If Mercedes Benz can sell such a competent car for so little, the pressure will be on non-premium brands to sharpen their pencil, add more features, and revise their prices lower…

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250

The Mercedes CLA 250 is here and it is a cause for celebration.

This stylish compact car is powerful, filled with all kinds of features and starts at an amazing $33,900. What this means for the entire car market is a trend towards more car for less money.

If Mercedes Benz can sell such a competent car for so little, the pressure will be on non-premium brands to sharpen their pencil, add more features, and revise their prices lower. Mercedes already has a very affordable hatchback with the B250, which arrived about a year ago and is the basis for this CLA. Both of these cars open up Mercedes Benz to a new market of buyers who might have been thinking about buying a non-premium brand but now realized a CLA is within reach. This, along with Mercedes strong resale value will help to keep lease rates low, amplifying the value this car offers.

Looks

Mercedes helped create the “coupe” 4-door sedan several years ago with the CLS sedan, which is based on the E-Class sedan. By dropping the roof, raking the front and rear windows and adding a more aggressive front end, produces an eye-catching sedan that looks classy and aggressive at the same time. Mercedes has taken this formula and applied it to the B-Class platform to produce this coupe-like sedan. The base model comes with 17-inch wheels but the sport package is great value, at $1,600, which adds 18-inch AMG wheels and extra AMG exterior trim pieces.

The AMG look is more aggressive, providing a bigger front air intake and chin spoiler to complete the look. (The car pictured in this story does not have the AMG package but does have the bigger wheels)

The side windows are slim as is the back window for limited outward visibility, not so much for the driver but the rear seat passengers, especially kids.

Inside

One trend I’m not sure I like is placing a screen in the centre of the dash, like putting an iPad Mini in the permanently placed in middle of the dash. It doesn’t look particularly polished, almost like an afterthought. Audi’s new A3 sedan, arriving in March, has the ability to lower their screen, which I think is a better approach.

The dash has rotary air vents that look similar to the high end Mercedes SLS supercar. The front of the dash, in my test unit, was covered in an aluminum panel and surrounded by soft touch materials. The radio and heat controls are similar to other Mercedes products so even though this CLA isn’t uber-expensive, it looks like a proper Mercedes Benz.

The premium package is a must because it includes a huge panoramic sunroof, backup camera, automatic climate control and heated front seats; all of this for $2,800. This is a small car; the roof feels very low and back seat passenger’s needs to be children or shorter adults. Rear seat outward visibility is limited and legroom is also at a premium.

The better bet for families is the less expensive B-Class ($30,500) because it offers a bigger back seat and hatchback storage.

Drive

The launch event for this new CLA was held in the Washington DC area, leaving historic Georgetown and heading towards Maryland’s ports and navel academy.

This provided some excellent stop-and-go traffic opportunities in Washington’s morning rush hour and then getting to stretch the new CLA’s legs on fabulous Interstate highways. The power plant is a direct injection turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a healthy 208hp. The power goes through a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission to the front wheels. The more expensive and powerful 355hp CLA 45 AMG has an all wheel drive (AWD) system as standard equipment but the base CLA 250 will get this important option sometime in 2014. Power is fantastic, especially if the transmission is placed in the sportier mode. This car cruises effortlessly at highway speeds and passes with ease.

Even though it uses the same engine as the B-Class, this car felt more planted and sophisticated, maybe due to the lower centre of gravity and a trunk, which will muffle road noise compared to the hatchback.

All CLA models come with a Collision Prevention Assist feature that alerts the driver to the possibility of an impending collision.

Verdict

We are heading into a wonderful period of lower priced cars, or vehicle fitted with more standard features. This new CLA 250 is a perfect example of this. Other new entries include the latest A3 that arrives in March and starts at $31,100 and then the new BMW 1 Series will arrive in about a year.

For the price of a well-equipped non-premium brand Canadians can now get a premium German sedan for about the same price.

If I were to get this CLA 250, I would include the premium package to get the sunroof, backup camera and heated seats. The Sport package is also tempting for the bigger wheels. This would bring the price up to $38,300. Not cheap, but you do a get a lot of car and features for this price. I hear that BC’s Mercedes Benz dealers have had huge interest in this new CLA with back orders now in place as they try to get as many cars as they can. A nice problem for Mercedes to have and they derive it as this is a great car for the money.

Email: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown

Power: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder with 208hp

Fill-up: 7.8L/5.1L/100km (city/highway)

Sticker price: $33.900

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VIDEO: Surf’s Up – from NYC to Montauk with the all-new E-Class

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