DISCLAIMER: Normally we BUY the things we review. But I’ve been driving this thing for 2+ weeks now while the AMG gets a new windshield (they must be hand-blown by Bavarian wood elves and then transported via mule team for it to take THIS LONG). Figured I’d take the opportunity to review this car…
The CLA250 is pretty much the bottom of the Benz lineup (at least in the USA). Retailing new for around $30,000 (though options can be expensive and drive this price up quickly), it’s probably the most affordable entre into the Benz world, if you insist on buying new. Aesthetically, the exterior isn’t bad. In fact, I found myself liking it more and more the longer I was stuck driving this thing. Kind of a mini-CLS for Ray Donovan wannabees… It looks sporty and fun, and almost like you paid more money than you did. Real Benz people will know that you bought the cheapest car on the lot, but most other foo’s won’t know the difference and will probably fall for the fake AMG badges you got on Ebay and stuck on the back (probably in the wrong place). Plus 10 points.
Inside, the interior isn’t bad (for cheap) -proof that Benz still knows how to make cheapo plastic look fancier than it really is. Aluminum-ish buttons and controls along with accent stitching on the seats and arm-rests go a long way to prop up a sense of premium. Gauges are mechanical (thankfully) but the infotainment screen bulges out of the dash like someone bubble-gummed a $90 Android tablet to it. Aesthetically assaulting to the eyes; the engineer that designed this dash (and the executive that thought this looked “good”) should both be executed by the State for crimes against humanity.
Controls are easy enough to use and (mostly) intuitive. There are plenty of cup-holders and storage nooks. No cigarette lighter. Interior color was black which is probably going to be what you’re stuck with since any kind of visually interesting interior color seems to be off-limits to car manufacturers these days. There was a time when the black interior was installed in work trucks, BOTL base models, and stripped down / feature-less bargains. Now, it’s the norm, mostly because car manufacturers wanted to squeeze a few more pennies out of their builds. Unfortunately, we as a consumer accept this and do nothing to encourage automobile manufacturers to give us some fucking choices. Plus 5 points for the interior, minus 2,000 points for the black interior, minus 10,000 points for no cigarette lighter. Minus another 10,000 points for the visually assaulting screen.
The sound system is par for the course; about what you’d expect in a rental car, but FAR below what is available in other models. Bluetooth worked well enough. As expected, so ZERO points here.
Performance-wise, the little turbo 4 is fine enough (if you want to save gas) but pretty much comes up lacking in every other category. Torque seems to start at idle and drop off from there, meaning your head will snap back on quick launches and your 0-30 time will be quick -beyond that, the engine struggles. Suspension is on-par with 1990’s technology and probably comparable to something you’d find in a cheaper car elsewhere. 2 Points.
One of the most annoying “features” present on cars today is the automatic shutoff meant to improve gas mileage. Basically, when you’re at a fucking stoplight, the car shuts off and starts up again when you hit the gas to go. Seems to me that this is something that would wear shit out quicker than normal -even if it doesn’t, it’s pretty fucking annoying so minus 1,500 points for this. The gear “selector” is another member of the “Why Passionless Engineers Shouldn’t Design Shit for Cars” list and basically takes the place of the gear shifter -no doubt done to make more room for storage and cup holders. The selector is basically a windshield wiper lever (on the opposite side); “reverse” is up, “drive” is down, and “park” is a button on the end. I guess if you had any desire to change gears, you’d use stupid flippers -another useless feature meant to appeal to the PlayStation crowd.
So, on a 100 point scale, the CLA250 gets a score of -23,483 points. From our point of view, that clearly makes this a “NOT RECOMMENDED” for us -we’re of the firm belief that $30,000 can be spent elsewhere for much better value-for-money (with a pre-owned Benz), but if you INSIST on buying new, you might not have any other choice.