Competes with: Acura ILX, Audi A3, BMW 2 Series
Looks like: The Sporty Spice to the A-Class’ Posh Spice
Drivetrain: 221-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 258 pounds-feet of torque; seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Late 2019
Mercedes-Benz announced that the A-Class would be returning to the U.S. for 2019, and we thought that might be a death blow to its other small-car offering, the CLA-Class. But it seems that the two cars will share the entry-level space for Mercedes, with the CLA sticking around for 2020 and getting a redesign to boot.
The new CLA250, appearing at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will have the same general shape as the old one, and it does look a little sportier than the A-Class, with the cabin sitting farther rearward and plenty of swoop to its profile. The styling does remind me of one of Mercedes’ other four-door coupes, the CLS, though because this car doesn’t measure up in length against its larger, more luxurious cousin, it comes off a bit abbreviated.
Standard exterior features include 18-inch wheels and LED headlights; 19-inch wheels are optional.
Bigger changes can be found inside, where the CLA goes all in on technology, starting with its display screens. A pair of 7-inch screens for both the instrument panel and dashboard are standard, but the real star is a pair of optional 10.25-inch screens you can upgrade to. The two larger screens share one housing and combine to look like one large screen when equipped.
Mercedes calls the system powering the screens Mercedes-Benz User Experience, which can be shortened to MBUX — no official word on whether you’re supposed to say each letter individually or if you can just say “M-Bucks” for short. It has updated voice controls with natural voice recognition that makes your car another device you can say, “Hey, [so-and-so]!” in order to wake it up. The screen itself can be used as a touchscreen, or there are also touch buttons on the wheel and a new touchpad between the front seats. We aren’t fans of touchpads in general, but as one part of multiple ways to use the multimedia system, there’s a bit more potential.
One thing to watch out for: The CLA’s small exterior dimensions give it a cramped cabin. Although the CLA has grown a bit at some 1.9 inches longer and 2.0 inches wider than the 2019 car, the interior dimensions for legroom and headroom go virtually unchanged — indicating a backseat that’s still too small for adults on longer trips.
Under the Hood
The CLA does get a more powerful engine than the 2019 A220 that we drove last summer, a 221-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 258 pounds-feet of torque and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Front- and all-wheel drive versions of the CLA250 will be available. An adaptive damping suspension is also available.
The new engine represents a gain of 13 hp over the outgoing model, but the torque number stays the same. The previous car was a bit lacking in the oomph department, and these modest gains in power probably won’t solve that issue fully.
Forward automatic emergency braking, crosswind steering assist and a driver attention monitor come standard. But the exciting developments on the CLA safety front are optional, part of two safety packages: the Driver Assistance Package and the Parking Assistance Package, the latter of which includes a 360-degree camera system among other features.
The Driver Assistance Package is especially robust. The camera and radar functions have been improved, and Mercedes says the system can now see up to 1,640 feet down the road in front of the car. It includes lane keep assist, active braking with front cross-traffic alert, speed limit sign reading, blind spot assist and adaptive cruise control. The adaptive cruise control can also be tied into the navigation, which reads the road ahead for curves, toll booths and exit roads, and will adjust the car’s speed automatically.
Pricing information is not yet available, but Mercedes-Benz has announced that the 2020 CLA250 will hit dealerships in late 2019.
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