2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA: Pros and Cons

The Mercedes-Benz CLA didn’t exactly get off to a great start. It was billed as a Mercedes that you could buy for less than $30,000. But as many reviewers pointed out, it really wasn’t a great $30,000 car, much less something you’d consider a true Mercedes. As for the AMG version, well, let’s just say the price skyrocketed.

Recently, though, Mercedes took a second run at the CLA. It’s based on the new A-Class, which is actually a solid low-end luxury car. And the styling’s not nearly as in-your-face as the last one’s was. Since the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA was recently a finalist in MotorTrend‘s Car of the Year competition, let’s take a look at what the reviewers thought of it.

What the Mercedes-Benz CLA did right

There’s too much negative stuff going on right now, so let’s start with what MotorTrend’s judges thought the redesigned CLA did correctly. Negativity can be saved for later. OK, not always, but at least in this case.

The reviewers praised the CLA’s AMG engine, its surprisingly well-executed interior, and the value presented by the base version. You can generally expect that any car AMG puts its name on will be great to drive, but Mercedes doesn’t exactly have a reputation for doing a great job building cheap cars. That’s why it’s impressive to see so much praise for the stuff AMG didn’t touch on the CLA.

“The previous version always felt built to a price and like it had been finished by Mercedes’ van division,” said one reviewer. “The new one is a properly appealing luxury subcompact.” Other reviewers went even further.

For example, another judge said, “The CLA really gives you a warm welcome into the Mercedes family. It treats you like a Mercedes, drives like a Mercedes, and feels like a Mercedes. This is the way entry-level luxury cars should be. The interior is plush and warm, and it has that Mercedes look that is outstanding.”

What the Mercedes-Benz CLA did wrong

Related: Which Mercedes Is the Most Reliable?

Knowing the Mercedes-Benz E-Class won MotorTrend’s 2021 Car of the Year award, there have to be at least a few reasons why the new CLA ended up losing. After all, it’s a much better car than its predecessor, and the E-Class was only updated. So let’s talk about the downsides.

Even though the judges praised the CLA’s interior overall, they did think a few pieces felt cheap. Some also complained about the ride being harsh. Finally, even though we happen to think the new CLA looks great, some of MotorTrend’s reviewers thought the design looked “melty.”

Still, even criticisms of interior quality weren’t all that harsh. As one reviewer put it, “Despite cheap materials here and there, I know exactly what to expect when I get into a Mercedes, with these gorgeous air vents and the toggle switches that I can’t possibly operate unless I look down to see what each one does.” Oh wait, that actually was pretty harsh. Several years ago, we’re pretty sure that would have been called shade.

From the sound of it, though, the AMG version is the one to get. At least if you can semi-comfortably swing the payment. “I apologize to the rush-hour crowd — this car encourages me to drive like an ass,” said one judge. “It just does so much so well. It’s well balanced and composed. Its steering is weighty but pure and accurate. Its engine is a nuclear bomb in a grenade form factor. Its transmission is quick-shifting, never caught out of sorts, and completely livable in stop-and-go traffic.”