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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

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$37,850 - 47,850 MSRP

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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class Review

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA offers punchy powertrains, an elegant interior, and easy-to-use tech features, but it also has a firm ride and a cramped rear seat. This vehicle does not have an overall score or ranking because it hasn’t been fully crash tested.

Pros & Cons

  • Powerful engines
  • Upscale interior with lots of tech features
  • Intuitive infotainment system
  • Undersized rear seats
  • Firm ride

Research & Ratings

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is unranked in Luxury Small Cars due to missing safety data. Currently, the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class's overall score is not available, though its Critics' Rating, Performance score, and Interior score are based on our evaluation of 10 pieces of research and data.

N/A

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.3
Performance: 7.6
Interior: 6.2
Safety:
This model has never been fully tested for safety. As a result, it doesn't have an overall score and cannot be ranked against other luxury small cars.
N/A
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Mercedes-Benz CLA a Good Car?

Yes, the Mercedes-Benz CLA is a good car. It's fun to drive thanks to its powerful engines and engaging handling, and it also gets solid mpg ratings. The interior looks great, and the infotainment system is user-friendly. However, the ride is stiff, and the rear seats and trunk are undersized.

Why You Can Trust Us: 10 Reviews Analyzed

We don’t base our car reviews on our personal opinions. Instead, we combine the findings of professional test drivers with data such as reliability ratings and safety scores to give you a complete overview of every vehicle we rank.

This 2021 CLA review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2020.

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking the best cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years’ worth of auto industry experience combined. To keep our reviews unbiased, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside company manages our advertising.

Should I Buy the Mercedes-Benz CLA?

While it's easy to see the appeal of the CLA, that doesn't mean you should buy it. There's a lot to like about this luxury small car, and it has a middle-of-the-pack price tag for the class, but there are class rivals with more strengths and fewer weaknesses than the CLA and may be worth checking out. Still, this is undoubtedly a good car, and you should have no qualms driving one off the lot.

Find a 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA: What's the Difference?

There's only one change for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA, and it's relatively minor: Blind spot monitoring is now a standard feature. Other than that, the new CLA is virtually identical to the 2020 model.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 CLA »

Here are the key changes for the Mercedes-Benz CLA over the last few years:

  • 2017: minor exterior styling updates; upgraded 8-inch display; gained a standard rearview camera; various options and packages added
  • 2018: no notable changes
  • 2019: no notable changes
  • 2020: completely redesigned with a stronger engine lineup, a new AMG model, and the MBUX infotainment system (replaced COMAND)
  • 2021: blind spot monitoring now standard

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 CLA, 2019 CLA, and 2020 CLA reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Mercedes-Benz CLA Cost?

The base CLA 250 sports a starting price of $37,850. That's about midpack for the class. The AMG CLA 35 starts at $47,850, while the AMG CLA 45 starts at $55,350. Many rivals' top trims cost less, but a handful also cost considerably more.

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 on our Mercedes-Benz deals page.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Versus the Competition

Mercedes-Benz CLA vs. Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has a lot in common with the CLA. These two cars have similar handling, a comparable list of standard features, and the same user-friendly infotainment system. The CLA's base engine is a little more powerful than that of the A-Class, and the CLA offers two performance-oriented AMG models to the A-Class' one. Additionally, while the A-Class features more rear-seat headroom, the CLA has a slightly larger trunk.

Compare the CLA and A-Class »

Mercedes-Benz CLA vs. BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series is a better luxury small car than the CLA. Even things the Mercedes does well, the BMW usually does better. The 3 Series has better handling, more passenger space, and a larger trunk. It features a well-built interior with plenty of features, and it has a lineup of powerful engines.

Compare the CLA and BMW 3 Series »

Compare the CLA, A-Class, and 3 Series »

CLA Interior: Small but Stylish

CLA Cargo Space

The CLA's trunk is on the small side, offering just 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space. Most other cars in the class give you at least a little more room.

How Many People Does the CLA Seat?

Mercedes claims the CLA seats five people. And while that's technically correct, it should probably come with a "don't try this at home" warning. The front seats are roomy, comfortable, and supportive. The rear seats, however, are cramped, and putting more than two people back there is a challenge. The sloping roofline limits available headroom as well.

CLA and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and an upper tether for the middle seat.

CLA Interior Quality

This Mercedes' cabin incorporates plenty of premium materials, and it's stylish and modern-looking. It's one of the better interiors in the class.

CLA Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system is user-friendly and has simple menu layouts. Among the many options for controlling the system is an intuitive voice command system that responds when you say "Hey, Mercedes."

  • Standard infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, a touchpad controller, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, five USB ports, Bluetooth, and HD Radio
  • Available infotainment features: a 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, wireless device charging, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a Burmester audio system, and satellite radio
  • Additional standard features: a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, and proximity keyless entry

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

Read more about interior »

CLA Performance: Quick and Agile, but Not Always Smooth

CLA Engine

Every CLA comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, though there are considerable differences in each model's power. The base CLA 250's engine puts out 221 horsepower. That jumps to 302 horsepower in the AMG CLA 35, while the CLA 45 boasts 382 horses.

The CLA 250 never feels slow or underpowered, but it can't match the accelerative capabilities of the performance-oriented AMG models. They're much quicker off the line, and they feel stronger during highway merging and passing.

The CLA 250 and CLA 35 feature a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the CLA 45 comes with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.

CLA Gas Mileage

With front-wheel drive, the CLA 250 gets 25 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, which are decent ratings for the luxury small car class. All-wheel-drive models get slightly lower ratings of 24/33 mpg city/highway. The AMG 35, which comes standard with AWD, earns ratings another tick lower: 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

Fuel economy ratings for the AMG CLA 45 are not yet available.

CLA Ride and Handling

The CLA provides a fairly enjoyable driving experience. It has sharp steering and capable handling, so it has no issues on winding roads. The ride is firm, though. It's not uncomfortable, exactly, but you'll certainly feel it when you drive over bumps and potholes.

Read more about performance »

CLA Reliability

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLA Reliable?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

Mercedes-Benz CLA Warranty

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

Read more about reliability »

CLA Safety

CLA Crash Test Results

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2021 CLA.

CLA Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Driver drowsiness monitoring
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Crosswind assist
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking

Available advanced safety features:

  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane keep assist
  • Parallel park assist
  • Surround-view parking camera system

Read more about safety »

CLA Dimensions and Weight

The CLA is 15.4 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,351 to 3,598 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA Built?

Mercedes-Benz builds the 2021 CLA in Hungary.

Which Mercedes-Benz CLA Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA comes in three trims: CLA 250, AMG CLA 35, and AMG CLA 45. Each trim comes with a unique engine, and that's the main thing that separates one trim from another.

Many buyers will want to stick with the CLA 250. It delivers respectable performance and offers almost all of the same features as the higher trims, and it represents a solid value when you consider that the AMG trims carry a five-figure price increase.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 250

The CLA 250 sports a base price of $37,850. It features a 221-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a seven-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. You can add Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system for $2,000.

Standard features include a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, power-adjustable front sport seats, a 7-inch touch screen, a touchpad controller, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, five USB ports, Bluetooth, and HD Radio.

Standard driver assistance features include driver drowsiness monitoring, blind spot monitoring, crosswind assist, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

The Premium package ($1,200) adds a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch touch screen. The Multimedia package ($1,295) adds navigation and traffic sign recognition.

You can add several features individually, including heated front seats ($500), a heated steering wheel ($250), satellite radio ($460), wireless device charging ($200), and a Burmester audio system ($800).

Mercedes-AMG CLA 35

The AMG CLA 35 starts at $47,850. It features a 302-horsepower turbo-four engine and adds a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a 10.25-inch touch screen, and an AMG sport suspension.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45

The AMG CLA 45 starts at $55,350. The AMG 45 comes with a 382-horsepower turbo-four engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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 on our Mercedes-Benz deals page.

See 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA is worth a look in the luxury small car class. It's fun to drive and has a well-appointed interior that comes with plenty of tech features. It's not the most spacious vehicle, but the same can be said of many class rivals. Shop around before you buy one, but if you decide the CLA is the car for you, you can feel good about that decision.

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

  • "For some fortunate buyers, Mercedes-Benz ownership starts here. For others, the 2021 CLA-Class might represent a second car with a 3-pointed star to add to the stable. All the usual attributes are here, such as sleek designs, impressive engineering, quality materials, reassuring safety features, and great technology." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "While it can no longer hang its hat on a sub-$30,000 starting price, the new CLA reaches into more ambitious territory with its modernized hardware and mature interior finishes. Best of all, though it lacks the outright grunt and outright handling acumen we expect from the upcoming AMG variants, the new CLA just might surprise and delight you when the road gets unexpectedly bendy." -- Automobile Magazine (2020)
  • "While there's nothing about the updated CLA250 that we'd describe as exciting, there's now little to knock it for as an affordable Mercedes-Benz." -- Car and Driver (2020)
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