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Is It a Luxury Bargain or a Cut-Rate Compromise? - 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Long-Term Road Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Posts: 10,112
edited September 2014 in Mercedes-Benz
imageIs It a Luxury Bargain or a Cut-Rate Compromise? - 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Long-Term Road Test

Our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is the least expensive Mercedes that's currently available, but does that make it feel cheap?

Read the full story here


Comments

  • This car is what it is. Most importantly, it seems to have hit a sweet spot and is selling like hotcakes. I've never driven one but I've read a lot about it here and elsewhere. What strikes me is that when you strip away the luxury features and brand, you're left with a ride that seems to have a good deal in common with mush cheaper cars. How does this car drive compared to a Mazda3 or a Civic? All the comments about harshness and ride quality seem right in line with what you might expect from a compact FWD car. The issue is that luxury nameplates haven't traditionally offered this type of car. It will be interesting to see how this goes. BMW is ready to follow Mercedes down this path. What's next? When are they going t apply the same formula to the mid size segment? Will all the luxury makes have an ES 350 equivalent? Will they be able to maintain their status while doing this?
  • I don't really "get" the concept of paying $30k for a stripped down luxury car. If I'm going to get a luxury car, I'd prefer (presuming I can afford the maintenance) to get an used higher end car that has the features that you'd expect from that brand. Otherwise, it's just like you're trying to fake it and are just showing off that you have a "Mercedes".
  • I've made it quite clear on here before that I am no great fan of the CLA, but there are a few things that were missed on this list that I think make the CLA feel worth its price. First, this is a supremely solid feeling car. The ride is too stiff legged for a Benz, but that doesn't detract from a chassis and structure that still have that classic MB impenetrable heft to them. You aren't getting that in ANY other $30k car. Even an Audi A3, which I think is a better car overall, feels remarkably tin-can-like in comparison. Secondly, the CLA is surprisingly quick when you give it the beans. Your average compact front-drive sedan feels totally gutless in comparison. Lastly, all of the switchgear and major touch-points in the cabin use standard MB parts bin stuff. As a result, they have a heft and quality feel that you will only find in competing luxury products.

    Does all of this make the CLA the finest of luxury cars? Absolutely not. MB needs to make some big improvements to the suspension tuning and to powertrain refinement to make it a really competitive luxury car. However, compared to similar mainstream cars (top end Mazda 3s, Focuses, etc) the CLA feels significantly more upscale. I think it more than justifies a mid-$30k price, but any higher than that and you would be an idiot not to opt for a real luxury car like a 3er, C-Class, or A4.
  • It comes with some nice standard features(Memory seats, ECO start/stop, safety tech, etc.), but when you get a decently equipped CLA250 the value quickly disappears.

    These are a must imo:
    -Premium package $2, 300(Dual zone A/C, heated seats, Harmon Kardon, etc.)
    -Bi-Xenon headlights & LED taillamps $850
    -Blind spot assist $550(Hard to see with the pillars and small rear window)
    ->Total $34,525 w/ delivery

    Other Options:
    -No standard backup camera, not even as a standalone option, so additional $2,370 for the multimedia package.
    -Sport package $2,200(18in rims, chrome grille, etc.)
    -$2,000 for 4MATIC
    -$1,480 for a Panorama roof
    -Push button not offered at all

    Personally I don't see the value unless you really want the badge. There are definitely better options for entry level luxury and non-luxury.
  • I don't really "get" the concept of paying $30k for a stripped down luxury car. If I'm going to get a luxury car, I'd prefer (presuming I can afford the maintenance) to get an used higher end car that has the features that you'd expect from that brand. Otherwise, it's just like you're trying to fake it and are just showing off that you have a "Mercedes".

    I understand the point but the used vs. new value proposition can really be made for any type of car at any price point. You can always get more car for the same price if you buy used but there are trade-offs in that decision as well.

  • Does all of this make the CLA the finest of luxury cars? Absolutely not. MB needs to make some big improvements to the suspension tuning and to powertrain refinement to make it a really competitive luxury car. However, compared to similar mainstream cars (top end Mazda 3s, Focuses, etc) the CLA feels significantly more upscale. I think it more than justifies a mid-$30k price, but any higher than that and you would be an idiot not to opt for a real luxury car like a 3er, C-Class, or A4.

    Like I said, above, I haven't driven the CLA. But my point is that if you want something that performs like a C-Class or E-Class, you're pretty much looking at the other luxury sport sedans (unless I guess you want to consider the Charger/300). But if you want something that performs like a CLA, you have a host of cars that will meet your needs including much of the tech and creature comforts offered on the CLA.
  • @legacygt,

    I understand, but my point is that the CLA gives you quite a lot more car for your extra $10k. The interior is finished in much more upscale finishes, it handles and accelerates on a higher level, and the car itself feels vastly more expensive thanks to the heavy thunk its doors make when they close (as opposed to the tin-can like clank a 3 or Civic makes). It isn't going to give you the kind of refinement that a C-Class would, but in truth no car in this price bracket will. More importantly, the CLA is notably quieter and more relaxed then a competing mainstream compact sedan. It feels more expensive even if it doesn't feel up to typical MB standards. I can totally understand why young people who don't really care about ride quality are swallowing these things up. It's quite a good car in most regards. It isn't, however, a very good Mercedes and that is what has always bothered me about it.
  • mrrytemrryte Posts: 28
    edited September 2014
    "1. The Mercedes badge on the steering wheel. The three-pointed start just makes me feel important, I can't help it."

    Which is EXACTLY what MB is counting on in order for the CLA to sell (despite its numerous shortcomings and compromises.)
    And its DEFINATELY a cut-rate compromise/wannabe compact luxury "coupe".
  • And regarding
    "2. It has excellent front seats. They fit editors of all sizes and they're remarkably comfortable."

    "If there's anything to complain about, it's the seat cushions. They forced me into two-hour stretch breaks to ease pain on the ol' backside. Not sure if that's specific to my particular size and shape but it was not pleasant."
    Taken from "http://www.edmunds.com/mercedes-benz/cla-class/2014/long-term-road-test/2014-mercedes-benz-cla250-post-road-trip-notes.html"
  • I'm surprised the nav screen seemingly tacked-on as a design afterthought escapes your list of things that make the car feel cheap.
  • I don't really "get" the concept of paying $30k for a stripped down luxury car. If I'm going to get a luxury car, I'd prefer (presuming I can afford the maintenance) to get an used higher end car that has the features that you'd expect from that brand. Otherwise, it's just like you're trying to fake it and are just showing off that you have a "Mercedes".

    I'm with you on this. It doesn't make much sense to buy a stripped-down luxury car. The automaker builds it to hit an artificially low price point by taking away the driving dynamics the brand is noted for, or the luxury features, or both. Then what do you have? A car with a badge on the outside but without the goods on the inside. If you want a luxury car, be willing to spend for it-- whether that means choosing the right options packages to add back in the things that should have been standard, or moving up to a higher model. Buyers who need to hit that low price target might be better served buying a higher model as a good condition used car instead of a brand-new strip model.
  • Mercedes has done an admirable job - keep in mind the staff was able to drive the basic MiniCooper into this price range easily. Obviously not a car for a full family of four and 2 weeks worth of luggage - but Big M does not have an entry-level name plate in U.S. To me a perfect car for couples heading up the chain or even a retired couple who just want something nice to drive they could not have afforded and did not want a used vehicle, which based on your AMG expereince has not been efficient or affordable. Not the only choice - Audi A3 and BMW 320 in the range as well - so the question really is - does an affordable luxury car make you feel exclusive if everyone can afford it?
  • One thing that really strikes me about all this discussion is how much feature content comes up. The reasons that sway me towards a luxury vehicles include suspension tuning, build quality, and driving dynamics. I got to drive an S Class recently, and while all the features (massaging seats, infotainment, and so on) were nice, I would never get that car for them, ever. There is only ONE reason that I would buy it, the way it drives down the road. That S Class could have had the same feature content as a dirt bike, I wouldn't have cared.
  • I agree with @quadricycle because any car can have features but those don't necessarily make it a luxury car, merely a luxurious one. A premium vehicle, in my opinion, is one that, even absent the features, still has *that* intangible hard-to-explain 'something' about it.
  • I'm surprised the nav screen seemingly tacked-on as a design afterthought escapes your list of things that make the car feel cheap.

    I'm not sure why people keep saying this. It's the best way to future-proof a nav/entertainment system. In a few years, when all these things look old, you can replace it with a bigger or wider or higher resolution unit effortlessly without the constraints of a enclosed dash design. You can upgrade with ease. Try that in a late model car with a screen enclosure!
  • I owned both the 2015 A3 and the 2014 CLA250 4Matic and I love both of them. The CLA is more fun but more cramped feeling inside the cabin than the Audi. I've also owned several Acuras TL, Hondas, Toyotas and various GM and Chrysler cars that were well in the $30K range. I didn't get much value in the Japanese vehicles and didn't get much quality in the domestic. After 5-7 years, those other cars looked and felt tired and worn out. The styling was outdated, the seats were worn and wrinkly while our 5 Mercedes looked and felt like they just left the showroom. Granted those other Mercs were higher end (500SL, CLK430, E320, C280, SLK280) I don't expect our current C300 and CLA250 to be less substantive.
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