• 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA

The four-door coupe features CLS-inspired styling and technology from the S-Class

LISTEN 17:18

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLA was unveiled at 2019 Consumer Electronics Show.The revised four-door coupe replaces the highly successful first-generation CLA, introduced all the way back in 2013. Just like its predecessor, the 2020 CLA competes in a very tight niche that only includes the Audi A3 Sedan. However, the 2020 CLA may have what it takes to compete against the slightly larger 2019 BMW 3 Series. Based on the same platform that underpins the latest A-Class hatchback and sedan models, the CLA boasts a notable design inside and out. It combines features seen on the A-Class and CLS on the outside, while the interior comes from the smaller of the two. Like most recently unveiled Mercs, the CLA features all the cool technology found in the bigger E-Class and S-Class models, including the semi-autonomous driving system. This places the CLA at the top of its class tech-wise. Let’s find out more about that in the review below.

2020 Mercedes CLA-Class Exterior Design

  • CLS-inspired cues
  • Four-door coupe design
  • New headlights and taillights
  • The roof looks a bit taller
  • More subdued body lines
  • Fresh wheels
  • Sporty look overall
2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813036
Up front, it blends unique features with cues from the CLS and A-Class

Just like its predecessor, the new CLA looks a lot like the CLS. It’s not a shrunken CLS though, as it also blends features seen on the A-Class as well as a few unique styling cues. While the diamond-block grille with the central star is shared with other Mercedes-Benz models, the headlamps are unique. Although they have the same elongated and slightly swept-back shape like on the A-Class and CLS, they look a bit more organic thanks to a new extension in the lower and outer corner. By contrast, the A-Class and CLS have sharper lights with a straight lower section.

The front bumper, on the other hand, is shared with the aforementioned models. We can see the same A-shaped center section with arms that extend toward the lower corners of the bumper, large side vents with two winglets each, and a sporty splitter at the bottom. The hood comes from the A-Class. It has the same shape, as well as the two power domes on each side of the center line. The CLS has a smoother lid for a more elegant look.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813049
The coupe-style roof is similar to the CLS, but everything else is shorter, so the CLA looks bulkier

It’s onto the sides where the CLA looks like a shrunken CLS. The side skirts, the doors, and the coupe-style roof are all similar to the CLS, but everything is shorter, so the CLA feels bulkier. Despite this, it remains sporty thanks to the high beltline that arches just under the side windows, the frameless doors, and the fact that the cabin was moved farther toward the back compared to the old model.

As usual, Mercedes-Benz offers a wide selection of wheels, some similar to the A-Class. The standard rollers measure 18 inches, but you can grab bigger, 19-inch rims off the options list.

left right
The new four-door coupe is 1.9 inches longer and two inches wider than its predecessor

Around back, the CLA bears a closer resemblance to the CLS rather than the A-Class. That’s mostly because the license plate recess is located in the bumper and not on the trunk lid, like on the smaller A-Class. The spoiler and the diffuser-like element are also a bit more aggressive, like on the CLS. The remaining features, on the other hand, are shared with the other sedans, with minor changes. The two-piece taillights, for instance, are narrower on the trunk lid like on the CLS, but bigger on the fenders, like on the A-Class. They have a unique shape though, just like the headlamps.

Size-wise, the CLA is a tad bigger than its predecessor. The four-door coupe is 1.9 inches longer and two inches wider, while the wheelbase is only 1.1 inches longer.

Overall, Mercedes-Benz did a great job redesigning the CLA. Not only it borrows some sporty and elegant features from the bigger CLS, but it also employs a few unique styling cues. It looks better from every angle and fits nicely into the lineup.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813047

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior Dimensions

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA Difference
Length 4688 mm 4640 mm 48 mm
Width 1830 mm 1777 mm 53 mm
Width incl. exterior mirrors 1999 mm 2032 mm -33 mm
Height 1439 mm 1441 mm -2 mm
Wheelbase 2729 mm 2699 mm 30 mm
Front track 1612 mm 1549 mm 63 mm
Rear track 1602 mm 1547 mm 55 mm

2020 Mercedes CLA-Class Interior Design

  • Identical to the A-Class
  • Similar seats as the E-class and S-Class
  • Headroom and legroom increased marginally
  • Nearly as spacious as the 3 Series
  • Smart MBUX infotainment system
  • Big digital screens
2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Interior
- image 813002
The cabin is virtually identical to the A-Class

While the exterior brings together features from the A-Class, the CLS, and a few unique touches, the cabin is virtually identical to the A-Class. But this is good news, as the latest A-Class is by far the most appealing and technologically advanced vehicle in its class. The subcompact sets a new standard on the market, and the CLA does the same compared to its rivals.

Although unique to the subcompact class, this cabin layout borrows some features from the bigger Mercedes-Benz models. The dashboard, the center stack with its three A/C vents, the instrument cluster, and the infotainment display are all similar to those seen in the E-Class and S-Class.

The dashboard features a two-tier design, with the horizontal sections separated by metal trim. The round A/C vents at the corners and on the center stack sport the familiar "turbine" design seen on almost all Mercs, including the AMG GT sports car.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Interior
- image 813030
The MBUX infotainment system features artificial intelligence that has the ability to learn

Just like in A-Class and other models, the instrument cluster and the infotainment display are set next to each other and look like a really long screen that stretches over half of the dashboard’s length. However, the unit is missing the hood on top, seen on the CLS and other large Mercs. The example shown here features the big 10.25 displays, which are only available on the more expensive trims. The entry-level versions come with smaller screens, but they’re still competitive.

The CLA also borrows the A-Class’ state-of-the-art ambient lighting system with 64 colors. It features ten configurations, called "color worlds," allowing a complex lighting display.

Another big highlight is Mercedes’ latest infotainment system, called MBUX, short for Mercedes-Benz User Experience. It features artificial intelligence that has the ability to learn and it can be customized and adapted to suit every user. It also includes augmented reality technology, through which you can operate the media display and the navigation system once you activate it using the code "Hey Mercedes."

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Interior
- image 813004
The new CLA offers a bit of extra room in all departments

As far as passenger space goes, the new CLA offers a bit of extra room in all departments, but the difference is mostly negligible. Front-row headroom increased by less than an inch to 40.3 inches, while rear headroom is basically the same at 35.7 inches. Legroom remained unchanged at almost 42 inches in the front and almost 34 inches in the rear. Elbow room increased by 1.4 inches in the front and 1.7 inches in the rear, while shoulder room remained almost the same in the front row and increased by almost an inch in the second row.

How does it compare to its main rival, the Audi A3? Well, the CLA clearly wins the front headroom battle, offering almost four inches more than the A3. However, Audi benefits from an extra half-inch in the rear. The same goes for legroom. The Merc comes with an extra 0.6 inches in the front, but the A3 offers an extra 1.2 inches in the rear. There is more shoulder room in the CLA in both rows though, with the rear compartment offering an extra inch.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA
- image 813005
The new trunk is smaller compared to the old model, but it's still bigger than the Audi A3's

Interestingly enough, the CLA holds its own against slightly larger sedan like the BMW 3 Series. Despite being bigger, the 3 Series isn’t notably more spacious inside the cabin. Actually, the CLA offers an extra 1.6 inches of headroom in the front, while its legroom and shoulder room measurements aren’t far behind.

Compared to 2 Series Gran Coupe, the CLA’s true competitor, the Merc offers more room in some areas, but it falls behind in other areas. You’ll get an extra 0.7 inches of legroom in the front, but a half-inch less in the rear. When it comes to headroom, the CLA offers an extra two inches in the front, but rear headroom is pretty much the same. The 2 Series offers 0.4 extra inches of shoulder room in the front, but the CLA boasts an extra inch in the rear.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA
- image 813001

Moving over to cargo space, the new CLA has a slightly smaller trunk than its predecessor. Now rated at 16.2 cubic feet, the CLA lost almost 0.4 cubic feet. Fortunately for Mercedes, the CLA remains roomier than the Audi A3, which offers only 12.3 cubic feet. It also offers more space than the 2 Series Gran Coupe, which has a 12-cubic-foot trunk. The CLA is also really close to the BMW 3 Series, which can take up to 17.3 cubic feet of luggage.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Interior Dimensions

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA Difference
Max. headroom, front 1023 mm 1006 mm 17 mm
Headroom, rear 908 mm 905 mm 3 mm
Legroom, front 1062 mm 1063 mm -1 mm
Legroom, rear 861 mm 860 mm 1 mm
Elbow room, front 1457 mm 1422 mm 35 mm
Elbow room, rear 1454 mm 1410 mm 44 mm
Shoulder room, front 1400 mm 1391 mm 9 mm
Shoulder room, rear 1372 mm 1350 mm 22 mm
Load compartment width max. 1444 mm 1331 mm 113 mm
Load compartment depth max. 1054 mm 1030 mm 24 mm
Width of load compartment opening 891 mm 629 mm 262 mm
Boot capacity 460 L 470 L -10 L

2019 Mercedes CLA-Class Performance

  • Same platform as the new A-Class
  • Gasoline-only drivetrain in the U.S.
  • A bit of extra power
  • Seven-speed DCT exclusive to 2.0-liter models
  • 221 horsepower
  • 258 pound-feet of torque
  • Diesels in Europe
  • AMG models too
2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813008
The revised engine cranks out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque

Just like the outgoing CLA, the second-generation CLA is available with a big variety of gasoline and diesel units.

The gas range begins with the CLA 180, powered by the least powerful engine available with this model. Motivated by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill rated at 134 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, this four-door hits 62 mph in 9.4 seconds and reaches a top speed of 134 mph. The next version is called the CLA 200 and features the same four-pot, but rated at 161 horses and 184 pound-feet. This trim will take you to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds and to a top speed of 142 mph.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813036

The CLA 220, powered by a slightly different 2.0-liter four-banger, benefits from 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. You’ll hit 62 mph in exactly seven seconds in this model, while top speed comes in at 150 mph. The CLA 250 is the range-topping, non-AMG model and features a four-cylinder that cranks out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It hits 62 mph in 6.3 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. Unlike the CLA 180 and CLA 200, the CLA 220 and CLA 250 are available with 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.

Mercedes-Benz CLA gasoline lineup
Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250
Number of cylinders/arrangement   4/in-line, 4 valves per cylinder 4/in-line, 4 valves per cylinder 4/in-line, 4 valves per cylinder 4/in-line, 4 valves per cylinder
Displacement cc 1332 1332 1991 1991
Bore x stroke mm 72.2 x 81.4 72.2 x 81.4 83.0 x 92.0 83.0 x 92.0
Rated output kW/hp 100/136 at 5,500 rpm +/- 1.5% 120/163 at 5500 rpm +/- 1.5% 140/190 at 5,500-6,100 rpm 165/224 at 5500 rpm
Rated torque Nm 200 at 1,460 rpm 250 at 1620 rpm 300 at 1,800 rpm 350 at 1800 rpm
Compression ratio   10.6: 1 10.6: 1 10.5: 1 10.5: 1

Moving over to AMG-prepped models, the range begins with the AMG CLA35. The beefed-up four-cylinder in this sedan generates 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It pushes the CLA to 62 mph in an impressive 4.9 seconds and up to a top speed of 155 mph. More power comes with the AMG CLA45 4Matic, which features a different four-cylinder that delivers a solid 382 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of twist. The sprint to 62 mph drops to 4.1 seconds, while top speed remains the same at 155 mph. However, Mercedes-Benz offers an optional performance package that increases top speed to 168 mph. Finally, the AMG CLA45 S 4Matic+ comes with 420 horsepower and 369 pound-feet on tap, hits 62 mph in four seconds flat, and tops out at 155 or 168 mph.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813034

On the diesel front, you have three options to choose from. The base CLA 180d features a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 114 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The low output makes it the slower CLA to 62 mph, needing 10.7 second to get there. Top speed isn’t that impressive either at 127 mph. Next in line is the CLA 200d, which features a larger, 2.0-liter four-banger with 148 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The sprint to 62 mph takes 8.3 seconds, while top speed increases to 140 mph. The range-topping oil burner, the CLA 220d, comes with 188 horsepower and 295 pound-feet on tap. Naturally, it’s the fastest version with a 0-to-62 mph sprint of 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 152 mph.

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813049
Mercedes-Benz CLA diesel lineup
Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 d
Number of cylinders/arrangement   4/in-line, 2 valves per cylinder
Displacement cc 1461
Bore x stroke mm 76.0 x 80.5
Rated output kW/hp 85/116 at 4000 rpm
Rated torque Nm 260 at 1,750–2,750 rpm
Compression ratio   15.1: 1
Mixture formation   Common-rail high-pressure injection

Transmission options include both manual and automatic gearboxes. The CLA 180 and CLA 200 are available with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic. The CLA 220 and CLA 250 are restricted to the seven-speed automatic, while the CLA35 AMG features an AMG-tuned seven-speed. The CLA45 models come with an eight-speed automatic tuned for higher performance. The CLA 180d is sold with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic, while the CLA 200d and CLA 220d are offered with the eight-speed automatic only.

This means that the U.S. market won’t have a manual version of the CLA.

Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 specifications
Engine Type 2.0L inline-4 turbo engine
Engine Material Aluminum-Alloy
Valvetrain / Arrangement DOHC, 4-valves per cylinder
Displacement (cc) 1,991
Bore (in / mm) 3.27 / 83.0
Stroke (in / mm) 3.62 / 92.0
Compression Ratio 10.5 : 1
Horsepower @ rpm 221 @ 5,800
Torque @ rpm 258 @ 1,800 – 4,000
Redline (rpm) 6,500

Mercedes updated the platform too. The big news is that the track are wider now, with an extra 2.5 inches added in the front and an extra 2.2 inches added in the rear. The new CLA also has a lower center of gravity, which enhances the four-door coupe’s dynamics.

The standard suspension setup includes a decoupled multi-link axle in the rear, a Direct-Steer system, hydromounts in the front, and a stabilizer bar with a larger diameter for reduced body roll. It’s pretty much identical to the A-Class, but tweaked to better suit the longer body. You can also order an optional active damping suspension that will enable you to switch between comfort or sporty tunings.


2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813035

Safety features come from the latest A-Class, which is packed with state-of-the-art technology taken from the S-Class. The package includes the semi-autonomous system, which keeps a close eye on the traffic thanks to a camera and radat system that sees up to 0.3 miles ahead. It also uses map and navigation data for assistance functions, while Active Distance Assist Distronic helps you in numerous route-specific situations, while also adjusting the speed when approaching bends or roundabouts.

Features like Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, and Active Brake Assist come standard.

The latter helps reduce or prevent rear-end collisions with slower-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead and with crossing pedestrians and cyclists, or prevent them altogether.

Pre-Safe Plus, usually offered on the bigger Mercs, has the ability to recognize an imminent rear-end collision with a vehicle coming from behind.

Moving over to passive safety features, it comes with three-point seat belts with belt force limiter and belt tensioner in the front, driver and front passenger airbags, a driver’s kneebag and windowbags as standard. Thorax-pelvis sidebags are standard in the front and available as optional equipment for the rear passenger compartment.

2020 Mercedes CLA-Class Pricing

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813054

Pricing for the CLA starts from $36,650 in the U.S., where only the CLA 250 version is available (except for the AMG model of course). Add the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and pricing jumps to $38,650 before options. This sticker makes it a bit more expensive than the entry-level Audi A3 Sedan, priced from $33,300, but puts it on par with the 45 TFSI trim, which retails from $36,500. At the same time, it’s slightly more affordable than the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, which retails from $37,500.

2020 Mercedes CLA-Class Competition

Audi A3

2017 - 2018 Audi A3 Sedan High Resolution Exterior
- image 671735

The A3 is one of only two true competitor for the Mercedes-Benz CLA. With the 1 Series Sedan not available in the U.S. (or Europe) and the four-door 2 Series still underway, the A3 is the only premium, German car you can cross-shop with the CLA in terms of size and features. The issue here is that the A3 is a bit long in the tooth, having been on the market since 2012. The good news is that it doesn’t look dated. Sure, it’s not exactly a four-door coupe, it’s more of a small sedan, but it looks sporty, and it can be equipped with loads of features that make it look aggressive. Inside the cabin, however, the A3 Sedan looks a bit old and it doesn’t have the premium features you get with the new CLA. Semi-autonomous capability is out of the question, but you get some nice premium features like leather, Alcantara, and the Bang & Olufsen the audio system from the options list. The base model comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque. That’s notably less than the CLA 250, but Audi also offers a more powerful version of the four-banger, good for 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. This model hits 60 mph in an impressive 5.4 seconds, topping out at 130 mph. The base model comes in at $33,300, but the more powerful variant is similarly priced at $36,500 before options.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi A3.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe Exterior
- image 866929

Although everyone was expecting an American version of the China-spec 1 Series Sedan, BMW introduced the 2 Series Gran Coupe for the 2020 model year. Essentially a four-door version of the 2 Series coupe, it also features a sleek roof and an aerodynamic design that makes it a perfect competitor for the CLA. Just like the Merc, it’s equipped with the latest technology and even though the interior is based on the 1 Series, it looks as modern and premium as they get. It features a digital instrument cluster, a big display on the center stack, sporty seats, and a modern infotainment system that matches the MBUX. Under the hood, the Gran Coupe comes with two gasoline engines in the U.S. The base model features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, similar to the CLA 250. It sprints to 60 mph in six seconds and hits a top speed of 151 mph. Then there’s the M235i, fitted with a four-banger rated at 301 horses and 332 pound-feet of twist. This version is much quicker, as it hits 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and hits a top speed of 155 mph. Pricing starts from $37,500.

Read our full story on the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe

Final Thought

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Exterior
- image 813049

The CLA has been a big hit ever since it hit U.S. dealerships for the 2014 model year. Although it was controversial at first due to its front-wheel platform and four-cylinder engine lineup, it gathered a solid fan base thanks to its affordable base price, good fuel economy, and coupe-like handling. It also brought younger customers in Mercedes-Benz showrooms, with the Germans claiming that CLA customers are around 10 years younger than the typical buyer for the German brand. What’s more, more than two-thirds of CLA buyers in the U.S. came from competing brands, a big success for Mercedes-Benz. This redesign builds on the CLA’s solid performance on the market with a fresh design, a fantastic interior, the best technology available, and a more powerful engine. Until Audi comes up with a new A3 Sedan and the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe becomes an established competitor, the CLA has this market for itself.

  • Leave it
    • Won’t get a manual transmission in the U.S.
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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