The 2015 CLA is a small Mercedes done right, with enough of the brand’s style and refinement mixed with a dash of youthfulness.
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 is a scaled-down version of the prettiest Mercedes design on sale today, the CLS, and that’s its biggest ace. It may be as short as a Civic, but its elegant profile and frameless door glass counter the compact-car blahs, and chip away visually at the front end’s height. The sporty cockpit lifts its inspiration from the SLK, not the C-Class, and the mix-and-match aesthetic works extremely well. That is, until you scan the LCD screen planted awkwardly on the dash, instead of integrated into the center stack. The tacked-on look does afford a lower surrounding dash, but it still looks just like that, tacked-on.