By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 9.3
As the least expensive sedan in the automaker’s lineup, one might think the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class 4-door coupe would be just a bargain-basement ploy to lure customers into the showroom. But, this hot little machine is anything but hype. Designed to take on the Audi A3, Acura ILX and Infiniti Q30, the 2017 CLA-Class can run circles around the competition, with standout styling and a high-performance AMG CLA45 version that pumps out an impressive 375 horsepower. Even the base CLA250 offers plenty to like, with a willing turbocharged engine, available all-wheel drive and a starting price just under $33,400. If you can live with the cramped rear seat and limited visibility, the 2017 MB CLA250 is ideal for first-time luxury-car buyers.
If you’re seeking a Civic-sized car with an upscale pedigree, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 makes a great choice. Strong performance and impressive handling make this one fun ride, and those with deep pockets will love the performance offered by the AMG CLA45.
KBB Expert Ratings
For 2017, Mercedes-Benz gives the CLA-Class a facelift, with new styling at both the front and rear. Inside, new seat covers and a thinner 8-inch display screen join chrome-plated controls for a more elegant look. New options include LED headlights, while Active Brake Assist is made standard.
Generations of Mercedes-Benz cars have been pushed by their rear wheels, so the fact that the 2017 CLA250 4-door coupe is pulled by its front tires might seem like a...
... big deal. In reality, the CLA’s front-drive (FWD) platform isn’t detrimental to the car’s ability to handle, and the all-wheel-drive (AWD) versions improve things even more. Place the CLA250 in Sport mode and you’ll discover a car that is quick off the line, with an excellent 7-speed dual-clutch automatic that makes the most of the turbocharged 2.0-liter’s 208 horsepower. Only when pushed to its limits does the CLA250 begin to exhibit front-end plow. Adding Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic AWD alleviates this problem plus makes the little CLA-Class a marvelous companion on snow-covered roads. Performance aficionados will love the immense power, stiffer suspension and upgraded brakes found on the AMG CLA45, a car capable of rocketing to 60 mph in just over four seconds.
The optional panoramic glass sunroof is a great way to open up the 2017 MB CLA-Class’s snug cabin. When open, the cockpit is filled with fresh air and sunshine. Leave the glass portion closed but with the sunshade retracted, and you’ll gain lots of light while creating a bit more headroom.
AMG CLA45 4MATIC
For those who can afford the premium, the AMG CLA45 4Matic delivers impressive power, handling and sophistication far better than any Acura ILX, Infiniti Q30 or Audi S3, but on par with the BMW M2.
As we've mentioned, the CLA-Class has a cramped rear seat and isn't the best choice if you regularly carry more than yourself and a passenger. But we wager this isn't a factor for most shoppers considering the CLA. And they'll find much to like in the front, where a standard 7-inch display, sturdy-looking air vents and a thick steering wheel give an air of elegance. A split-folding rear seat adds versatility to Mercedes' smallest sedan, while the two front seats offer more comfort with their adjustable cushion length. The standard MB-Tex faux leather seats do a good job mimicking genuine hide.
While it may look like Mercedes-Benz simply took its prettiest sedan -- the CLS that Mercedes also calls a “coupe” -- and left it in the dryer too long to create the CLA-Class, there's more to it. Still, the swooping architecture translates well to the smaller car, making it look longer and wider than it is, at least in isolation. However, the illusion breaks in traffic, when you notice how little of its lane it occupies. The low stance, narrow tires and clean shape give the CLA250 a slip-through-the-air drag coefficient of only 0.23. The new Night Package adds black 18-inch wheels.
Even the least expensive Mercedes-Benz sedan offers many standard features. Among them are dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, 12-way-power driver's seat with memory and a brake-hold feature that applies the brake for you at stoplights. The CLA's infotainment system includes AM/FM/HD Radio with CD player, USB port and Bluetooth streaming, all seen and controlled by the 7-inch display and command dial. The CLA250 boasts impressive safety features including systems that detect driver drowsiness (Attention Assist), a rearview monitor and Active Brake Assist, which uses radar to warn the driver of a potential collision and, if necessary, even applies the brakes.
The 2017 CLA-Class offers a plethora of options, most bundled into packages. Most notable are navigation, harman/kardon premium audio, blind-spot monitoring, leather upholstery, heated front seats, smart cruise control, parallel-parking assist, panoramic sunroof, and adaptive suspension. AWD is optional on CLA250 models and standard on the AMG variant. That performance model can be further heightened with the AMG Dynamic Plus Package that raises the top speed to 167 mph, adds a Race Start setting and a limited-slip front differential. Mercedes' mbrace Connect service offers remote access from your phone. Five years' service is complimentary.
You have your choice of engines in Mercedes-Benz's entry-level sedan. The CLA250 gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 producing 208 horsepower, available in either FWD or AWD. The CLA45 AMG version of that engine puts out an astonishing 375 horsepower to all four wheels. The AMG engine is the first 4-cylinder engine from Mercedes-Benz's in-house tuning branch. Both are mated to 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions. At up to 36 mpg, the CLA-Class can be remarkably fuel-efficient, but keep in mind this Mercedes requires premium gasoline.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (CLA250)
208 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/36 mpg (FWD), 23/32 mpg (AWD)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (CLA45 AMG 4Matic)
375 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
350 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $33,400. Add AWD and you're looking at $2,000 more, and when you start adding option packages, this "inexpensive" Mercedes-Benz can easily swell toward $40,000. However, for around $37,000, you're looking at a lot of car with plenty of options. The CLA45 AMG starts considerably higher, around $51,000. However, even that is a bargain of sorts, since it's the least expensive AMG-badged model you can get. The Audi A3, a subcompact-luxury rival, starts slightly less than the Mercedes CLA-Class, while the Acura ILX is several thousand below. Be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying in your area. The Mercedes CLA's residual value is expected to hold up very well in the long-run.