By on April 7, 2016

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 front 3/4 view, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

“I love it,” the man once said, “when a plan comes together.” And this was the mother of all ad hoc, free-range, domino-effect plans.

Avant-garde pianist Hiromi Uehara, along with six-string bass monster Anthony Jackson and noted over-drummer Simon Phillips, had a 7:30 p.m. gig one evening in Fort Lauderdale. Southwest had a nonstop from Columbus that touched down in Fort Lauderdale at 6:35 p.m. Could I get off the plane, get a rental car, and make it to my fourth-row center-stage seat by 7:30 sharp? Google Maps said that the drive was 27 minutes. This was the kind of concert where they don’t take you to your seat if you show up late.

Well, the plan came together. The plane took off 17 minutes late but arrived 13 minutes early. The drive was easy, parking was free, and I had time to get a drink and stretch a bit before Hiromi started the show at roughly 7:40 p.m. There was really only one problem: Hertz had “guaranteed” me a Benz C300 for the night, but the text that I got when I landed said “YOUR MERCEDES CLA250 IS LOCATED IN SPOT 440. CLICK HERE TO RESERVE A DIFFERENT CAR.”

“The hell with that,” I said, and clicked to reserve a different car.

“No cars available!” the Hertz site cheerfully declared. There was no time to argue the issue with one of the cheerful but slow-moving people in the yellow-and-black polo shirts. It was time for me to do what I’d long avoided doing: take a spin behind the wheel of the hunchbacked babiest Benz “coupe.”

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 exterior rear, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

If you want to know the true power of Geoff Day, Mercedes-Benz’s infamous party planner who’s allegedly had problems from time to time with “bad little Jews,” a quick trawl through the early reviews of the CLA250 will show you that the man’s ability to influence the weak-minded lived on even after he left the company. “This an authentic Mercedes-Benz!” gushed noted hat-wearer Jean Jennings. Talk about a sop to PR; that statement is either meaningless or it’s a flat-out lie. So let’s look at both possibilities.

Strictly speaking, the CLA250 is an authentic Mercedes-Benz. It’s a development of the A-Class hatchback, which carries Mercedes-Benz’s flag in the Golf-and-Astra segment overseas. Although some of the units are probably assembled by Valmet in Finland, that’s no problem; all the Porsche Boxster “S” models through 2005 were also built there, and Valmet used to make a badass AK copy that was better than the real thing. The car was engineered soup-to-nuts by Daimler; it’s not a Chevy Luv or a Mazda Navajo.

So if that’s what Ms. Jennings meant, then yes, it’s an authentic Mercedes-Benz. If, on the other hand, she means that it provides a similar driving experience to what owners of an S550, E350, or even C300 would expect, then … haha fuck no.

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 interior dash, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Let’s start with the interior, because I don’t want to pick on the exterior styling too much.

It’s never easy to make a small car look like a big one, and the results are typically miserable whether you’re talking about the runt-ish first-gen Mercedes-Benz SLK or the 1984 Cadillac deVille. The CLA250 is no exception; if it looks like Ray Donovan’s CLS550 to you, then you’re legally blind and viewing it from a distance.

There’s a lot to like, one thing to dislike, and one thing to despise about this interior.

The lot to like: the materials are pretty decent for a car in the $30,000 class. If you have an Accord or Camry, then this will mostly feel like a step up, particularly when it comes to the big metallic sweep of the dash panel. The iconic M-B power seat controls are properly replicated here, which in and of itself is worth real money to people who need to share a car on long-distance trips. You can feel the cost-consciousness in some of the controls, particularly the Mattel shift lever and the tiny, vague-feeling iDrive-esque knob that controls many of the infotainment functions, but it’s certainly possible to spend more money and get a worse cockpit.

Compared to my old 190E, however, the CLA falls short in one important area. The seating position and relationship to the controls are straight out of the Ford Fiesta Human Interface Guideline Book, assuming such a volume exists. It’s all German supermini up in here; you’re bolt-upright in a relatively tall car with short windows. The dash is far away. The console is low. The angle at which you find your knees says cheap car. The old 190E, and the C-Classes which followed it, preserved traditional Benz seating position in smaller, tighter environs. By contrast, the CLA doesn’t feel cramped so much as it feels like a Honda Fit.

When I got back off the plane after my trip and sat down in my Accord Coupe, the first thought I had was “ooh, luxury car.” No, the Accord can’t match the CLA for quality of dashboard trim, but you have the luxury of a “real car” seating position instead of having your feet under your knees. This isn’t something that most buyers will be able to articulate, but they’ll all understand it on some intrinsic level the moment they sit in the little Benz. I will also say, for the record, that I found the CLA painful to drive and operate because of the supermini seating. In fact, I’d rather sit in Danger Girl’s Fiesta ST.

My last quibble with the interior is shown below:

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Door Panel and Lock Stem, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

What is that? Well, it’s a super-chintzy-looking door-lock knob that wouldn’t be out of place in a base-trim 1993 Ford F-150. Not only does it look terrible, it’s poised to impact the elbow of anybody tall enough to drive this car with their arm resting on the doorsill instead of the armrest. I’m only six-two or so and I found it absolutely infuriating. Enough for me to never buy the car on that single damming “feature” alone. I find it hard to believe that Mercedes-Benz can’t do better.

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Instrument Cluster, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Everybody knows that the Florida Gold Coast isn’t exactly the Nurburgring, so it’s no surprise that my attempts to exercise the CLA250’s chassis and engine were limited to a few over-enthusiastic off-ramps. It behaves more or less as you’d expect: like a transverse FWD car with no chassis magic whatsoever. Think 2004 Honda Civic. Its current systeme Panhard siblings are much better, as was my 190E.

The engine is not the 201-horsepower 1.8L that I more or less tolerated in the SLK250 under similar conditions last year, but rather a 208-hp 2.0-liter deal. To quote Brick Top from Snatch, “You’re not a diesel, are you, CLA250?”

“No, no, I’m not.”

“But you do have all the characteristics of a diesel, CLA250. All except economy.”

From the uninsulated cheap-clack of the direct injectors at a drive-through to the slow-revving, anodyne way in which this boosted four delivers power, it might as well be a diesel. You can feel the car limiting its torque in the low gears to prevent torque steer, and as a result it never truly feels rapid.

The dim-witted seven-speed dual-clutch transmission doesn’t help matters. Nobody will ever publicly accuse Mercedes-Benz of delivering outstanding gearboxes, but this one’s worse than the brand’s usual clunkers. My CL55 company car, which I often used as an example of how not to program an automatic, was better, and it had a supercharged V8 with which to deal. This DCT is always a little slow, a little late. It will toss in a head-shaker downshift for no real reason as you coast. The paddles act as mere suggestions, not commands. You can feel the thing trying to maximize durability with its shift strategy and I’m not sure it’s succeeding at its intended task.

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 front, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

What I’d like to suggest to you is that this car is a direct consequence of the way the media treats Mercedes-Benz in the United States. Ever since the debut of the 190E, the press has universally praised each new Baby Benz upon its debut then savaged it relentlessly upon its successor’s introduction. My personal favorite example of this was the C/D review for the W202 C-Class that compared the W201 190E to a dead hamster rotting in a child’s room. With each new small Mercedes, the press has felt free to castigate the previous car for being nothing but a cheap way to show off the three-pointed star to your neighbors. The truth is that the W201 and many of its successors were far more than that; they were good, solid vehicles that exemplified as many of the company’s core values as could be possible given the limited canvas offered by a 175-inch unibody. I’ve owned and driven various Benzes both great and small, from C to CL, and I’ve always had affection for the quiet dignity and high-speed comfort of the small sedans.

With the CLA, however, the nothing-but-a-star-on-the-grille criticism applies — and it applies to the fullest. The tested $35,375 price of this car would get you many, many cars that are simply better at everything they do. An Accord is a better car, as is a Camry, as is an Audi A3. A Ford Fusion Titanium feels much more like a Mercedes-Benz than does this stunted little Golf-alike. There’s no reason to buy this CLA unless you absolutely must have a new Benz for under $40,000.

Actually, scratch that. You can get a base C300 for just a few thousand more. That is a good, solid, attractive, high-quality sedan that doesn’t need to make apologies for anything. Do whatever it takes to get that extra money.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a phone call to make. I don’t see any reason why I should pay for a CLA250 when I really wanted a C300. You should feel the same way.

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165 Comments on “2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Rental Review – ‘Authentic’...”


  • avatar
    Cactuar

    A base Honda Accord probably has better headlights than this “luxury” car.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      You’re better off with an Accord or any decent Asian mid sized sedan. No badge though.

      I saw the title pic and I though… ease up on the wide angle, it makes the car look odd, and then I realised, this is what the car looks like.

      I would rather buy a mid sized Japanese CUV than this. This CLA is the infamous $29,900 ‘luxury’ Mercedes isnt it?

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Daimler messed this up, that is all that needs to be said.

    • 0 avatar
      Megaqwerty

      Did they? Aren’t sales of these guys on fire? From a business perspective, the car is genius: hoodwink Joe Blow into thinking he’s getting a good deal on the Mercedes he’s always wanted, but Daimler laughs all the way to the bank.

      Everything about this screams overpriced and high profit margin. I hope that negative impressions from the CLA (and the GLA) doesn’t damage Mercedes’ reputation in the United States, particularly if they become most people’s first introduction to the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The damage will not be immediately apparent, it might take fifteen years think of it this way.

        You can still drive a 25-year-old 190E to a nice restaurant, and you’ll look like someone established, moneyed, dignified.

        That will -not- be possible with a CLA.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        US centric view: There’s real money to be made by cashing in on your brand equity. Thing is, once you’ve spent it, it’s gone. It’s the kind of leadership you get when the decision makers are compensated based on the share value at one point in time. (cash out the options and bail on the repercussions.) A business run by owners instead of a board representing traders would never do this.

        Real answer: Have you seen EU MB’s? They always had cheap crap with the badge. Only difference is here they get to mark it up for a while.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Simon Phillips the session guy?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    If you want something that actually feels premium at this price point, the A3 with the 2.0T is better.

    If you want the engineering without the nonsense options, get a base 320i and tune it.

    If you’re looking for bang-for-your-buck, try the ILX.

    Yeah, I’m not seeing a reason to purchase CLA-Class. I don’t even like the styling.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The lower matte trim below the bumper and in place of where fog lights would be is also very offensive to me.

    And that door lock – apparently putting a little tab by the handle is too difficult now? I don’t think I can even think of many cars which have pop up locks anymore. It shows every passerby that your car’s quite unlocked.

    Not that the average CLA owner will have anything worth stealing besides a Michael Kors purse made in Bangladesh.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My X5 had them, and I didn’t like them for the reason you mentioned. The Golf SportWagen just has electronic door lock switches in the front (and the lock symbol lights up orange when the door is actually locked); on the rear doors, you just pull the handle once to unlock and once to open the door. My Jetta SportWagen had electronic switches on all four doors.

      • 0 avatar
        anomaly149

        Both lock rods and lock toggles are hideously dated. Nothing says welcome to 1980 quite like having a lock rod dig into your arm, or seeing the toggle wildly rocket around when you hit the power lock.

        It’s 2016. Companies have done little LEDs for lock indication for years. Why the heck would you put a rod on a Mercedes when a Fusion has a light?

        • 0 avatar
          TonyJZX

          They are an anachronism but over here all Mercedes have auto door locking above say walking speed so the knob slash rod should *always* be down once the car is in motion.

          I think the only reason they are around is that its a quick visual inspection indicator that all doors are down. Why you need that when central locking was invented 25-30 odd years ago… maybe Benz are ultraconservative.

          And a word on the C class. While I dont actually mind the handling of the RWD chassis I do have a problem with the way Mercedes tune their 4 cyl. motors. They are by far some of the most offensive sounding and feeling motors ever… I cant beleive they dont do this on purpose to ‘upsell’ you to a six.

  • avatar
    ajla

    So, this CLA250 or the base Cadillac ATS 2.5L?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Crikey. Well I hate myself for obviously making poor life choices and finding myself in this predicament. While I find the CLA styling absurd and terrible, the ATS maintains a more traditional sedan shape, and has perhaps hints in the exterior that you might not be a badge moron. The ATS is more well-sorted in a chassis way than the CLA, easily.

      ATS it is.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Bigger question, which is the better fit to be the 2016 Cimmaron?

    • 0 avatar

      ATS. Proportions are correct and – yes, Virginia – a Cadillac is way less embarassing than this Accent-Sedan-With-A-Mercedes-Star.

      • 0 avatar
        jefmad

        Unless your talking an ATS-V i would have to disagree.

      • 0 avatar
        laserwizard

        The ATS can only carry two adults in comfort with that proportion you praise. That alone makes anyone who likes it a complete idiot.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I’d take a somewhat POS ATS over this complete POS Mercedes that’s-worse-than-any-Camry-Accord-Fusion.

        BOOM!

        At least the ATS has a good chassis, good steering feel, and a better 2.0T mill.

        • 0 avatar

          It took the CLA to get DW to compliment Caddy…that says it all about the CLA.

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          I took a screenshot of this. “Deadweight chooses the ats”

          The cla is very clearly a first generation product from benz. Even if it isn’t really, that’s what I tell myself so as not to unduly prejudice my opinion of their other cars.

          The really troubling thing is that I think these components are on the first leg of their two stage product cycle. So, as ford, vw and soon Mazda refine their turbo transverse/haldex drivetrains and improve their already superior packaging the merc will soldier on with a volume crippled old product. Unless they want to spend a bazillion dollars of course.

          • 0 avatar
            enzl

            Actually, what you’ll see is a melding of Nissan/Infiniti/A-classes development.

            The QX30 coming to the US is, I believe, a CLA (Technically a GLA) under the skin. IIRC, Infiniti will also be using the 2.0T in RWD applications.

            Volume of the A’s are woefully inadequate for MB to compete at these $ levels. Which explains Ghosn’s participation and begs the question of whether MB should be there in the first place….

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            That screenshot should be your avatar. No one will be able to read it, but those who know…

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        My mom test drove this CLA and a Lexus ES. She thought the blinged out Camry was a sportier, more refined ride.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Hey, now!

          The ES is a blinged out *Avalon*.

          (I’m not surprised, either, since it’s a bigger platform and has a much more serious engine, and presumably a serious transmission.)

        • 0 avatar

          ES is a somewhat serious in its luxury pretensions, and it’s based on a significantly larger, adult car platform. I’m not surprised it wipes with floor with a pseudo-Benz. In addition ES is not the entry level Lexus. They have CT for that role.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Rim! Shot!

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Choice C…. stripper BMW 320i, with a $500 tune.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    A front-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz? Heresy! Daimler and Benz (and Ms. Jellinek) must be spinning in their graves. Dr. Z should be ashamed. Fo shizzle.

  • avatar
    S1L1SC

    On a side note – my 1993 740IL has the door lock post in the same place, and even when you lock the door it does not fully retract, so it is always pocking your arm/elbow.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Bravo, Jack. Agreed on all points and kudos for the re-worked Snatch reference!

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    A friend of mine just picked up a 2008 C300 with 70k miles for $17k and it looks better than this. Not sure if he got ripped or not, but if I had to be caught dead in a Mercedes that C300 would be it.

    Then again I’m not at that stage in life where badge-snobbery is in the cards. On a purely aesthetic level Mercedes is always dead last.

    Audi looks best, then BMW, and then Mercedes, at least to my eyes.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      In general, I’d agree that Audi looks best for both sedans and coupes (except for the TT).

      I test drove a CPO altamcama yellow Z4 yesterday and IMO it’s the best looking car that BMW makes and it looks better than anything from Audi or Mercedes (except possibly the S Class Coupe).

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I’d agree (of the three), with current models.

      (Though the current E and GLE [nee GLK] look decent enough to my eyes.

      The last generation I really *liked* the look of was the 211 body E-class (through MY2009) and the C208/9 CLK.

      They’re trying way too hard with most of them these days.

      But then the only MB I’ve ever *owned* was a W115, and I thought it was absolutely gorgeous [for its age and wear].)

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      That seems expensive. I’ve seen 2008-9 C300s with 70-90k miles going for $12-15k.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    Good article, Jack (much better-informed than the last one too). I get enough temper tantrums from my 2 year old.

    Regarding the Benz though, the depreciation on these should be enough to have them competing on the BHPH lots with Hyundais and Chrysler 200s of the same vintage within about 5 years or so.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    Thanks for the write up. I’ve never heard good things about this car. Noisy, nervous, cramped, etc. Just seems to have too many compromises.

    Curious to see a review on the AMG variant though.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Spending this type of money, I’d just opt for a CPO A4. (Found one on ebay for $37K with 3,000 miles on it—Premium Plus with Quattro). The A3 and this have horrible interiors; the “tacked on” look and the fancy screen that rises from the dash is worthless. The A3 also has that stupid row of buttons with blanks in them in the middle of the dash if you’re missing an option or 3.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Yes, I agree. Don’t you love that “tacked on with velcro” approach to dashboard/screen integration? Doesn’t that show the time and art invested in the design? Just give me a dock for my iWhatever, and I’ll get by.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I can understand why some would choose this car over seemingly better options.

    Me. I’d go straight to the VW dealer and hit up a Golf R. I know, not everyone’s cup of tea, but would work for me.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I love how all automaker buy their base “just hate yourself” wheels from the same place. The cheap looking 5 spoke painted aluminum rims are pretty much the exact same rims on every base model, regardless of manufacturer. Hideous.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I generally like simple 5 spoke designs, but you’re right about these. They look incredibly generic and lack any detail that could make them look good.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    Heh, I always thought my ex-wife’s ’11 GLK350 4MATIC was a poser (which she was forced to get rid of due to *outstanding* work from my divorce attorney…). That being said, I did admire its surefootedness, and I never had any gripes with that E-Class motor under the bonnet. :)

    I’ve always heard that there was absolutely NO reason to buy a CLA. This confirms that notion.

    I just can’t wait to see how many corners they cut with the next generation. ;)

    Doesn’t matter, though. They can cheapify these baby Benzes all they want. Yuppies with 35k/year jobs and marginal credit scores will sop them up like biscuits, so long as that three-pointed star is on the front of it (which, by the way… seems to get LARGER every year…. hmmmm….).

  • avatar
    JMII

    “Could I get off the plane, get a rental car, and make it to my fourth-row center-stage seat by 7:30 sharp?”

    As long your drive didn’t involve I-95 the answer is yes. I frequent FLL a lot, some of those off ramps are fun. Just avoid this airport at all costs on most Sundays. That is when the cruise ships arrive back at Port Everglades and exchange sun burnt, hung over passengers for another group of people who already crossed Disney, Key West and see alligators(!) off their “to do in FL” list.

    A few track days back I had what can only be described as daddy’s little girl with this same Merc. Car had only 400 miles on the clock and it was the Sport package with red accents (trim, seat belts, brakes, etc) so I’d venture a guess it was a Christmas or graduation present. Everything about it screamed Acura TL (A-Spec) but with a huge 3 star logo on the grill. Poor spoiled girl didn’t even know how to open the hood and it appeared the electronic parking brake was totally automatic (put car in park, shut off = brake on). Now the car itself did obey all commands on track and didn’t over heat or get mushy brakes. Sadly her royal cuteness actually got board pushing it thru turns, hitting only 100 MPH and went off seeking a ride-a-along in something way more cool then my 13 year old orange Datsun. At home I’d bet she spends all day on Snapchat. So she seemed like the perfect owner for such a vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yeah the parking brake is bewildering, right down to the old-style manual release that apparently just trips a switch.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I wouldn’t make assumptions based on the car she’s driving. Id she showes up in a car costing similar money would you automatically assume that Daddy bought it for her?

      And if he did, so what?

      She bought it to, and ran it on a track. I know nothing about her but based on that small tidbit of info she’s starts off with an “OK” in my book.

      And what’s wrong wanting a ride in a faster car. I like rides in faster cars. I think many, if not most who enjoy performance cars like to drive, and if that’s not possible, get rides in cars that are faster than their own.

      Nothing wrong with that.

      I know at times it can be difficult but try not to judge her so harshly solely based on the car she’s driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Yeah, not seeing the issue there, either.

        She drove it competently enough, it sounds, but wanted to see something faster … sounds fine to me.

        (And the car didn’t overheat or soak the brakes? So, it sounds like it … also did okay.)

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          Don’t worry I gave her props. I am always respectful of people that are willing to give it a go on track. Just seemed like random college girl and the CLA230 were meant for each other. Its just not your typical track day ride. Granted I’ve seen the full range from Audi wagons and stock 90s Civics to full race prepped 911s doing laps… this is one of the reasons I like track days – you get a little bit of everything out there – its all good!

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I frequently park next to one of these at my office building. It really is such a tiny car and its proportions are ….bad….

    Lets face it, you aren’t going to get Uber luxury for 35 grand. And with Mercedes and their profit margins, you apparently cannot even get top spec mass market luxury as from the likes of Ford, Toyo, Honda. But you get the 3 pointed star….and that’s what this marketing exercise is really all about isn’t it?

    There are enough social climbers and wannabe ballers that will be thrilled to get exactly what they paid for….the badge.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Where I am these are all driven by “women of a certain age”. My Mother thinks they are adorable…

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        I suspect people leasing their first luxury car in their 20s or early 30s split the sales with empty nester aging women. Seems like the asme type who buy Encores.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          No one in their 20s and 30s is leasing their first luxury car here. Successful people in their 40s mostly BUY their first new luxury car here. This isn’t LA.

          Not that I have anything particularly against leasing, our state tax laws simply make it much less appealing than in most places.

          To me, this car is basically a German Buick Verano. Same awkward FWD proportions, similar dynamics. It’s not even that much more expensive for a basic comparable one. I just can’t work up much care one way or the other.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    For what it’s worth, Car & Driver compared the CLA250 to Bud Light, and summed it up as “When you pay for half a Mercedes, you get half a Mercedes.” I know folks love to bash the car magazines here, but there’s plenty of real things to criticize without having to imply something that isn’t there.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      That was nine months after their “first drive review,” when they repaid Mercedes’ hospitality with a lack of memorable insults while praising the car’s styling and front seats’ “generous space and excellent comfort.” Styling is subjective. Maybe they really liked. The front seats lack of space and comfort isn’t all that open to debate.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        They were pretty negative in their first drive, too. I haven’t sat in the CLA myself and can’t comment on the front seats, but they say the back ones are only for people who are “Snooki-sized with the tolerance of a Buddhist,” savaged the transmission, criticized the suspension tuning, and frame the review by talking about the “compromises” required to make a cheap Benz.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Too bad these things are flying off the shelves so-to-speak, and have been since they were introduced. Wonder if price/value relationship will be better among impending flood of softly-used leasers.

    Also wonder how over-represented these are in repo pools at auction. Probably a lot of pretty cheap/rough CLA pickings there, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I saw one that had been wrecked and abandoned on the side of the highway once.

      http://s28.postimg.org/jmdq0gnz1/IMG_0482.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      I think the demo for this car is 40 YO female real-estate agent. Doesn’t care about driving dynamics, and must have the Benz name plate to impress clients.
      .
      .

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Does CLA impress clients, I wonder?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Real estate agents sometimes take clients to showings and need room in the back seat. Every one I’ve ever worked with has had a midsize or bigger car (from memory: GS350, full-size Range Rover, E320, RX330).

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I was never under the impression that many rode with the agent any more. I went to her office once to sign the “yes I’m your customer” forms. All other times, she’d meet me at whatever house we were looking at.

          She had a 5-year-old gold colored Avalon.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Note that she had an Avalon. Lots of back-seat room there.

            I’ve ridden with my last two agents (GS350 and Range Rover).

            The Range Rover guy is a baller. He handles all of the business for lawyers at a bunch of major DC firms, and lives in a multimillion dollar house in Potomac. Did a great job for me even though my sale price only had six figures in it, very much on the low end of his clients.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yay, humblebrags!

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I wish… I might have implied by that that it was *high* six figures. It wasn’t. I expect mine was the cheapest condo he sold that year, and possibly since.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re wealthy in character! :D

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Mostly, I’ve spent lots of time around very wealthy people in my life, but not managed to get at more than a tiny bit of their money…

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re not lawyering properly, ha.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Probably true. Should have kept at the soul-crushing work in my first specialty (securities enforcement defense).

            But the general rule is that well-paid lawyers are the unhappiest well-paid people on earth… because they alone know how much money their clients have.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            We have a lawyer here (life insurance co) who was a corporate attorney for 25 years, specializing in maritime law. I’m not sure he liked it by the time he was through. He has interesting legal boat stories from the Ohio though. I call him the barge lawyer.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Barge Lawyer sounds like a new sitcom on the CW, Thursdays at 8.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Tyler Perry’s gonna show America how to do boat law, hilarity guaranteed!

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          In my experience the realtor cars of choice were of the ES and RX variety.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        A CPO E-Class or M-Class would do a better job of that. No one’s going to be impressed when his spine is bent around the C-pillar shape of a CLA-Class.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I just checked GCBC.

      They sell (it’s pretty variable) around 2,500 a month on average – 30k total last year.

      MB sells *three times as many* C-classes.

      I honestly expected the CLA to be doing better, but I’m sort of glad people are rejecting it.

  • avatar
    maranello

    At the risk of sounding like a sycophant, incorporating a Brick Top line from Snatch into a car review is kinda brilliant.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Ahem: “The dim-witted seven-speed dual-clutch transmission doesn’t help matters. … This DCT is always a little slow, a little late. It will toss in a head-shaker downshift for no real reason as you coast. The paddles act as mere suggestions, not commands.”

    And yet certain people keep telling me the manual needs to die because modern slushboxes are sooooo wonderful.

    • 0 avatar
      ImAbeFroman

      They are, on cars like the M235i and Audi S3. This car just does everything 75% right.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Exactly.

        The problem is not the non-manual transmission (a DCT is in no case a “slushbox”, anyway, even though you don’t operate it with a clutch and shifter), but the programming.

    • 0 avatar
      CarnotCycle

      Flappy-paddle inputs are ‘suggestions?’ That kinda says it all for this turd.

    • 0 avatar
      Carzzi

      “My CL55 company car, which I often used as an example of how not to program an automatic, was better, and it had a supercharged V8 with which to deal.”
      The ending of that sentence is clunkier than said transmission. Up with this I will not put.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Yeah but the options were:

        a) End the sentence incorrectly;

        b) Put the vodka down and rewrite it properly;

        c) Whatcha got.

        • 0 avatar
          fishiftstick

          c) Well, this:

          That phrase was quoted (tongue in cheek, I hope) not just out of but in opposition to context: that the rule against ending a sentence with a proposition was “the kind of nonsense up with which I shall not put.”

          So sayeth Winston Churchill, who knew a thing or two about writing in the English language.

        • 0 avatar
          Carzzi

          Your obstinate, forceful fastidiousness towards not ending sentences with prepositions, now additionally fortified with vodka, is what I take great amusement in. And look forward to more of.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This is the dental hygenist’s Benz lease pushed to the most cynical extremes. A shameful effort. The point about the dining chair seating position is a good ‘un.

  • avatar
    ImAbeFroman

    What amazes me is that people buy this because of the “badge” but the only people impressed by a CLA250 own cheaper cars. The CLA250 4Matic sounds interesting but that thing, with the options required to make it a decent “luxury car”, has an MSRP of over $40,000.
    For the cost a decently equipped CLA250 one can buy a base (and marginally less-equipped) Audi S3, loaded Golf R (with more features and performance), or CPO C300.
    The only CLA I’d consider driving is the new CLA45 AMG. Give us the A45 AMG and I’d be all over that car!
    TLDR: Buy a loaded Golf GTI if your budget is $35,000 – you will be happier for it.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I don’t know if that’s correct. I think for many people, the tri-star is a symbol of quality and more importantly money.

      Most aren’t auto enthusiasts. Most don’t own other Mercedes vehicles. Most don’t know where the car falls in the line up. It’s smaller, but it’s a Mercedes.

      For some, the tri-star is the answer to all that ails thee.

      At this price point I’d be in a Golf R. At the CLA45 AMG price point, I’d still be in a Golf R.

      • 0 avatar
        ImAbeFroman

        Correction
        CPO CLA45 AMG. But I’d only want the new 2017 model with adaptive suspension and CarPlay so, yeah, give me a Golf R. $1500 will buy a nice sunroof if that’s a big deal.

    • 0 avatar
      CarnotCycle

      I don’t get it either. One can pick up well-loved ~2010 AMG CLS63 for south of a new CLA easy enough to buy warranty for AMG or just have maintenance slushfund for AMG with price difference. And it looks good, blows doors off just about anything, is cushier (though tighter) inside than an E, and love it or hate it nobody thinks it isn’t a ‘real’ Benz.

      • 0 avatar
        ImAbeFroman

        2011 E63 AMG at CarMax for $41K with available warranty up to 125K

        http://www.carmax.com/enus/view-car/default.html?id=11108545&AVi=10&No=0&Rp=R&D=90&zip=37204&ASTc=amg&Us=14&Q=1973049c-9651-45cd-8923-8940e7b95e44&Ep=search:results:results%20page

        CLA 45 AMG for $45K – that few thousand is worth it over a boring CLA250
        http://www.carmax.com/enus/view-car/default.html?id=12497395&AVi=9&No=0&Rp=R&D=90&zip=37204&ASTc=amg&Us=4&Q=1973049c-9651-45cd-8923-8940e7b95e44&Ep=search:results:results%20page

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    My name is Cimarron, King of J-Bodies
    Look on my works, ye Germans, and despair.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Believe it or not, this car is a major improvement over the ’14-’15, in that the materials are actually not inferior to those on an Altima 2.5S. Of course, the price went up accordingly. The $30k base 2014 CLA250 became a $33k base 2016 CLA250.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Other than the steering wheel, which is just Mercedes-Benz’ latest corporate unit, I don’t see what changed. The materials might be different, but they *look* the same.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        They are different.

        One of the baffling things about the old CLA is how much it looked like the new C-Class and how little it felt like that car. The new CLA at least is competitive with a Honda Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      From Jack’s description, it sounds as though the material quality has improved a bit.

      I remember comparing a CLA interior directly against the interior of the then new (and now unloved, and much maligned) Chrysler 200C. I thought the 200C interior was a significant step up in material quality compared to the CLA.

      As I’ve said in another CLA thread, I have ridden in the diesel powered hatchback Spanish taxicab version of these. They don’t bother me at all in that application, where they seem like honest cars that are a reasonable alternative to something like a Seat Leon. But it seems a bit disingenuous to bling them up with a backlit plastic Mercedes badge and pretend they are in any way upscale…

    • 0 avatar
      linard76

      The materials have not changed since launch. The only differences interior-wise with the 2016 models are the larger infotainment screen, infotainment controls and steering wheel. The rest of it is the same including the various trim options. You might have seen one equipped with the interior package that has stitched panels across the dash and doors but that’s been an option since day one.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The styling leaves a terrible first impression, and apparently the rest of the book can be judged by that cover. If I really needed a German luxury badge on my trunk lid for $35K, I’d be going for the 320i.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    Just playing devil’s advocate, but…

    Building cheaper and cheaper vehicles aimed more at the middle class (see GLA and their line of work vans) did Mercedes really intend for this to be a viable alternative to other (“real”) near-luxury cars?

    Mercedes isn’t that big of a deal in a lot of Euro countries (where Jeep gets more street cred), and they’re used to seeing *cheap* Mercs, Volvos, etc.

    A 3 series (or even a 2 Series) buyer is never going to cross shop a CLA anyway. Seems to me like they’re going after the Altima and Sonata crowd.

    • 0 avatar
      Robbie

      It just makes more sense for Mercedes to make a $30,000 overpriced-but-quality car than the CLA. The CLA does not seem true to the brand. The European A and B series are attempts to “stay a Mercedes”.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “A 3 series (or even a 2 Series) buyer is never going to cross shop a CLA anyway. ”

      They are if their goal is not “Ze Ultimate Drivink Mazhine!” but “A Germany Luxury Car I Can Make The Payment On”.

      Whole lot of 320is get sold to people who can barely drive, after all.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Back in the day I think I was reading EVO or Car Deluxe and in the way back of the mag they had a long list of cars with the magazine’s briefest of summary of their opinion on the vehicle. It was possibly my favorite part of the magazine and some of the sentence long entries were sharp and unexpected like a rusty nail through your air jordan but filled with hilarity and honesty not a staph infection and tetanus.

    TTAC’s for the CLA 250: “haha fuck no”

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    They’re selling a hood ornament. For over $10K. It’s an intelligence test, so is it any surprise that people are failing it in droves?

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    I know a flight attendant in her 50s who tells everyone about how she bought a MERCEDES!!! for $9,000. She thinks she got the most screaming deal in the world on a great luxury car. The Mercedes in question is a B200 that’s at least 6 years old.

    That’s the kind of person who finances a CLA.

  • avatar
    old5.0

    The placement of the auxiliary gauges, both to the lower right quadrant of the main gauges, is… off-putting. Not sure why something so relatively insignificant is so bothersome, but there you go.

  • avatar

    I’m somewhat impressed at the rate that Mercedes rental fleets these. SixT has these in droves.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    ” runt-ish first-gen Mercedes-Benz SLK or the 1984 Cadillac deVille”

    Not to be pedantic, but I think you’re meaning to refer to the downsized MY85 de Ville C-body FWD, the 1984 is still D-body RWD.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      I noticed that too, but I was waiting for someone else to notice.

      1985-88(?) was a rough time for the ol’ DeVille…a new engine and a good stretching out did a lot for them. Never liked the stubby back end of the early ones…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The motor was not new, the 4100 was introduced in 1982 and was originally intended for FWD transverse use.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I was talking about the 4.5, which, while not ENTIRELY new, certainly was much improved, and seemed to come along at around the same time as the wheelbase stretch and rear end redesign.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yep, the 4.5 replaced 4.1 in 1988.
            They got longer in 1989.
            4.9 came along for 1991, which also included numerous suspension and steering upgrades, as well as the final restyling for 91-93 (bigger grille, more pointy front, trim at the back was changed a bit as well).

            For 93 only there was a Sixty Special model, and Deville lost the rear window vertical chrome trim and seat wreath imprints.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yes sir.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure what Jack remembers of it, but my memory of the old CLK is a fantastic looking roadster. That design was amazing. I cannot tell anything about its drivetrain or suspension, but one of my friends leased one of those and I had a good look a few times. The next generation looked bloated and deformed by comparison. Chrysler Crossfire was just hideous.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “I’ve been trying to think, what it is that this shape reminds me of and last night it came to me. You know when a dog’s doing its number two; that kind of arched back thing. That’s what it is! Hideous! Ewww!”
      – Clarkson

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    “What is that? Well, it’s a super-chintzy-looking door-lock knob … poised to impact the elbow of anybody tall enough to drive this car with their arm resting on the doorsill instead of the armrest.”

    I used to have no trouble at all resting my arm on the doorsill in any car, and as Groucho Marx put it, I’m well over 4′ tall. Now the seats are lower, the sills are wider, and the greenhouse starts higher.

    It’s not just a matter of comfort, either: these design features are seriously detrimental to visibility.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    One of my good friends has a brother who is a very talented but also alcoholic industrial products salesman. He gets fired from jobs that he is successful at due to his drinking problem. Couple years ago he was foreclosed out of his house and declared bankruptcy. He’s back at a new job making good commissions again…what is he driving? CLA lease, baby.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    So this is Benzs’ Packard 120? A reach too far downmarket that debases the brand? Everything goes in cycles and I see Benz and BMW both chasing volume too eagerly, much as Cadillac did in the Seventies, with disastrous results. At some point the cachet if both brands will wear off in favour if…?

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      …Tesla?

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        “…Tesla?”

        A Model 3 would be a great alternative to a CLA at this price point.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @shaker A Model 3 would be a great alternative to a CLA at this price point.

          I think you’re right. The CLA is a great example of an often overlooked advantage that EVs have over ICEs. I think when potential buyers shop an EV vs. an ICE like the CLA, the greeness and economy of operation won’t be what makes the sale, it’ll be the smoothness, quiet, and instant torque of the EV. That’s where the real ICE vs. EV battle lines are drawn.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Wild-ass prediction of the day: I think that because of the demand for the Model 3, we’ll probably see an Infinity version of the next Leaf. I’m guessing it will be a sedan with similar specs to the Model 3. Now that Nissan is partnering with Mercedes on low end cars, that Leaf-based Infinity could very well end up with a Mercedes badge. It’s just a guess, but I think it’s possible.

            http://wardsauto.com/industry/mercedes-cla-infiniti-derivative-be-built-nissan-mexico

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            “it’ll be the smoothness, quiet, and instant torque of the EV. That’s where the real ICE vs. EV battle lines are drawn.”

            Absolutely!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    OK, we hate on this car, but I gotta admit…the idea’s sound, even if the execution isn’t. Get younger buyers in the door and keep ’em leasing a nicer Benz every few years.

    As long as the “real” Benzes don’t go all cheapo like this one…

  • avatar
    threeer

    Landed in Zagreb, Croatia on Tuesday and the Sixt rental guy beamed when he announced I was being upgraded to a Mercedes…the hatchback variant of this very car. My rental is at least a diesel with a six speed manual, but dang…what was I upgraded from, a Skoda? While it’s a decent car, I just don’t think it’s a decent Mercedes.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    I can’t help but compare the CLA250 to the Ford Focus. After all, the CLA is derived from Mercedes’ C-segment car and the Focus does feel like a FWD version of a C-Class, which a TTAC review a few months ago noted.

    Aside from a turbocharger, one more cog in what seems to be an even more irritating DSG and the Christian Audigier styling, maybe the Focus Titanium, which is more honest in its pretensions would be a better entry-level Mercedes than the CLA.

  • avatar
    Spanish Inquisition

    Fun fact: All W204s had the same door lock pins.

    They’re not great. They’re hard to grip, look chintzy as fuck, and they break easily. Why they couldn’t have cylindrical pins is beyond me, or even the flush pins BMWs use. At least the AMG has dress up parts for the door pins?

  • avatar
    olddavid

    These stream out of the Daimler Freightliner factory at 4:30. So, that begs the question, would your evaluation change at a $25k price point?

  • avatar
    Maseraudi

    Hiromi’s hair are more “avant guard” than her piano style. I’d rather leave that label to Carla Bley or John Cage…

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’d find a CPO E wagon with extended warranty for the same price. They are way cooler.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    As someone else here mentioned, if you want to see how to do the whole “small, premium luxury”, it’s the A3, hands down. The proportions are right, the powertrain and chassis is right, the packaging is great, too. Yes, the interior is a bit spartan, but when you’re in it, everything feels upscale, the buttons have good weight and tactile feel, the seating position is good (the base seats, as in all base model BMW, Audi and Mercs, suck, IMO).

    The advantage Audi has is that that the A3 rides on the VW group MQB architecture and they can take advantage of the mass scale that Mercedes lacks.

    The CLA is, as someone else here mentioned, an exercise in leveraging ones’ brand name. I’ll echo what Jack said: beg, borrow or steal the additional few thousand bucks to get into a real Merc. The new C Class is an awesome ride. The CLA is just…awful.

  • avatar
    multicam

    Haven’t read every single comment, but I’m surprised more hate isn’t being piled on that infotainment screen. Man is that thing ugly- like they designed the interior then said “oh sheet, ve forgot ze screen!” and tacked it on like an aftermarket GPS device. And the bezel surrounding the screen is way too thick. I mean, this is 2016… Screens need thin bezels. My 65″ LCD TV has a thinner bezel, at least on the sides.

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