AutoGuide.com 2014 Car of the Year Finalist No. 5 – Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 with Optional Sport Package.

It is the final day of AutoGuide.com Car of the Year Award finalist nominees. Yesterday we presented the 2014 Mazda3 as our fourth finalist and today we we’re revealing the final car to make the cut: Mercedes’ new CLA-Class.

Mercedes-Benz has moved down-market in an attempt to attract more vehicle sales. Based on the current A-Class and B-Class platform sold elsewhere in the world, the CLA is styled to look like a baby CLS-Class in that it is a swoopy four door vehicle with an emphasis on style and luxury. But what sets this car apart from other Mercedes-Benz models is the fact the CLA is front-wheel drive based.

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TURBO POWER IN TWO FLAVORS

For now, we get a choice of two CLAs packing 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines with very different output. The CLA 250 makes a healthy 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque while the frantic CLA 45 AMG pumps out an insane 355 hp. All of this power is sent through a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that we find to be a bit slow and unrefined.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine on the other hand is quick to spool and delivers power instantly. The engine stays in its power band for a long time and like the turbocharged four-cylinder from Audi, this four-pot feels more robust than the numbers would have us believe. Mercedes claims the 250 model is good for an impressive 26 mpg in the city and 38 mpg while also capable of motivating the 3,262-lb car from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds.

The CLA is surprisingly composed in corners and if not pushed beyond the front tires limits, is difficult to distinguish from an all-wheel drive car on dry surfaces. But the CLA 250 is not meant to be especially sporty; the 225/45R17 tires are meant to offer a compromise between comfort, sport and efficiency.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe Review

The four-door coupe is actually 1.5 inches longer than the heavier, rear-wheel drive based C-Class sedan and features a more rakish design. Although this does lead to a gorgeous, sleek profile, it comes at the expense of passenger space. Rear seat space is small and entry and exit can be challenging.

Up front it’s a different story. The CLA is instantly recognizable from behind the steering wheel as a “Mercedes-Benz,” but what’s more, it also feels like a proper luxury car. No pretender trying to resemble a Mercedes here; this is the real deal with the sort of premium trim you would expect in any Mercedes product. Available in six cabin colors with four accent materials, the CLA’s interior is highlighted by a large infotainment screen perched on the dashboard. If opting for the sport package, the classic round steering wheel is replaced by a more aggressive flat-bottom unit.

Getting a car for $30,000 with a tri-pointed star on the hood will be enough for many potential customers. That and the fact that this car lives up to the Mercedes-Benz name earned it a spot on our Car of the Year Award short list.

GALLERY: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250

Discuss this story at our Mercedes-Benz CLA forum.

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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  • Benz lover Benz lover on Dec 26, 2013

    Very nice car! I have always been a huge fan of Mercedes. One of these days I will have one in my garage.

  • Lumad Lumad on Jan 26, 2014

    seems like the people who dislike mercedes or mbws are the ones who never had ones. Well, enjoy your 40K modified Kia or Civic people while i'm enjoying my 30K CLA and its A MERCEDES!!!

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