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Mercedes CLA250 FWD sedan offers European traits at a compelling price

The striking styling on the CLA250 gives it a $60K price appearance
The striking styling on the CLA250 gives it a $60K price appearance
Nick Hromiak

If you’ve always wanted to own a Mercedes-Benz but couldn’t afford their luxury price, take a look at the 2014 CLA250 front drive sedan. It’s affordable and giving BMW fits because they have nothing comparable. And Mercedes can’t make enough of them.

The eye-grabbing styling of the CLA250 maintains a family resemblance to the C-Class
by Nick Hromiak

With a few minor exceptions, the CLA250 looks like the more costly C-Class sedan that has been exceptionally popular for Mercedes. The CLA250 has similar, uniquely chiseled, muscular and slippery styling lines that grab the eyes. Its attractive appearance reeks of luxury and a high price. But that’s what you want folks to think as the CLA250 carries a base price of $29,900, aptly equipped.

While its exterior styling is chic, the interior is typical Mercedes with a few exceptions. For one the 5.8-inch LED screen for GPS nav, rearview camera, audio and more, is not built into the dash but sits atop the center stack. It takes on the appearance of a mini iPad, but controlled via a mouse not touchscreen. Then there’s the strip of aluminum fascia that stretches across the dash. It’s not what you’d find in the more costly C-Class.

Perhaps it’s a German thing, but the speedometer is on the left side and the tachometer is on the right of the gauge cluster. Most cars have it reversed. And the HVAC controls are mounted low on the vertical stack with the audio controls atop them. It should be reversed.

That aside, the front bucket seats are supportive and comfy over the long haul. The backs are similarly shaped but can comfortably fit two adults. Because of a sharply sloping but distinctive roofline, ingress/egress into the back seat is a head ducker, plus rear vis is hampered a bit because of this.

Trunk space is ample and even more spacious when folding the 60/40 seat backs.

Still, the CLA250 possesses amenities that come with owning this outstanding German autocar.

As for the powertrain, stepping on the accelerator pedal for the first time made me think there was a potent six-cylinder under the hood. But no, it’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder that produces 208-hp and an impressive 258 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with three driver-adjustable shift choices and paddle shifters, performance was exhilarating and the combination 0-60 tested at a quick 6.3 seconds. Not bad for a four banger.

The sedan also earned EPA mileage estimates of 26 city, 38-highway mpg. These miserly figures come courtesy of the 7-speed trans, low drag coefficient of 0.23 plus an ECO mode that puts the engine to sleep at stop lights and long idles.

The ride on 18-inch run-flat performance tires is firm and that’s because the CLA comes standard with a sport suspension. And the probable reason for that is because the car is being marketed to young buyers who prefer road feel over a floaty feel. As such, road imperfections and interstate tar strips are readily felt.
This taut suspension, however, leads to stable handling in tight sharp turns taken at speed. There’s virtually no body lean when doing so.

Parking is easy thanks to electric power steering that Mercedes calls Direct Steer. It also alleviates torque steer that is always inherent in front-drive cars. It should be noted here that this is the first front-drive car for Mercedes, and their engineering excellence shows.

As for price, if you don’t go crazy with options the base price is still affordable. With the performance tires ($500), plus Premium Package ($2,300) that contains a myriad of goodies including harmon kardon Surround sound audio, XM radio, heated front seats, auto dimming mirrors and more, a Multi-Media Package ($2,370) that adds a rearview camera, LCD screen with 3D map views and other niceties, the CLA’s bottom line totaled $36,545 with delivery. There are Chevy’s and Ford’s going for this so the CLA remains a good buy for a European sedan. Plus, the CLA comes with a 4-year/50K warranty, collision prevention assist, adaptive braking and rain sensing wipers to mention a few.

To test drive a CLA250 stop by Knopf Mercedes on Lehigh Street in Allentown. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.

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