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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA Is a Little Luxury Car With Big Issues

Thoughts of luxury cars evoke feelings of excitement. There’s just something about sitting in a serene cabin and commanding a powerful engine that leaves you in awe. However, little annoyances can completely turn you off a luxury car. Unfortunately, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA seems to be a model that won’t bring joy to your life.

Many shoppers may instantly consider purchasing the 2021 CLA-Class due to Mercedes-Benz’s reputation. However, doing so may be a mistake, and there are other entry-level luxury cars that deserve more respect.

What are the CLA’s most significant issues, and are they minor enough to overlook? Let’s take a deeper dive into what this small luxury car has to offer.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA powertrain options make an excellent first impression

A look at the engine under the hood of a yellow 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC
The 2020 CLA 250 4MATIC’s engine | Photo via Mercedes-Benz

When you get behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz, you expect it to deliver thrilling performance. The 2021 CLA accomplishes this aspect in some regard, but it fails in others.

For instance, its powertrain options are quite lively. A 221-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powers the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250. While it’s not quite as potent as the 2021 BMW 3 Series’ standard 255-hp engine, the CLA 250 is powerful enough to liven up your morning commute.

Meanwhile, the German automaker made the CLA’s AMG models relatively affordable, considering these are high-performance vehicles. The Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Coupe has a starting MSRP of $47,850, and its enhanced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine kicks out 302 hp. Meanwhile, the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Coupe, starting at $55,350, is tuned to make an exhilarating 382 hp.

The CLA’s on-road performance is a sore subject

A yellow 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC driving down a city road next to a building
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4MATIC in action | Photo via Mercedes-Benz

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Most drivers won’t scoff at this German luxury car’s impressive statistics. However, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA’s most significant downfall has more to do with its ride quality.

Consumer Reports gave the 2021 CLA-Class a 2/5 rating in ride comfort. The publication noted that a bumpy driving experience offsets the car’s excellent handling. The CLA’s stiff suspension likely exacerbates the issue.

Most luxury car drivers expect a particular level of smoothness and refinement from their automobiles. Unfortunately, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA doesn’t fit the mold in that regard.

This issue, along with a low predicted reliability rating, heavily factored into Consumer Report’s CLA analysis. That’s why it’s no surprise that the publication gave the luxury car a disappointing overall score of 56/100.

The interior is a mixed bag

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA features an opulent interior that’s a joy to be in – as long as you’re sitting in the front seats. Consumer Reports states that it’s hard for passengers to get into the back seats due to the car’s low roofline. Plus, the rear seats are uncomfortably small – so much so that the publication said that they were nearly “useless.”

Car and Driver had a more favorable outlook on the CLA, giving it an 8.5/10 rating. The publication also criticized the vehicle’s tight rear seats, but it didn’t find many performance issues. After all, people buy the CLA to drive it – not sit in the back or chauffeur people around. 

This favorable score focuses heavily on performance, which honestly should be a given considering the hefty price tag. However, Car and Driver also praised the CLA’s healthy assortment of standard comfort, entertainment, and safety features.

Should you consider buying this entry-level luxury car?

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Overall, there are certainly better options out there than the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA, especially for the money. If you’re looking for a great vehicle with a ton of style, a well-equipped Mazda 3 is a worthy opponent to the CLA