First Drive: 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Is Short on Value and Big on Compromises

Entry-level no more, the redesigned CLA has been promoted above its abilities

2020 Mercedes Benz CLA review - front angle

Update: Since this first drive was originally published in October 2019, we finished testing the CLA.

See the complete Mercedes-Benz CLA road test.

The new, second-generation CLA luxury sedan has been moved up in the Mercedes-Benz hierarchy, granting its former entry-level position to the A-Class.

The CLA was billed as an affordable sport sedan when it debuted in 2013. But after the automaker introduced the all-new A-Class as its lowest-priced car earlier this year, it repositioned the CLA as a slightly more luxurious compact four-door “coupe," even though the term is traditionally used to describe two-door vehicles.

Mechanically speaking, the cars are fraternal twins. Aside from more horsepower, a lower rear roofline, and higher price, the CLA shares many of the A-Class’ strengths and weaknesses. Prices for the CLA range from $36,650 for the base CLA 250 to over $53,100 for the AMG CLA 45, which features a more powerful engine. 


We bought our own CLA250 4MATIC to assess this redesigned model, and we’ve driven it several thousand miles. After we've catalogued our first impressions of the vehicle’s ride, interior comfort, features, and feel, we will put it through more than 50 detailed, fully instrumented tests at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, including those to evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls.

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What we bought: 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC
Powertrain: 221-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $38,650
Options: $4,455 (Natural grain wood trim, blind spot warning, upgraded audio system, multicolored ambient interior lighting, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, 10.25-inch center display and 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster)
Destination fee: $995
Total cost: $44,100

CR’s Take

Despite its promotion to a higher level in the Mercedes lineup, we have yet to find any compelling reason why a buyer would choose a CLA over the less expensive A-Class—let alone a better-equipped vehicle from a mainstream manufacturer. For instance, both the Mazda3 and Honda Accord are more enjoyable to drive, have impressive interiors, and come with fewer compromises.