Buying an entry-level Mercedes-Benz such as the 2021 CLA-class no longer means compromising on refinement or driving satisfaction. While it shares its platform with the A-class sedan, the CLA250 offers swoopier, coupe-like styling, and a more powerful 221-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Inside, Mercedes’ newly tech-focused cabin is on display with a dual-screen dashboard that’s comprised of a reconfigurable gauge display and either a 7.0- or 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Handling is reasonably nimble and the ride is refined. It’s not particularly roomy, especially in the rear seat, but cargo space is more than enough for most use cases. Overall, the CLA250 represents the modern Mercedes-Benz experience in a bite-sized package and earns a spot on our Editors’ Choice list.
What’s New for 2021?
The CLA-class received a full redesign last year so 2021 models see only minor changes. Mercedes-Benz has added blind-spot monitoring and ambient interior lighting to the standard features list, and the CLA’s MBUX infotainment system now features the Interior Assistant, which allows users to interact with the system using gesture controls.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
All 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA-class sedans are motivated by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Gears are shifted by a seven-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available. At our test track, an all-wheel-drive CLA250 4Matic model sprinted to 60 mph in a sprightly 5.6 seconds. The CLA-class offers to handle that’s polished, with nicely calibrated steering, minimum body roll when cornering, and a pleasantly firm brake pedal. Still, downshifts from the gearbox are occasionally clunky. Different drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Individual) give you the ability to tailor the car’s performance to suit your preferences.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Though it’s one of the least expensive models in the automaker’s range, the 2021 CLA-class boasts a cabin that looks like it belongs in a Mercedes-Benz. The center stack is clean and modern, embellished with a trio of circular air vents. The front seats are pleasantly spacious, but there’s limited headroom in the second row due to the car’s sloping roofline. This sedan provides 13.1 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s less cargo space than in the outgoing model. Still, the CLA-class delivers more room for your gear than a rival such as the Audi A3, which provides 12.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The CLA-class is equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s new infotainment system, and it features a touchpad-equipped steering wheel and console-mounted control pad. Overall, the setup is easy to use and configure. A 7.0-inch display is standard, along with Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system. All models come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The options list includes an upgraded Burmester audio system and SiriusXM satellite radio.