes with an entry-level luxury price, but you wouldn’t know it based on its interior. It has features that don’t come standard in the CLA, like a panoramic sunroof and leather seats. Also, the A3 has a straightforward infotainment system. Unlike the CLA, the A3 has sprightly handling without forgoing a comfortable ride. Both models have a powerful engine lineup and similar fuel efficiency, but the A3’s rear seats are a little roomier. The only real concern with the A3 is its subpar predicted reliability score. Overall, it’s the better choice.

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz CLA or Acura ILX?

The Acura ILX shares some of the CLA’s drawbacks, like a lower-quality interior and a stiff ride. However, the Mercedes has a slight edge. Its driving dynamics and additional standard safety features make it a better choice.

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz CLA or Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

If you're willing to drop an extra $10,000 on a luxury small car, consider purchasing the Mercedes-Benz C-Class instead. Its lavish interior, smooth ride, and stronger engine lineup make it a better car than the CLA. Both models suffer from a cumbersome infotainment system, but the C-Class has extra passenger space in both rows. The C-Class' low predicted reliability rating is a concern, though.

Compare the CLA, A3, and ILX »

CLA Interior

How Many People Does the CLA Seat?

The CLA seats five, but with the car's styling, it's more like a four-door coupe than a true sedan. Fitting three passengers into the back row is a bit of a squeeze. Limiting factors in this zone include a low ceiling and little room to stretch your legs. The front seats are a bit more comfortable – especially with the 14-way power adjustments – but the low roofline constricts headroom up front and hampers visibility for the driver. One redeeming quality is MB-Tex, Mercedes' first-class synthetic leather upholstery. It looks and feels almost like the real thing.

CLA and Car Seats

The LATCH hardware in the CLA varies from great to terrible. Its lower anchors, which are located on both outboard seats, are easy to find. The three tether anchors, however, are very difficult to use. In addition, there's little space for both a front passenger and a rear-facing child seat.

CLA Interior Quality

You won't find quite the same level of opulence inside the CLA as you will inside the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. There are lower-quality interior materials – including some hard plastics – and the styling is more subdued. However, next to other brands, the CLA still feels like a premium model, and the build quality is superb. If you want a snazzier cabin, upgrades like real wood trim, leather seats, and a Harman Kardon surround sound system take the interior up a notch.

CLA Cargo Space

At 13.1 cubic feet, the CLA's trunk is bigger than many vehicles this size, including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Test drivers say it's deep enough for two sets of golf clubs, and you can fold down the rear seats to carry larger items. You can also add a hands-free trunk lid, which opens with a wave of your foot under the bumper.

CLA Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The CLA comes with Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment interface, which gets mixed reviews of its usability and design. Common complaints are that the menu layout is confusing, and basic operations (like pairing a smartphone) can be tricky. Other drawbacks include poor placement of the climate controls and gear selector stalk.

Try the infotainment system for yourself before you buy. If you’re looking for ways to improve it, consider the inexpensive Smartphone Integration package. It adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.)

Read more about interior »

CLA Performance

CLA Engine: Excellent Get-Up-and-Go

You won't have any problem running errands around town or getting up to speed on the highway with the CLA250. It comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that eagerly accelerates in almost every gear, and you can accentuate its liveliness by switching the car into Sport mode. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission isn't quite as polished and can occasionally be slow to shift (especially in Eco mode). Still, shifting is smooth most of the time, and the standard paddle shifters add an element of fun to your drive. The AMG CLA45 is much more robust. Its engine is the same size as the CLA250's, but horsepower increases from 208 to 375.

CLA Gas Mileage: Thrifty on the Highway

The CLA250 has one of the highest highway fuel economy ratings in the class, at 37 mpg. Its rating of 24 mpg in the city is about average. Gas mileage drops to 24 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway with all-wheel drive. The AMG CLA45 gets 23/30 mpg city/highway.

CLA Ride and Handling: Agile but a Bit Rough

The CLA’s easy steering and poised suspension feel make it a pleasure to drive. It has an element of nimbleness that's missing from some of its purely comfort-focused rivals. Ride quality is a bit crude, though, with jolts from pavement imperfections making their way into the cabin. A few different upgraded suspension systems are available to alleviate this somewhat, but you'll get even more relief by swapping out the standard run-flat tires.

Read more about performance »

CLA Reliability

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLA Reliable?

The 2018 CLA has an above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Warranty

The 2018 CLA comes with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.

Read more about reliability »

CLA Safety

CLA Crash Test Results

No crash test results on the 2018 CLA are available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is the case for select luxury vehicles.

CLA Safety Features

Standard safety features in the 2018 CLA250 include a rearview camera, emergency brake assist, driver drowsiness monitoring, and forward collision warning with automatic braking. Mercedes also offers blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, active park assist, and lane keep assist.

Read more about safety »

Which Mercedes-Benz CLA Model Is Right for Me?

The main trim for this car is the CLA250, which starts at $32,700. It's available with Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for $2,000, along with nine other packages and a handful of add-on services. There's also a high performance edition of this model, badged as the AMG CLA45.

The beauty of the CLA250 is that it already comes outfitted with many favorite features. If you do want to upgrade your ride, we recommend the $1,650 Interior package, which adds leather seats, additional ambient lighting colors, and synthetic leather trimmings. For $350, you can get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with the Smartphone Integration package. If you want a navigation system, check the box for the Multimedia package ($2,300), which comes with three years of map updates, five years of traffic and weather services, advanced voice commands, and the Smartphone Integration package.

Mercedes-Benz CLA250

The CLA250 comes standard with synthetic leather seats, an infotainment system with an 8-inch display, dual USB ports, HD Radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, push-button start, a proximity key, a rearview camera, brake assist, driver drowsiness monitoring, and forward collision warning with automatic braking. Prices start at $32,700 for front-wheel drive and $34,700 for all-wheel drive.

Mercedes-AMG CLA45

The AMG CLA45 is the high-performance, handcrafted edition of the CLA. It comes with an AMG-tuned 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Other performance upgrades in this $50,400 model include its AMG sport suspension, braking, and exhaust systems.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Mercedes dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mercedes deals page.

See 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 CLA250 is on the lowest price rung of the Mercedes-Benz ladder. It pulls in some benefits from its higher priced brethren (such as real wood trim and a quiet ride), but it’s noticeably less refined than models like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Still, the CLA comes with an energetic turbocharged engine and an agile suspension that make it fun to drive. It gets excellent gas mileage on the highway. These traits, along with its civilized front seats, make the CLA a great daily driver – as long as you don't need to regularly transport tall people in the back. A number of issues tarnish its overall charm, including a cumbersome infotainment system, hard-to-reach climate controls, and an overly firm ride.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "For about the same price as a non-luxury sedan, you can get a lot of Mercedes charm and quality. And for a lot of shoppers, that could be enough. If it were the only sedan in its class, we'd be inclined to agree. But there are some similarly priced vehicles out there, and they don't have the same drivability, comfort and space issues that the CLA does. As a result, we suggest checking out those European rivals before signing on the dotted line." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is the least expensive sedan in the automaker's lineup, leading some to assume it's not a 'real' Mercedes, just a bargain-basement ploy to lure customers into the showroom. Wrong. The CLA takes on the Audi A3 and Acura ILX, and even the BMW 2 Series, at least from a price-and-size standpoint. … At a starting price of about $33,600, you get a decent amount of standard equipment, and the prestige of the Mercedes-Benz brand. You also get limited visibility and a cramped rear seat, but that's a small price to pay for first-time luxury-car buyers." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Such is the position of the CLA-Class, an entry-level Mercedes with significant improvements for 2017 but still too many drawbacks to justify its cost versus everything else that $35,000 can buy. The styling and brand cachet will win some fans, as will the AMG CLA45's raucous performance. But for many shoppers, better options exist." -- Cars.com (2017)
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