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- Highs Looks fast when standing still, delightful to drive, high-end cabin.
- Lows Rear-seat space is limited by sloping roof, puny trunk space, high starting price.
- Verdict The CLA35 and CLA45 come by their AMG badge honestly by being equal parts flash, fast, and fun.
Hot-blooded performance and angry styling are hallmarks of the Mercedes-AMG brand, and the 2023 CLA-class offers plenty of both in a compact, fastback-sedan package. The entry-level CLA35 is powered by a 302-hp turbo-four while the CLA45 enjoys a boost in engine output to an impressive 382 horses. The CLA 35 delivers strong acceleration, but the 45 has sprinters legs that let it run shoulder-to-shoulder with some seriously hot machines. Both models undergird their go-fast capability with sports-sedan handling. While not as roomy inside as rivals such as the Audi S3 or the Cadillac CT4-V—neither of those is what we’d call spacious—the CLA-class’s cabin is nicely outfitted and equipped with modern infotainment gear. It also wears a sporty-looking design with trim rendered in carbon fiber, a pair of heavily-bolstered front seats, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Despite being the smallest offering in the AMG sedan lineup, the CLA-class delivers much of the high-performance driving experience and high-end curb appeal that AMG’s products are known for at a lower price than the brand’s big-money models.
Where This Vehicle Ranks
What's New for 2023?
To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the founding of AMG—Mercedes-Benz’s performance- tuning arm—the company has launched the Edition 55. Only a limited number of CLA45 models will be available with the Edition 55 treatment. The package consists of Cosmos Black Metallic paint with gloss-black exterior trim, black chrome tailpipes, unique 19-inch matte gray wheels, and special badging. The normally optional AMG Aerodynamics package is included as standard, and the cabin is outfitted in a black-and-red two-tone motif.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The CLA45 is the most intense member of the CLA family, but its high base price pushes it into competition with larger, more refined sports sedans, so we'd stick with the CLA35 and try to have a light hand with the options. Heated and ventilated front seats are a bargain at $950, and the $800 Premium package adds keyless passive entry and ignition as well as power-folding exterior mirrors with an auto-dimming function.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
While both models boast the company's latest turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, the CLA35 makes 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while the CLA45 develops 382 ponies and 354 lb-ft. The CLA35 drives through a seven-speed automatic transmission while the CLA45 has an eight-speed automatic. They both are equipped with 4Matic+ all-wheel drive standard, which can send all of the power to the rear wheels. The 45 can even be equipped with a tail-sliding Drift drive mode. A set of optional adaptive dampers provide adjustable ride quality. At our test track, the 302-hp CLA35 managed a quick 4.4-second zero-to-60-mph time and the 382-hp CLA45 blasted to 60 in just 3.7 seconds.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The CLA35 and CLA45 both come standard with all-wheel drive. The CLA35 is rated at 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. That represents a 4 mpg penalty on the highway compared to the much-less-powerful Mercedes-Benz CLA250 with all-wheel drive. The CLA35's fuel economy, however, is similar to those of competitors such as the Audi S3 and BMW M235i Gran Coupe. The more powerful CLA45 is rated for 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. For more information about the CLA-class's fuel economy, visit the EPA's website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The CLA45 stands out on the street from the CLA35 with a flashier grille, wider front fenders, extra aerodynamic bits, and more. However, the two have similar aesthetics on the inside. Both can be outfitted with black faux-suede accents as well as red seatbelts and contrast-stitching. They also have customizable ambient interior lighting that includes illuminated circular air vents in the instrument panel. 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 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That's less than in the outgoing model, but it's still enough to house a couple of overnight bags or an average grocery haul.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The CLA35 and CLA45 are equipped with Mercedes-Benz's new MBUX infotainment system, which features tiny, finicky touchpads on the steering wheel and a console-mounted control pad. The digital instrument-cluster screen and the standard 7.0-inch infotainment display live under one large horizontal piece of glass that stretches across much of the dashboard. Bluetooth connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system are standard, and all models come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. The options list includes an upgraded Burmester audio system and SiriusXM satellite radio. Upgraded versions of the infotainment system include Mercedes' Siri-like personal assistant and augmented reality displays to enhance the navigation system.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2023 CLA-class cars are available with driver-assistance features that can help keep you out of harm's way during your travels. For more information about the CLA-class's crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Mercedes' warranty coverage doesn't include complimentary maintenance, which puts it behind some of its luxury competitors. Otherwise, Mercedes' warranty coverage is largely in line with the coverage offered by comparable brands.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA35
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED
$66,340 (base price: $47,895)
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
122 in3, 1991 cm3
302 hp @ 5800 rpm
295 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 107.4 in
Length: 184.8 in
Width: 72.2 in
Height: 55.3 in
Passenger volume: 89 ft3
Trunk volume: 12 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 3626 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 4.6 sec
100 mph: 10.1 sec
¼-mile: 13.0 sec
Top speed: 155 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 25/23/29 mpg