Advanced driver-assist features and high-end interior materials are no longer exclusive to luxury brands. As more affordable brands like Mazda begin to offer luxurious trims, it begs the question — do you really need to splurge on a name brand luxury vehicle? According to Consumer Reports, probably not. In fact, the CR testers recently determined that, when compared to the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA, the 2020 Mazda3 provides an equally luxurious experience at a significantly lower price.
What was so disappointing about the Mercedes CLA?
After testing the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA, Consumer Reports noted that its luxury is nothing more than a surface-level pretense. As it turns out, you may be paying a premium for the Mercedes name, not for a particularly unique or high-end driving experience.
Testers found that despite its admittedly gorgeous interior, the CLA actually delivers a rough, unpleasant ride — definitely not what you’d expect for a vehicle that runs anywhere from $36,650 to $54,800. Consumer Reports describes the low-speed acceleration as “sluggish,” making for a driving experience that feels anything but luxurious.
Additionally, the Mercedes-Benz CLA’s backseat is surprisingly cramped. With a sloping roof and just 27 inches of legroom (compared to 43 inches in the front seats), this luxury vehicle doesn’t offer much in the way of comfort for its taller passengers.
The CLA also lags slightly behind the Mazda3 when it comes to gas mileage. Overall, it gets 27 miles per gallon, while the Mazda3 gets 30 miles per gallon — not a huge difference, but still worth noting.
What the Mazda3 gets right
You may be surprised to see Mazda compared to Mercedes — after all, Mazda hasn’t exactly made a name for itself as a premier luxury brand. With that being said, however, it turns out that the 2020 Mazda3 can actually give the CLA a run for its money. This is particularly true if you upgrade to the fully-loaded Premium AWD trim, which is what Consumer Reports recommends.
So what exactly makes the 2020 Mazda3 so special? Perhaps the most immediately notable feature is its beautiful interior, which is full of high-quality materials that both look and feel luxurious. As the CLA’s biggest advantage is its interior styling, the Mazda3 offers some stiff competition right off the bat.
However, the perks of the Mazda3 don’t stop there. While the CLA offers a somewhat clunky ride, Consumer Reports describes the Mazda3’s ride as “firm but forgiving.” This vehicle drives more smoothly than the CLA, providing a consistent, predictable level of power and an overall more comfortable experience.
Additionally, the Mazda compact sedan has many of the same standard safety features as the CLA, including automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and pedestrian detection. In fact, three features that are only optional on the CLA — lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and daytime running lights — all come standard on the Mazda3.
Last but not least, the Mazda3 features attractive exterior styling. This adds to the overall feeling of luxury, both inside and out.
The CLA vs. the Mazda3: which should you choose?
Sometimes it can be challenging to choose between two similar vehicles. Fortunately, in this case, it’s a pretty easy call: the Mazda3 either matches or outshines the CLA in just about every significant way. Lower Mazda3 trims cost around $21,500, but even if you choose a fully loaded trim at the upper end of the price range, it’ll still only cost you approximately $28,820. That’s an impressive savings of $15,280 when compared to the Mercedes-Benz CLA.
Overall, unless you’re really dedicated to the Mercedes brand, you should opt for the Mazda3 instead. You’ll get all the benefits of a luxury vehicle without breaking the bank.