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MSRP: $33,100 - 53,100

Rankings & Research

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class ranked #20 in Luxury Small Cars. Currently the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has a score of 6.5 out of 10 which is based on our evaluation of 28 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

6.5

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 6.5
Performance: 6.7
Interior: 5.4
Safety:
This model has never been fully tested for safety. Its overall score is being calculated without safety.
N/A
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Best Luxury Small Cars

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  • #20

    2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

    $33,100 - $53,100 MSRP

    You can only compare 3 cars at a time.
See the full Luxury Small Cars rankings »

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Review

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA has some positives: namely, a base powertrain that's refined, energetic, and fuel-efficient. However, drawbacks like lackluster interior materials push the CLA toward the bottom of the luxury small cars class.

Pros & Cons

  • Quick, polished engines
  • Superb fuel economy
  • Large trunk with wide opening
  • Nimble and composed
  • Mediocre infotainment interface
  • Cramped back seat
  • Not as posh inside as classmates
  • Firm ride on rough roads

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLA a Good Car?

The Mercedes-Benz CLA has some good qualities, but as a whole, it is not an exceptional luxury small car. Most of its downsides apply to the interior and include a cramped back seat and complicated technology. To keep the CLA's low $30,000 starting price, Mercedes uses a few more hard plastics than you'll find in rival luxury cars. Luckily, the performance department escaped these same cost-cutting measures. The engine (brisk), transmission (smooth), and handling (athletic) are all on point. Together, they create a dynamic sedan that leans toward the sporty side and never feels disconnected from the road.

Note that Mercedes officially refers to this car as a coupe. However, its body type is actually a four-door sedan.

Should I Buy the Mercedes-Benz CLA?

The CLA is worth a look, but there are far better alternatives in this segment. The Kia Stinger offers more engaging performance and a roomier interior, and it has a similar starting price. The BMW 3 Series is a bit more expensive, but its blend of comfort and sportiness makes it well worth a test drive. If you have your heart set on a Mercedes, consider the all-new A-Class sedan. It improves on many of the CLA’s interior quality and tech fumbles.

Compare the CLA, Stinger, and 3 Series »

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

Introduced for the 2014 model year, the CLA has received very few updates since. One notable exception is the 2017 model year, when Mercedes refreshed the exterior styling and added several new standard and optional features. These enhancements make the 2017 and 2018 models more enticing than previous editions. As there are no major changes to the new 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250, we recommend buying a used model if you want to save money.

To research some older models, read our reviews of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Mercedes CLA. If you decide a used CLA is right for you, you can review our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 CLA »

We Did the Research for You: 28 Reviews Analyzed

Our Mercedes-Benz CLA review includes far more than just one person's opinion. We collected professional evaluations from more than two dozen sources and combined them with concrete data like fuel economy estimates, safety features, and performance specs to help you make an informed buying decision. This review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which spans the 2014 through 2019 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Jobs, Best Hospitals, and Best Colleges to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. We've been ranking and reviewing the Best Cars since 2007, backed by a team with more than 75 years of combined automotive experience. To keep favoritism out of the picture, we maintain a separate advertising team and decline expensive gifts and trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Mercedes-Benz CLA Cost?

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA has a starting price of $33,100. That's one of the lowest base prices in our luxury small car rankings. Expect to pay another $20,000 for the AMG version.

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

Mercedes-Benz CLA Versus the Competition

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

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is among the brand's newest models and joins the CLA in the luxury small car segment. There isn’t much competition here, though, because the A-Class is a better vehicle by far. It boasts a higher-quality interior with an easier-to-use infotainment system. Its back seat is roomier and can accommodate adults in reasonable comfort. The A-Class is also available with more-advanced safety features. Best of all, the standard A-Class costs about the same as the CLA.

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

Though the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is also categorized as a small car, it's much roomier inside than the CLA. The C-Class has more legroom than the CLA, so even adults can comfortably ride in back for short excursions. Higher-grade materials appear in the C-Class as well, creating a first-class experience that is notably lacking in the CLA. If you can afford the higher price tag, the C-Class is well worth it.

Compare the CLA, A-Class, and C-Class »

CLA Interior

How Many People Does the CLA Seat?

The five-seat CLA has some pleasant qualities, though you won't be as pampered as you'd be in a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The seats have a decent amount of support, and the standard synthetic leather upholstery looks and feels almost like the real thing. However, the seats aren't overly plush, legroom all-around is below average for this class, and the sloping roofline cuts into rear-passenger headspace and driver visibility.

CLA and Car Seats

Child seat hardware in the CLA includes two sets of lower anchors and three tether anchors.

CLA Interior Quality

Having one of the lowest prices in the Mercedes garage comes at the cost of some interior materials. Still, the CLA feels mostly upscale and classy. You can also dial up the poshness by replacing some of the hard plastics with upgrades such as black ash matte wood trim or authentic leather seats.

CLA Cargo Space

The CLA has a 13.1-cubic-foot trunk, which is a little larger than the average sedan in this class. For an added dose of convenience, it boasts a wide opening, standard split-folding seats, and an optional hands-free power trunk lid.

CLA Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Professional reviewers are split over the usability of the CLA's infotainment system. Some call the interface convoluted and complain that several operations – like pairing your smartphone – are more difficult than they should be. Others are comfortable with the menus after getting familiar with them. We recommend adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – a $350 option – for instant smartphone integration and a more straightforward layout.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

CLA Performance

CLA Engine: Speedy and Smooth

The CLA earns a gold star for its engines. Even spirited drivers will get a thrill from the quick acceleration of the standard setup: a four-cylinder engine with a 208-horsepower rating. The AMG edition – powered by a 375-horsepower four-cylinder – is even more authoritative. Both are accompanied by a twin-scroll turbocharger and a swift-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

CLA Gas Mileage: Exceptional Highway Mileage

The CLA is one of the most fuel-efficient entries in our luxury small car rankings, a status it owes mostly to its phenomenal highway rating. Fuel economy is estimated at 24 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The Mercedes-AMG CLA gets 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

CLA Ride and Handling: Stable but Somewhat Firm

The CLA is a nimble sedan: It’s quick to react to steering inputs, and it stays composed on curvy roads. In the base trim, front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. The firm ride isn't always as silky as it could be, however, so you'll notice more bumps on a coarse highway.

Read more about performance »

CLA Reliability

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLA Reliable?

The 2019 CLA earns a predicted reliability rating of four out of five from J.D. Power. This is an above average score for all new cars.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Warranty

Mercedes-Benz covers the CLA with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.

Read more about reliability »

CLA Safety

CLA Crash Test Results

No crash test results for the 2019 CLA are available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the time of writing.

CLA Safety Features

In addition to required essentials such as air bags and a rearview camera, the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 comes with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, driver drowsiness monitoring, active brake assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Optional safety features include adaptive cruise control, active park assist, blind spot monitoring, and lane keep assist.

Read more about safety »

Which Mercedes-Benz CLA Model Is Right for Me?

Picking the right CLA is straightforward because there are only two models to choose from. The base CLA 250 comes with a 208-horsepower turbocharged engine, a likeable array of standard tech and safety features, and a price tag that's below average for its class. You can add smartphone integration, advanced safety features, and numerous other enhancements through available packages and standalone options. All-wheel drive is available for $2,000.

For an additional $20,000, you can upgrade to the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45. This high-performance model means business. It's outfitted with a 375-horsepower engine and a multitude of sport-tuned components. Mercedes offers an assortment of packages and options for this car, similar to the base model's collection.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 250

Standard features in the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 include MB-Tex upholstery (Mercedes' synthetic leather), 14-way power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient lighting, and push-button start. The infotainment system contains a freestanding 8-inch display, dual USB ports, and HD Radio. Advanced safety systems such as forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, driver drowsiness monitoring, active brake assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a rearview camera are also included. Prices start at $33,100 for the front-wheel-drive CLA 250 and $35,100 for the all-wheel-drive CLA 4Matic.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45

Performance is the focus of the range-topping Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 ($53,100). It comes with 4Matic all-wheel drive, AMG sport suspension, an AMG sport exhaust system, an AMG high-performance braking system, and launch mode. Sporty interior enhancements include brushed aluminum pedals and an E-Select gear lever made of leather and aluminum. Heated front seats, a Keyless-Go proximity key, a hands-free power trunk lid, satellite radio, and blind spot monitoring are also standard.

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

See 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA specs and trims »

The Final Call

The CLA isn't the most enticing option from Mercedes. Between some lower grade cabin materials, a ride that's occasionally jolty, and a difficult infotainment system, the overall package will leave many with a bad taste in their mouths. This luxury small car isn't totally without merit: The engines are smooth and lively, its handling is enjoyably athletic, and it has superb fuel economy. The CLA's below-average price also makes it a tempting vehicle for buyers who want a luxury car but have a limited budget. Even so, there are several better options, including the brand-new Mercedes A-Class.

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

  • "Over the years, the CLA has received some updates and improvements, but these still aren't enough to make the CLA a truly enticing pick for an entry-level luxury sedan. Overall, we think the new A-Class is a better pick for an affordable Mercedes-Benz. It has a sleeker-looking interior with more of Mercedes' latest technology, plus more refined performance. You might also want to check out Audi's A3 as another option." -- 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, with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine powering the front or all four wheels. 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. If you want more power, the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 has it in spades, and a lot more." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "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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