The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has attracted a lot of attention from a wide range of new car shoppers who may have not previously considered a small luxury car. At the same time, it's also grabbed the eyes of those currently driving entry-level premium models who might want to step up to a brand new vehicle. The small luxury car space is a relatively new one with only a few players, but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class compares to some recent used automobiles that are aimed at roughly the same customer. Think of it as an 'upgrade' guide for anyone considering trading in their current ride for the Silver Star-wearing car.
01. Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class vs. Audi A3
The previous-generation Audi A3 came exclusively in four-door hatchback form, which gives the car a practicality advantage over the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class (the latter's 'four-door coupe' styling significantly intrudes into rear passenger and cargo space). There's another area where a used Audi A3 ekes ahead of the Mercedes-Benz, and that's in fuel economy: Audi offers a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, and returns 34-mpg in combined driving.
You can also opt for a 200 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged gas-powered four-cylinder that additionally generates 207 lb-ft of torque. It's here where the CLA-Class starts to pull ahead, at least on paper, as its standard engine (also displacing 2.0-liters, also a four-banger) produces 208 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque by way of a turbocharger. It also features a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, one more forward cog than either the six-speed manual or automated manual provided by the Audi (although Mercedes-Benz provides no traditional manual option with its car). Like the gas Audi, the CLA-Class can be had with available all-wheel drive.
Verdict: the CLA-Class offers more modern styling on the outside than the A3, but the Audi's available turbodiesel engine, nicer interior, and more frugal turbodiesel engine are unanswered by the Mercedes-Benz. Then again, not everyone is looking for a hatch, and with a used A3, that's all you get. Let's call this one a draw.
02. Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class vs. BMW 1 Series
Right away, it's clear that a used BMW 1 Series is targeted at a different sort of buyer than the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. While the CLA-Class might be advertised as a 'four-door coupe,' the 1 Series actually IS a coupe, and one that features a traditional two-door layout. Still, for those whose families have outgrown the lack of extra doors out back, the CLA-Class might seem an appealing upgrade - until you realize that there's only a little more room in the rear of the Mercedes-Benz due to its dramatically-sloped roofline.
Another important difference between the two cars is driveline layout. The BMW 1 Series features a rear-wheel drive design that does an excellent job of delivering an exciting and performance-oriented driving experience, regardless of whether its 230 horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder base engine or 300 horsepower, turbocharged edition of the same motor is found under the hood. The CLA-Class might offer the option of all-wheel drive - an appealing add-on for anyone living in a harsh winter climate - but its chassis and front-wheel drive platform don't do it any favors when it comes to driving dynamics, and its weaker 208 horsepower motor can't compete with either 1 Series mill.
Verdict: The BMW 1 Series is a much more pleasant car to drive than the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, and it's a lot quicker, too. If you need four doors, then you're not going to find it with the BMW - nor will you get all-wheel drive - and those two areas represent the only real reason to considering trading up from the 1 Series to the CLA-Class.
03. Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class vs. Lexus CT 200h
Finally, it seems as though the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has met a used luxury rival that can't toe-to-toe with it in an objective evaluation of each car's merits. The Lexus CT 200h is an attractive-looking compact hatchback that has been cursed with a dull hybrid drivetrain that saps all of the fun out of the car's driving experience. It's really too bad that the CT 200h is saddled with a 134 horsepower, battery-assisted 1.8-liter four-cylinder setup, as the car's chassis is capable of supporting a much more robust engine, but there's no other option to be had with the hatch, giving it lackluster performance everywhere except at the fuel pump where it returns an exceptional 42-mpg in combined driving.
That's an impressive number, but the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class has the CT 200h beat in every other measurable category: power, prestige, comfort, and features availability. The Lexus feels a little 'left behind' by the modern luxury crop, and although the CLA-Class isn’t as practical as the CT 200h's hatchback design it's still the clear winner.
Verdict: the CLA-Class mops the floor with the Lexus CT 200h, unless you are looking for the most frugal premium car on the market.
04. Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class vs. Acura TSX
The Acura TSX is a little bigger than most of the other vehicles on this list - the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class included - but since it occupies an 'in-between' role in the Acura line-up, it's certainly the kind of car which one might trade-in for a shot at Mercedes-Benz ownership. The base model TSX sedan, with its 201 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (which also generates 172 lb-ft of torque) is the closest analog to the CLA-Class in terms of performance, although it's clear that the Mercedes-Benz zooms past it in terms of torque. The TSX can be outfitted with a six-speed manual transmission - good for sporty driving - or an ancient five-speed automatic, which pales against the CLA-Class' seven-speed unit.
Step up to the V-6 TSX and you get a whopping 280 horses and 254 lb-ft of torque from a 3.5-liter motor, but you are saddled exclusively with the five-speed autobox, and there's no all-wheel drive option. The Acura is larger inside than the CLA-Class, and it's also likely to be more reliable over the long term. However, one can't deny that its styling, inside and out, is more than a little pedestrian.
Verdict: The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class looks so much newer than the Acura TSX that it's almost as if the two cars come from different sides of the tracks. The TSX will out-muscle the CLA-Class in V-6 trim, but there's no all-wheel drive, an outdated five-speed automatic, and not a lot of personality in the mix. Advantage: CLA-Class.
05. Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class vs. Buick Verano
The Buick Verano has been enticing compact luxury shoppers since 2012 with its combination of affordable pricing, a quite and comfortable ride, and the availability of respectable power (when its 250 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is ordered). Of course, there's also a more modest 180 horsepower, 2.4-liter mill to be found in the base model Verano, and while that unit is stuck with a six-speed automatic the turbo edition can choose between a six-speed auto or a six-speed manual gearbox.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class offers an all-wheel drive system that the Verano simply can't match, and its dramatic styling is more eye-catching than the simpler Buick. Apart from that, however, it's close to being a draw: interior furnishings are of a similar quality Buick's IntelliLink vehicle interface is at least as good, if not better than the monochromatic COMAND from Mercedes-Benz, and the power equation clearly tilts in the Verano's favor.
Verdict: One last thing to hand to the CLA-Class: advanced safety, as the Buick doesn’t provide nearly as many active features. However, if we're upgrading from the Verano we're not making a lateral move to the Mercedes-Benz - we're aiming higher than that.