2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC: The Baby CLS

Strong points
  • Competent AWD system
  • Graphically impressive MBUX system
  • Superior aerodynamics
  • Confidence-inspiring ride and handling
Weak points
  • Overly sensitive driver assistance features
  • Overly sensitive touchpads
  • USB-C ports only
  • Tight rear seats
Full report

The second-generation CLA joins the brand new A-Class to give Mercedes-Benz a pair of fresh products in the all-important small-car segment.

Last year, one out of four vehicles sold by the German automaker around the globe was a compact car. As you can easily imagine, only SUVs were more popular.

The original CLA, introduced in 2013, found a home in more than 750,000 driveways, so don’t be surprised to see so many similarities between this model and its successor. The influence from the larger CLS also continues.

More of an evolution than a revolution, the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA retains signature design cues like the frameless side windows and coupe-style roofline. The headlights and taillights have been redesigned, just like the front grille.

In terms of exterior dimensions, the car is now longer, lower and wider. The wheelbase is 30 millimetres longer, which results in a more spacious cabin particularly where rear-seat legroom is concerned. Of course, don’t expect the comfort of a large sedan back there.

Photo: Gabriel Gélinas

Digital Cockpit

The biggest transformation took place inside the CLA with the addition of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, which consists of a pair of colour displays mounted side by side—one replacing the traditional instrument panel and a centre touchscreen that handles multimedia, navigation, communication and other vehicle functions.

Drivers can also interact with the MBUX system through a large touchpad on the centre console, but we found it to be a tad too sensitive resulting in unwanted actions. The same can be said about the smaller touchpads on the steering wheel, by the way.

Overall, Mercedes’ sleek-looking infotainment technology requires some getting used to. As for connectivity, you will find several USB ports. All of them are the USB-C type, however, so you need an adaptor to connect devices that don’t use this standard.

Another technological highlight is the personal assistant that responds to voice commands that start with “Hey Mercedes.” And similar to BMW’s gesture control system, the new CLA can recognize driver gestures, too.

Photo: Gabriel Gélinas

CLA on the Road

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC is equipped with all-wheel drive and proves competent on the road. Steering is very precise, the suspension is fairly well calibrated and the car remains stable around corners.

On the other hand, the various advanced safety systems tend to step in too quickly or abruptly. For example, when you get close to a lane marking, the CLA steers back and often applies the brakes to correct your line, even if all you wanted was to kiss the apex in a corner or to create a little more separation with the concrete wall to your left in a road construction area.

We realize that these features are designed to improve safety in the event of a driver distraction, but we wish they were a bit less paranoid.

Photo: Gabriel Gélinas

Many Expensive Options

Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC starts at $43,000. However, like any self-respecting German car, it comes with a long list of options that will cost you a lot of money. Our tester ended up retailing for $54,275.

Ultimately, the new CLA is big on style and technology, but while you’d expect the drive to be just as exciting as the looks, the reality is that other Mercedes cars are more playful and dynamic on the road. If you want to experience an adrenaline rush with the CLA, you should wait for the high-performance AMG model, which hopefully we’ll get to test drive sometime soon.

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