It wasn’t all that long ago that we reviewed a Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 four-door coupe.
The previous generation was a true entry level product in the Mercedes lineup, and while the tri-star badge on the front presented itself as a premium product, it left a little more to be desired in terms of driving satisfaction. At the time, the relatively new C-Class didn’t cost a whole lot more, and was a better value for the money. Fast forward to today, and the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe is an all-new generation that makes a much bigger and more premium first impression, with smart design and many of the impeccable luxury appointments seen in new Benzes like the GLE (reviewed here) sport utility. To see how the rest of it stacks up, we got a unit to test for a week from Mercedes-Benz Canada.
The new CLA 250 starts at a higher base price of $43,000, and now slots above the also-new A-Class sedan and hatch, which start at $37,300 and $38,300, respectively – which was where the outgoing CLA was situated. Standard features on a CLA 250 include 4MATIC all-wheel drive, a panoramic sunroof, power sporty front seat adjustment with three-position memory, a 40/20/40 folding rear seat, and dual zone automatic climate control. Options on the test vehicle include the $3,000 Premium Package, which adds blind spot monitoring, KEYLESS-GO door handle locking and unlocking, a foot-activated trunk release, wireless phone charging, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Active Parking Assist, Burmester audio, and a HomeLink garage door opener.
Also equipped was the $1,600 Technology Package, which adds LED headlamps, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. The $1,900 Intelligent Drive package brings to the table today’s modern autonomous safety suite, including lane keeping, road departure, and blind spot steering assists, forward collision warning with automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, and full stop-and-go to the adaptive cruise control. There’s also route-based speed limit adaptation – the car automatically adjusts speed up or down when it enters an area where the speed limit is changing. With $1,500 for a head-up display, $650 for a 360-degree camera, and $250 for a heated steering wheel (these are standard on much cheaper cars nowadays!), the as-tested price came to $54,275.
For 2020, the CLA 250 continues to use a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four engine, but with a little extra power to sweeten the deal. Peak output is 221 horsepower at 5,500RPM, coupled with a healthy 258 lb-ft. between 1,800 and 4,000RPM. It’s a smooth unit that’s quiet enough and has just about no turbo lag. Despite being turbocharged, it behaves and responds linearly and quite closely to a naturally aspirated engine. It has a personality somewhat reminiscent of one would expect out of a Volkswagen GTI redesign, but with more refinement and class.
All CLA 250 4MATICs come equipped with one transmission choice only, and that’s a seven-speed dual known as the 7G-DCT. While the old CLA had this too, the current iteration is a much more improved setup compared to the previous generation, and just about all complaints about refinement have been resolved – especially in cold weather before the transmission oil warms up. Each of the seven gears is selected at just the right time, and every shift has a very satisfying sound to it. Like the engine, it comes across as a bit more GTI than anything.
At the time of publishing, official fuel consumption figures for the 2020 CLA 250 4MATIC Coupe have not yet been published. It can be reported, however, that observed economy over a week of testing came back at 8.5L/100KM with a heavier bias towards highway driving, as well as blustery winter weather. This seems right in line with the older CLA, and real-world differences are expected to be minimal. Tank capacity is 51 litres, and premium fuel is required.
When motoring along, it was somewhat unexpected that the CLA 250 would be as fun as it is. It is a treat to drive both slow and fast, with precise and well-weighted steering that makes the CLA feel sporty and more expensive than it actually is. Combined with the sure-footed traction of 4MATIC all-wheel drive and a powertrain that’s willing to play along, and the end result is nothing short of very good, if not awesome. The interior is quiet without being disengaging, and while the suspension is firm, it doesn’t punish. Once again, parallels to the GTI are being drawn.
Inside, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA carries on the new corporate interior design language. In higher-spec cars like the GLE 350 and 450, the cabin is industry-leading, not only class-leading, and the same carries over to the lower market CLA. There’s seven-inch screen for each of the gauge cluster and infotainment, and while the surfaces are glossy, visibility in bright sunlight doesn’t appear to be an issue. Sharpness and clarity is also unparalleled. While it goes without saying that everything has been scaled down for size and cost, the design cues remain remarkably similar, and the materials are top notch. All switchgear operates very satisfyingly, and the ARTICO synthetic leather feels real and would fool just about anybody.
For the tech addicts, the CLA 250 delivers with a plethora of gadgets. The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) voice command system is standard, and features in-car Wi-Fi for connectivity and over-the-air software updates. The voice command system itself is a little bit clumsy, and while it tends to get the basics like climate control right, it tends to struggle more when asked to do more complex things, such as adjusting ambient lighting to certain colours. In these cases, the system gets the command completely wrong altogether. For ergonomics, the CLA’s touchpad infotainment input method is not the most ideal for reducing distractions while driving, but the addition of a touch screen and a generally good interface helps this quite a bit.
Although it’s moved upmarket by a few thousand dollars, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC is a huge improvement over the older model it replaces. It’s easy to live with, the new design is more striking and bold, and it features one of the better interiors out there. While there are a lot more premium or wild products in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the 2020 CLA is no poser. Its level of fun is reminiscent of a next-generation Volkswagen GTI if it came with all-wheel drive, although doesn’t quite match the high-performance Golf R. With a bunch of extra luxury and technology over a GTI, it is a great choice for those looking for an entry-level Mercedes to get into.