By on November 6, 2013

2014 Mercedes CLA

In the new $29,900 CLA coupe’s first full month of U.S. sales, Mercedes-Benz sold 4,895 units in October, helping the brand post a 25% increase over last October’s sales and double it’s lead over BMW, the number two luxury brand in this market.

 

In addition to the CLA, deliveries of the E-class were up 23%, with total sales for the month at 30,069. By comparison, BMW brand October sales were 27,574 vehicles, a 4% increase over last year. For the year, M-B has sold 245,125 units compared to BMW’s 240,139, Lexus’ 213,479, and Cadillac’s 148,206. Lexus sales are up 12% for the year and Cadillac is up 27% on the year to date.

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86 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz Increases Its U.S. Luxury Lead Over BMW On Strong CLA Sales...”


  • avatar
    Spartan

    Apartment dwellers with halfway decent credit and jacked up priorities unite!

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Stop calling a four door car a coupe. I do not care what twisted, tortured logic the the advertising hacks give you. Do not co-operate in this sham. And get off my lawn, too, damn it.

  • avatar

    So, the market speaks. Doing much better for Mercedes than the original Class A. Maybe they got the puch right this time?

    And yet again, purists, entusiasts or brand snobs all wrong. Ia this the Coach-iing of Mercedes? Probably, but the shareholders won’t mind at all, I think.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s too early to know who’s got the last laugh. Remember how GM sold 300,000 junk Caddies and an old exec said ruefully, “We didn’t sell 300,000 Cadillacs, we sold 300,000 Buicks”. Arguably the brand has not recovered yet.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Those buyers wish they’d bought Buicks as most of them would still be on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        AlternateReality

        That quote demonstrates how, even when it looks like a GM exec “gets it,” they really don’t.* Those customers likely went to their graves wishing their Cimarrons, V8-6-4s and diesel Sevilles had been Buicks (or more likely, Toyotas.)

        *See also Mary Barra’s recent “no more crappy cars” declaration. Lo, if only the Malibu team had gotten that memo…

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      I don’t know if one can compare sales of the CLA and the A-class, since they don’t sell in the same markets.

      The article reports on US sales, where the A- and B-class are not available. I understand that both A- and B-class do well in Europe. The B-class has been successful in Canada, and the CLA has just gone on sale here.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    “And they sold very well; suddenly the most desirable brand in the land was affordable to a large portion of the middle class.”

    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1951-packard-200-and-packard-history-falling-downmarket/

  • avatar
    ash78

    How much of senior management at Mercedes is still around from the C-Coupe days of 15 years ago?

    Paraphrasing them: “We will never again try to push a $30k entry-level car on the US, it’s too detrimental to our brand and did not prove to be profitable”

    This is a better vehicle, no doubt, but the concern is the same. But on the other hand, I’m still yearning for a day when Mercedes becomes a larger-volume player here like in Europe. They build great cars when they want to. Anything to get the parts/repair costs down would be a plus.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The C-coupe was much worse looking. Also M-B have the A and B class around, which they didn`t back then. So the market has shifted in the past 15 years to a greater acceptance of smaller “luxury” cars.

      The US is going through what Europe did 20 years ago. I remember Ford Granada’s and Opel Senators selling well. Then people shifter to small, but comparably priced Audi’s and BMW’s. It continues today with sales of the Ford Mondeo and Opel Insignia falling away (company car sales in the UK for example) and people moving to smaller but comparably priced Audi’s and BMW’s.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    I saw one yesterday in person for the first time and thought it looked pretty good. Proving that front wheel drive vs rear wheel drive makes little difference to this target demographic, I think Mercedes has a winning formula here as the 3 series has become increasing more expensive. The battle will be fought in the subsidized leases, not the overall price of the car.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Once again it proves most buyers choose style over substance.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Agreed, pity their taste in styling is quite horrible

      • 0 avatar

        naw, I think the styling has little to do with it. I think it’s more that it’s the size is Mercedes-y and of course the badge.

        • 0 avatar
          Volt 230

          Well. I would agree with you, Marcelo, but even the guys at CR called it “gorgeous” and then went on to rip it a new one due to its unMercedes-like driving dynamics and noise levels.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it Volt? I wouldn’t call the CLA beautiful. To me, its design is very derivative as it looks like any number of things already on the market. I’m crazy I know, but I thought the first Class A looked better than this.

            As this will surely land in the hands of many first time Mercedes buyers, I don’t know if they’ll even notice its unMercedes like nature. All the CLA has to do is be as good as whatever car their owners are jumping up from. To them, I guess, the badge will make up for all the rest.

          • 0 avatar
            imag

            Marcelo – what other cars does it look like?

            Like it or not, it seems to me to be a rather original shape. And the .cd says the shape has some practicality.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Imag, I’m not saying it’s ugly, but its not beautiful. It’s contemporary. I’m also not saying it copies anybody else, as I think it doesn’t. What I’m saying is that, knock off the star in the front, put in any other corporate mug, and it would seem to fall right in. So when I say it’s derivative, that’s what I mean.

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            I want to like how it looks, but it suffers from the same line falling down towards the rear wheel that the S-Class has, and it looks awful in both cases.

            I like smaller cars, so the idea of an A-Class sedan is appealing for me. But it sounds like although it has the badge, and most of the style; the quality and experience the car offers aren’t quite Mercedes-Benz proper. If I’m paying a premium, it has to deliver something, and not just badge snobbery. The CLA doesn’t, it would appear.

          • 0 avatar

            I think the new A Class hatch looks much better than the CLA, though the surface flaming is a bit exagerated. Tone that down and it’s a real looker, plus the interior, from pics, looks more trendy than most recent Mercedes. But hey, what do I know? I tend to like small cars too.

            Wait, I just thought of something…Is the Class A hatch a CLA hatch or different car? I honestly don’t know because when I saw the hatch I read it and looked at the pics for a while, while when I saw the CLA I simply didn’t pay attention. This kind of car generally doesn’t interest me.

            So, if the CLA has the same interior as the A Class hatch, another point for ot and it’ll probably positively impress the younger set.

          • 0 avatar
            ttacgreg

            It makes me sad to see CR transitioning from objectivity to subjectivity.
            it also pains me to see them apparently becoming drunk with their obvious influence. Or perhaps I just should say they high on their power trip.

  • avatar
    imag

    I think the availability of more-premium small cars is a good thing.

    However, the beltline on this is ridiculous. The windows are tiny.

    Autonomous vehicle technology is coming just in time; by the time it arrives, we won’t have any windows left.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      As CR pointed out, this Mercedes is for those who have never driven a Mercedes before.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        Even well employed young people don’t have as much money as they used to. It makes sense to give them a gateway vehicle.

        I also think this category of cars is going after the Subaru market. With their growth rates, it would be hard not to make that part of a product strategy in this market.

  • avatar
    mjz

    The will be a stampede to get a three pointed star for $30k. Plus, it looks like a baby CLS for $40k less. This has success written all over it.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      mjz – - –

      Don’t be deceived. That “$30K” is just a come-on. By the time you option the thing appropriately, you’re looking at $35K-36K. But the truth is that BMW has no DIRECT competition right now. Nicely done, Mercedes….

      ————-

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @NMGOM

        You’re right its a come on. I’m half tempted to walk into a Mercedes dealer (being the Gen X/Y & IT professional demographic) and ask to drive the car. Then I’ll just mock it the whole time and laugh when the salesman crunches the numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        True that NMGOM. Finding a base $29,900 CLA will probably be as difficult as finding an $11,900 base Nissan Versa Sedan (god, what an absolutely hideous car THAT is, but I digress). But hey, for the price of a fancy Accord, Camry, Fusion, Malibu, et al, I can be a STAR driving a three pointed star! And I will immensely enjoy sitting in my CLA’s M-B Tex pleather seats that are neither heated nor cooled (at least not for $30k). Alternately frying or freezing my ass off. Just what is is about these premium German sedans and their obsession with VINYL seats? But I digress yet again…

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          Have you tried wearing pants while driving?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Is that what we did before heated seats? Seems like ages ago.

          • 0 avatar
            mjz

            I prefer driving au naturel. You should try it sometime. Especially fun going through the drive thru at Burger Diddle.

          • 0 avatar
            mjz

            bumpy ii, I have spoken with friends and they have concurred with your opinion that I am actually SUPPOSED to wear pants while driving. I am still in a state of shock. Thank you.

        • 0 avatar
          LeeK

          Very few cars today have full leather anyway. Only the seating surfaces themselves (what your back and legs touch) are true cowhide. The side and back panels are vinyl. To tell you the truth I have two German cars, one vinyl and one leather, and darned if I can tell the difference. Both are hot and sticky in the summer and icy cold in the winter.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I honestly don’t see an issue with the CLA. The fit-and-finish and features seem like enough that they won’t mess up the brand’s name-equity, and its a desirable car for anyone in this market, even at $36-$40K (which will get you a fairly-spartan Audi or BMW). It might also help the brand get its corporate fuel-economy up. Unfortunately, it might also push prices upward for the upcoming C-Class redesign. Me, I’d rather have an S60 T6, but this seems like it’ll be a success for Mercedes-Benz. Certainly it’s nothing like the C230 Kompressor from all those years ago…

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t either. Mercedes needs every sale they can get plus get younger people into them. Seems like this car is accomplishing both. The rest is snobbery, something that abounds in the industry.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The CLA might be more impressive in person than on my monitor and I agree with the ideas expressed about entry level cars and the importance of delivering a “Mercedes” product experience to new/young consumer. I disagree with the implementation of what looks like yet another cheaply built lease-only-falls-apart-out-of-warrenty shop queen. Should’ve built another W201 grade entry level that will roll around for twenty years if you’re looking to get new people into a Benz. Earn their loyalty and respect and then ambush them with your more expensive rolling disasters as opposed to giving them a shiny turd to start with, lots of OEMs are already offering those. There is a segment of buyer who is happy to flush his money down the toilet in order to have a S-class and all of the trimmings that come with it. Buyers in the 30K range can be divided into the repeat leaser and those who actually intend to keep the car, esp with “oops I lost my job”, “oops the roof needs replaced”, and “oops honey I’m pregnant” all being very real possibility for the Gen X/Y crowd who this is aimed toward, I’m not sure a “cheap Mercedes” would even make their shortlists. Sure one could argue those folks are in Camcords, Subbies, Chevies and the like, but isn’t this the market/buyer Mercedes needs to grow in?

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I’ve been following the AJAC TestFest (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada), where several dozen journalists test the same cars under identical conditions. It’s interesting to get perspectives of many different individuals and look for common trends.

      From surfing various Canadian car sites who participated, the consensus seems to be that the CLA is a very competitive and competent vehicle for it’s category, and is in the running for the award.

      Some interesting results this year. The Q50 and MKZ were generally panned. The Equus compares favorably to the S550 and XJ. The RLX seems to be a favorite as a driver’s car. And the XTS and Regal seems polarizing, depending on the journalist.

  • avatar
    NeinNeinNein

    Looks like a Hyundai Sonata to me. Prolly drives like it as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      As someone who drives a 2012 Sonata Limited, I’m not seeing it. Really, Mercedes-Benz first pioneered this styling with the first-generation CLS-Class. Other than the downturned lower-fascia that happens to coincide with Hyundai’s school of design, I don’t think this looks like a Sonata…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Saw my first one in the wild – it is a good looking car. With Gen Y incapable of buying cars in general “luxury ” brands have to do something. This isn’t the first attempt (C190, C220, 318, Audi 80) in this space. The question is reliability and brand dilution.

    The question isn’t first montage sales, it’s 12 to 18 months from now when pent up demand is churned through – will it still sell? Or will it sell thanks to $259 a month 10K miles a year 36 month subsidized leases.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Coming soon to an upscale mall near you: Two women in stiletto heels swinging their designer handbags at each other as they argue the merits of a CLA vs a BMW 3 class.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Almost all of the size of the current C-class, but with a lower price tag and an attractive exterior. That has home run written all over it.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I thought that but then I looked at internal dimensions and it has 7 inches less legroom (combined front and rear added together) than the C class. 10 inches less than the new Mazda 3 (not same category except for same length and wheel base). Reviews have said it is tight in the back, so this car works if it is just a single or duo commuting but not good for even a small family that needs the rear seats.
      Otherwise it is a better option than the 1 series.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I don’t find the leg room the problem in the back, but head room. I have to crouch down very much. For many people including myself though it will be enough because I rarely have rear passengers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The current C-class is 181 inches long and 70 inches wide.

        The new CLA is 182 inches long and 70 inches wide.

        The CLA’s presence on the road is obviously comparable to the C. It doesn’t look like a shrunken compromise. Combine that with the competitive price point, and it looks like a winner.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          I agree its physical dimensions are comparable to the C class. But when you compare Mercedes own internal dimension data for the CLA and C then you see this large disparity. Again it may not matter for the target audience (singles or families without kids).

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’ve driven the CLA. It looks much better in person than in photos, and it looks much better in $36k guise than the $30k spec. Even the interior, with that horribly tacked-on-looking display is not as bad in person. Not great, mind you, but not bad.

    The flipside is the new Audi A3 sedan coming next spring. Audi just announced the base trim spec and it has substantially more standard equipment at the exact same price point (including destination) as the Merc. It’s down on horsepower, but I suspect that the vast majority of its intended market could care less about the 170hp 1.8TFSI versus what will likely be the 220hp 2.0TFSI in the up-rated quattro model.

    I think Audi has more room to maneuver due to their economies of scale as part of the VW Group and the A3 reflects that.

    The forthcoming BMW 2-series is going to really add a lot of good competition to this segment, especially once they introduce their 2-series gran coupe late next year.

    It’s a good time to be in the market because there are some great options out there.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I agree, the interior gets better with the faux leather wrapped dashboard as one of the options. Also agree the new A3 sedan will be cheaper on an apples to apples spec comparison.
      I wished people wouldn’t say it is $29,900 – destination is a mandatory cost so they are all $30,700+. I wish in the US as in other locales the destination is rolled into the price to stop this misleading price advertising.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I wouldn’t touch that 1.8-liter turbo motor with a forty foot pole. But you’re right, most people won’t care, and if it’s leased, they won’t even *have* to care.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      The A3 looks like a shrunken A4, the CLA, on the other hand, looks like a shrunken CLS, not a shrunken C-class. Big diff. Brilliant move on M-B’s part. Now if the A3 looked like a shrunken A7, they’d be minting money too.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      The A3 will come standard with leather, pano roof and bi-xenon lights, doesn’t look as dramatic as the CLA but Audi buyers tend to prioritize substance over bling.

  • avatar
    George B

    I like the CLA more than I thought I would, but it still seems like a Volkswagen CC with more prestigious badges. Not bad, but it just doesn’t seem like a real Mercedes. In contrast, my girlfriend bought a 1998 Mercedes E320 off Craigslist for $5k 5 years ago. Now at 15 years old and 204k miles it still looks good and feels solid. Replaced the front brake pads last Sunday and the parts were reasonably priced at NAPA.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    You pay half for a Mercedes you get half of a Mercedes, perhaps a little less. The CLA has nice looks but the excitement ends there. It’s not even a poor man’s Mercedes…

  • avatar

    It’s amazing how a luxury car get adopted so quickly, I mean, this car just came out and I can see them everywhere, one reason might be that I’m in NYC, still, it’s not a Camry.
    Also, the lease deals that Mercedes is offering are very tempting, it’s true also with the C class as well as BMW 3 series.
    Again, I know leasing is king with luxury cars specially in NYC but still, it’s not cheap!

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Wonder what happened to Cadillac and Lincoln? If they are not really one and two in their home market?

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Did you just awake from a coma that lasted 25 years or was that a serious question?

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @sunridge place,
        Tongue in Cheek. I cannot understand why they still build both makes, as they are also rans anywhere as “luxury sedans”. If GM or Ford wants to compete in this segment they need to put in the resources. which I think maybe very hard to come by.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          By your own definition then one of the three German luxury makes must be crap because they are not in the top two of their won market (Germany).

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @mike978. News to me , Cadillac and Lincoln do not have “worldwide sales”. Better to euthanase both and put resources into the fairly poor selling midsize sedans.
            http://www.best-selling-cars.com/china/2013-q3-china-worldwide-german-luxury-car-sales/

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Caddies and Lincolns lost “presence” from their styling portfolios. Lincoln is basically Ford’s top trim line and I’d nominate the Navigator as the worst of this. Caddy had a hit with CTS, even a CTS-V. Sadly Caddy makes no cars, repeat no cars that any self respecting jazz-man would drive or have a Nudie suit in the trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      I really doubt the long time viability of both makes. Cadillac was great up to the 1960′s,Lincoln was similar. I doubt any of the makes are all that profitable, probably kept going as “nostalgic” Luxury cars resting on the laurels of their past glories. Eventually they will join others in that great car graveyard in the sky.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      @ el scotto:

      The Lincoln Navigator is in my top 3 of all time worst vehicles.

      In addition to being incredibly overpriced, it has to have among the worst steering, brakes, suspension, interior materials quality, and fit and finish of any vehicle that’s more than $25,000 – and genuinely – many vehicles that cost around $20,000 murder the Navigator in ALL the categories mentioned above.

      At least the Cadillac Escalade has a punchy and refined motor, decent brakes, and above all, spot on ride quality that is never to firm or too marshmallow.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Got to wondering about this CLA, so dropped into the local Mercedes dealer Dec 6. It was raining and just above freezing and none were sitting in the showroom, but the sales manager, noting the ambient conditions and applying his vast experience and logic, assigned the junior salesman to show me the white one outside. This the young man bore with no complaint whatsoever, a nice guy.

    Anyway, the first thing I noticed was that the front door cards are undersized, so that at the rear of them you get to look at (in this case) white painted metal, about a quarter-inch of top-quality Hungarian stamping. Ahem. Oh yes.

    Then you notice the boy-racer Comand screen sprouting out of the top of the stitched vinyl dash on a pole. It doesn’t motor down into the dash or anything, and is controlled by a chrome-plated knob of dubious pedigree on the very plastic center console. Classy. But hip, the nice man assured me, although every single client had been annoyed by it, so appropriate feedback was being sent back to HQ, and he was going to add on the point about the door cards, as it was glaringly obvious.

    The windows are so small you feel you are sitting down inside a black coal bin, with just your head peeping out above the doortop for a quick squint around to see what dangers lurk nearby. No headroom to speak of and this car had no sunroof. At five-nine, it was satisfactory for me but only just.

    I had settled my behind in the good-fitting Artico (not MBTex) vinyl seat, and fiddled with the seat adjusters. Artico stands for Artificial Cow, and no, I am not kidding. Somewhere, a German marketing man like B. Schmitt is quaffing another litre of Lowenbrau and laughing his ass off at putting a word pun over on the high and mighty Anglos, hearty ha ha.

    The really high quality vinyl is reserved for the S Klasse and is still called MB Tex. Neither are anywhere near as good as the pleather found in high-quality furniture.

    However, bravo Mercedes! The passenger seat has all the same adjustments (12 way) as the driver gets. Everyone else, and I mean everyone, cheaps out on the passenger seat. The Accord Coupe gives you 4 way manual, fr’instance, oh yeah.

    The nice man asked if I wanted a drive, and I assented. While he ran off to photocopy my driver’s licence and no doubt check my credit rating, I took the time to note that the B-pillar was directly to my left. A trial look over my shoulder as I am wont to do when merging, revealed precisely nothing. You can’t look back at all, a definite plus for those who like a little artificial danger on their morning commute.

    The mini-console on the headliner seemed low-hanging, so I gave it an upward push, and the headliner went up a half-inch. Hey, where’s that bottle of contact cement when you need it?

    The rain abated as the sales guy returned. He wanted to back it out of the tight spot. The 2.0T engine sounded like an original Mini while puffing steam from its twin exhausts, farting tinnily.

    Then back in the driver’s seat. How do you make this thing go? Gear selector on right hand side of steering column, which is some kind of springy thingy you tap down to get to Drive 1. “Electric,” explained the the salesman. “So is mine, but it’s on the console,” I said. “Ah!” he replied, “But customer feedback favored less clutter on the center console.” That’s when I noticed how narrow the car is inside – tumblehome.

    Anyway, after three tries at getting in Drive (kept tapping too much and getting back to neutral), I gassed it and moved off. Trundling off and noting the steering was of the totally feedbackless variety, like all the other new cars I’ve recently driven, and hence utterly useless at divining road texture or anything else, I swung the helm over and proceeded down the worst piece of road we have around these parts. Located on a side-street conveniently branching off Car Dealer Row, I found the CLA a trifle abrupt, bouncy and clonky at the front and generally rattly. But, better than most cars, let it be said; Mazda6 no likee this piece of broken pavement.

    The DCT 7speed auto looks for a high gear at once, but always seemed to be in the right gear for acceleration, no complaint from me. Tire noise is prominent from the front wheels at all times, however, in the same way a Yaris engine always seems to be right under your toes.

    A couple of halfway decent right hand turns onto side steets evinced more lean and subsequent settling after returning to straight ahead than I’m used to. It’s slightly weird, because you feel as though you’re sitting high in a CUV hence the lean, but objectively of course, you’re not. A Mazda CX-5 feels less tippy. Merely a characteristic.

    Giving it some welly from a standing start caused the right-front wheel to spin, as the engine is a willing power-producer. The traction control almost instantly reins in the wheelspin, feeling like rapid-fire ABS. I tried this several times just to be sure that wet road causes judder on takeoff, as big low end torque and FWD have a fight.

    Enough of this, which is not acceptable to me, period, I tootled around for a few more minutes, finding the front suspension definitely clonky (not as good as a Fiat 500 on the same streets, and if you don’t believe me, go and drive the two cars before calling my parenthood into question – armchair pontificators get lost). Tire noise is prominent.

    So, this CLA is weird. Terrible visibility, easy to tootle about in, gas and brake feel intuitive, cheapo interior, a back seat the clone of an ATS, i.e. just about useless. Some serious wick. A turbo Corolla. Just the job for the missus, as the Brits would say. Mercedes badge and good at tootling about on shopping errands. Cheerful and light feeling.

    So, I’m booked for a drive in the 4matic when they come in, Feb or March, to see what that’s like.

    Got back into my ’08 Legacy GT. Big windows. Full power from stop, no wheelspin, far superior steering, nicer head liner, wider inside, less front suspension clonking (never been good and yes, the Fiat 500 is better than my car too), and much flatter cornering. Also about half the mpg, I’d guess. But it feels like a real and substantial car instead of a lightweight pootler.

    The CLA is a pleasant but cheap and cheerful feeling runabout in FWD form. Nothing like a real Mercedes with its measured gait.

    And yet, in some funny way, I rather liked it. Cannot really tell you why. At $36K for the one I drove, it seems overpriced, but then so is everything else trying to be more than a typical compact. You NEED the rearview camera package, a mere $2850. The best deal of any car out there has to be the Accord Sport, but it’s hardly a must have either.

    The search continues. A3 or UKL1 next when available.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Great review and thanks for taking the time to write. This car sounds far inferior to the last-generation A3 I rented from Zipcar for a day during a visit to Chicago, which listed at about $36k as well.

      If one must go for “German sporty sedan around $30-35k” the 320i, A3, and loaded Jetta GLI all sound like better alternatives. I’m pretty sure a base ATS 2.0T with a 6-speed manual would slip in around the same price as this CLA, although it’d have to be special ordered.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        I’ve driven an A3 since 2005 and took a CLA for a spin a few weeks back. My thoughts on the CLA: it had a similar overall feel to my A3. Now, this is both a good and a bad thing: good in the sense that I love my A3. Bad in the sense that the CLA feels like something out of 2005.

        I didn’t find the CLA to be as cheap in person as I thought it would be. The dials were cheap, but after I sat in a C-Class and an E-Class on the showroom floor I discovered that the haptics of those vehicles really weren’t much better than in the CLA.

        The tack-on navigation/control system is another point that wasn’t nearly as bad in person as it is in photos. Is it good? No, it really doesn’t fit in a car of this ‘caliber’, but is that going to be a showstopper for buyers in this segment? Probably not.

        I felt the transmission to be okay, but not as good as the VW/Audi DSG. The engine was adequate and again, reminded my of my A3…from 2005. Suspension was a bit brittle and yes, the visibility is really as poor as everyone says. The best part of the ride? The brakes. Excellent brakes.

        My brief summary: The CLA is a nice car, far nicer than it looks in pictures. Proof that Merc knows what it’s doing is in the sales figures, which are astonishingly good right now.

        The real question is how it will stand up to competition from the forthcoming A3 Sedan and BMW 2-Series. The new A3 sedan really feels like a miniaturized A6 in just about every way. The car exudes refinement top to bottom. Audi nailed it with the new A3 and were I cross shopping the two I would take the A3 every day of the week over the CLA – unless I were buying purely for style and the three pointed star.

        The 2 series is the big fudge factor for both Merc and Audi. Coming in as a 2-door initially will limit its appeal, but with the arrival of the 2-series gran coupe late 2014 or early 2015 I can see the tables turning fast in BMW’s favor if the car lives up to what I’ve seen so far.

        So, the CLA is a decent product but I think the competition is going to catch up and surpass Merc very quickly.

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          I can’t speak to the CLA, as I haven’t driven it, but can relate a similar experience.

          We had an 2003 A4 Avant (V6), which we replaced at the end of 2012. We tested a number of vehicles, including both the A3 and the new B Class.

          Driving the A3 felt much like driving the A4 we were replacing – which is not a bad thing. Due to the growth of the A4 over the past decade, the A3 was very similar in size, though still a bit smaller.

          The B Class felt very similar to the A3 in driving characteristics, although noticeably taller. The interior is certainly much roomier (especially the back seat), and visibility much better. New generation has a much upgraded interior.

          The nav screen does sit up from the dash, which looks a bit strange from the outside. It’s easily within the driver’s field of vision, though.

          I’m not a fan of column-mounted shifters, but the Mercedes shifter (which is common across a number of models, including the E Class) is very easy to use. Nothing like as difficult as wmba’s report. And there is a choice of settings (economy-sport-manual) to tailor it to the user’s preferences.

          The CLA suffers from being a small sedan, with all the limitations that imposes. Hatchback configurations are much more versatile, and practical. I don’t understand why Americans won’t buy them, unless they can find some excuse to call it a truck.


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