Let’s begin with this. I like the looks of the new Mercedes-Benz CLA250. It looks like a baby CLS-Class. As you may recall, the CLS-Class is the four-door coupe with the design that makes you look whether you want to or not. The sloping roof and long hood have always caught my attention. Mercedes-Benz decided to capitalize on those aspects of the CLS-Class and made the small and “affordable” CLA-Class. Before seeing the car in the flesh, I was concerned about the interior size. How would a 6′ 3″ middle-aged man fit in a tiny car like this? Surprisingly, I fit in the car very easily. The power seat controls let me lower the seat and put it back far enough for me to feel comfortable. And the manually adjusted steering wheel telescopes far enough to work comfortably with my arms. I was pleasantly surprised. Now, don’t get the idea that this car is big enough to hold a basketball team. Remember that the sloping roof line will keep most basketball players in the front seat. But the front seats work very well.
The interior is nice. With a starting MSRP under $30,000, you wouldn’t expect the same refinement as an E-Class, but this is still a Mercedes-Benz. You can tell by looking over the car that this is also an affordable Mercedes-Benz. For instance, the ISO-FIX latches in the back seat are right out in the open. That looks a bit cheap. But the rest of the interior looks pretty good. I especially like the front air vents which look as if they came out of an aircraft. They really did a good job on those. Other reviewers have talked down the display screen which sits atop the dashboard. They say it looks like an after thought. I don’t think it looks bad. It seems to fit with the sporty nature of the car and works well with the audio/navigation/telephone system. The front seats are comfortable and look good. At first, I found the lower portion of the seat to be uncomfortable, but once I adjusted the power lumbar support it felt fine. Those familiar with the Mercedes-Benz interior layout will feel comfortable in the CLA-Class. The power features are located in the normal places. It uses the same COMAND type controller to access radio, navigation, and telephone features.
My first driving impression was that this car drives and handles well. The turning ratio at low speeds is very good and the car turns into tight spots very easily. Most of my test drive was on roads with a 35 mph speed limit, so I won’t say much about the acceleration. In city traffic, it drives like a normal car and never lags behind. I never felt as if the car lacked power even up steep hills. But one thing caught my attention at my first stop sign. The engine made a stutter of sorts. At the next stop sign, it did the same thing. I made a mental note to ask the general manager about this but then saw the work ECO at the bottom of the speedometer. Ahhh! This car comes with the 2.0L turbo charged 4 cylinder with the ECO start/stop feature. To save fuel, this engine stops running at stop signs or stop lights. The ideas is to conserve fuel while you wait for the traffic light to change. It’s really not a problem if you know what’s going on. As soon as you press the accelerator, the engine starts up and you move forward almost immediately. Contrary to what you may expect, the four cylinder is mated to a front wheel drive transmission. That’s especially good as there are currently no AWD models available.
My first impression of the CLA250 is a good one. I like the looks of the car inside and out. As long as you understand what it is, this is a great car. It is not an E-Class or S-Class. But it’s not meant to be a luxurious yacht. Instead, it provides a zippy alternative to those who can afford something in the $30-35,000 range. That means that the CLA250 will most likely appeal to customer who like the Audi A3, Acura ILX, BMW 1-Series, Infiniti G25, Lexus CT 200h, SAAB 9-3, and Volvo S60 T5. But this car could also pull in customers who are currently considering the Buick Regal, Chevy Impala, Chrysler 200, Honda Accord, MINI Cooper, and VW Jetta. That makes things a little more interesting. Mercedes-Benz has made a daring but good move. And now that the car is out, we shall see if that move has paid off. I, for one, think it will.
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