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When Mercedes added the CLA to its lineup last year, it brought two distinctions: It was (and still is) the smallest car in the Mercedes lineup, and it was the first front-wheel-drive model the brand has sold in the U.S. The CLA is priced, styled, and engineered to grab eyeballs and younger buyers.
It's also up against stiff competition, most of it new. Audi just dropped a new A3, now shaped like a sedan in the U.S. BMW recast the 1-Series as the 2-Series, updating the interior and giving it more conventional coupe styling. Acura has the well-meaning but unimpressive ILX, and there's the handsome, supple, and quiet Buick Verano. In its hotter CLA45 AMG version, the little Mercedes also competes with the new BMW M235i.
The CLA 250's makes 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which help end it to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and on to a 149-mph top speed. Though small, the engine manages to sound good. The transmission wants to be in sport or manual mode, for quicker shift responses, though: even with paddle controls, it gets caught off-guard; a stomp on the gas in high gear can require a few seconds of waiting for the transmission to choose the right gear and then for the turbo to spool and make power. Fuel economy of 30 mpg combined is easily reachable, though the available all-wheel-drive system shaves a few miles per gallon.
Among its standard safety features, the 2015 CLA carries a Collision Prevention Assist function; using radar, the CLA can alert the driver of upcoming obstacles when it's traveling at more than 4 mph, and can calculate the amount of brake force needed to avoid an impact. Also standard are Attention Assist and its coffee-cup reminder to pull over and avoid drowsy driving, as well as a driver knee airbag. Safety options include adaptive cruise control; blind-spot monitors; lane-keeping assistance; and parking sensors with parking assist. Visibility isn't great to the rear--we hope the rearview camera gets liberated into an inexpensive, stand-alone option in the near future.
The 2015 CLA 250 comes equipped comparably to the more luxurious versions of its competitors. It comes with standard Bluetooth, cruise control, a power driver seat, and MB-Tex (vinyl) upholstery. Smartphone connectivity comes via Mercedes-Benz's mbrace2 and a 5.8-inch screen, while three navigation options will be offered--the most expensive with voice commands, the rearview camera, and real-time traffic. With the Premium package--it bundles an iPod interface with satellite radio, surround sound, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and a garage door opener.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.