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The 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA is the German luxury make’s smallest sedan, and it’s been a big hit in expanding the company’s buyer base. It enters its third year with just a handful of trim, feature, and option updates, accompanied by the similarly-sized GLA crossover utility vehicle—which can be also viewed simply as a hatchback version of the CLA sedan.
But it’s hardly alone in the field, with a host of new competition in showrooms or on the way. The redesigned Audi A3 may not look like a stylistic departure, but it’s now a sedan, making it a direct competitor to the CLA. BMW’s 2-Series is still only offered as a coupe, but it has a new interior and updated styling. The Acura ILX sedan has been retooled to compete more effectively, and there’s also the quiet and handsome Buick Versano. The Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback is a surprisingly capable competitor—and it’ll be joined next year by the Infiniti QX30 hatchback as well.
The Mercedes-Benz CLA is fast becoming a standard element of those enclaves where premium vehicles roam, though it’s attracting new and younger buyers too. But it remains a striking design for a small car, one that has preserved a lot of the Concept Style Coupe show car that previewed its lines years ago. That vehicle previewed both its intricate grille details and the atypical frameless door glass, details that set apart the first front-wheel-drive Mercedes sedan ever sold in the U.S.
While the CLA forgoes the long-nose proportions that define every other Benz sedan, it bears an obvious resemblance to the curvaceous CLS “four-door coupe” that kicked Mercedes design into a new and more sensuous arena a decade ago. It’s doubly impressive because it’s so small, though at the price of an all-but-unusable-for-adults rear seat. Equally unusual for a small car, it has a low drag coefficient of just 0.23, assisted by underbody shields and large air intakes low in the front.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 hardly lacks for power, and its neutral driving feel masks its front-wheel-drive roots. The main challenge while driving is that it's been tuned to maximize fuel economy unless you drive it hard, meaning that it's sometimes reluctant to downshift and deliver power right away when you want it.
The base 2.0-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged inline-4 delivers 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It spins out enough low-end torque to beat the 4-cylinder C-Class from 0 to 60 mph—in about 6.7 seconds, Mercedes says, with a top speed limited to 149 mph.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.